In Praise of All-Girl Schools

Amy Kuras

girlsMy high school had a lot of good things: competitive sports teams, lots of extracurriculars, and good teachers (including the only math class I ever took that didn't make me want to stab myself with a pencil so I could leave). What it didn't have was boys.

And contrary to what most people believe, I, and all my friends from my all-girls school, have managed to have boyfriends, husbands, guy friends, and male bosses and interact with them just fine. The knock on all-girls schools is that it doesn't prepare girls for dealing with men in the real world. But unless it's a very cloistered boarding school, the fact is most girls are around boys the remaining waking hours of the day. And there are male teachers at most all-girls' schools; that aforementioned math class I took was taught by one.

About the only truly negative outcome was that I am still deeply fashion-challenged. I can live with that.

All-girls schools allow young women, at a time in their lives when they are very vulnerable to the opinions of others, to discover what they are good at and develop that potential. If you're a math whiz or a sensitive poet, you're a lot more likely to let that side of you show as a teenage girl when you don't need to worry about intimidating the most popular boy in school with your understanding of algebra, or getting laughed at by the class clown when you share your latest heartfelt oeuvre.

Girls gain confidence in their ability to succeed and learn how to be their own goofy selves at an all girl's school, too. A girl at my high school just did a viral video for breast cancer awareness and got the whole school, including all the teachers, to participate; I can't imagine a girl at a coed school having the confidence to pull that off.

The stats bear me out: According to a survey done for the National Council of Girls' Schools, alumnae of girls' schools were much more likely to major in science or math: 13 percent did, versus 2 percent of females from coed schools.  And once they graduate, they are more likely to be managers: 78 percent of girls' school alumnae are pursuing management positions, compared to 62 percent nationwide.

It wasn't paradise; there were mean girls, cliques, and all the other stuff that happens in high school. But overall, there was a lot less of that than my friends from coed schools report, and I made some of the best friends of my life there, women who I still talk to regularly. When my daughter reaches high school age, I'll be sending her there if we can afford it. She's already strong-minded and totally unintimidated by boys (or anyone else), and I want to help make sure that stays true.

Would you send your child to a single-sex school?

Image via db photographs/Flickr

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