school lunchExcept for a few select group of people I like to call "kidding themselves," nobody has fond memories of middle schools. It's all braces and bras and boners behind the bookbag. So news that a hand full of Kansas middle schools are separating their hormonal young teens by gender for the lunch hour sounds like a dream come true, right?

In fact, school officials tell Reuters single-gender lunch is a great thing -- there's no flirting, no "chattering," and the kids are cleaning their plates. No wasted food! No "distracted kids." No learning about the real world! Oh wait, I added that last part.

Every time I hear "segregation in schools," I have the same thought. Whether it's races or genders being separated, it  has no application in the real world. And yet, that's what our schools are supposed to be doing: preparing our kids for adulthood -- both academically and socially.

The thought of kids not "chattering" at lunch doesn't sound attractive to me. It sounds clinical. It sounds sad. It's sounds socially retarding. As a teenager, I recall lunchtime as my outlet,  my chance to talk to my friends and feel more like a human, less like a worker bee in the cog of the school machine.

It's in the teen years when male/female interactions begin to take on real meaning. As elementary schoolers, everyone is friends with everyone. Kindergarten girls play with kindergarten boys. Hormones haven't taken their toll yet . . . but they will. And teens need the chance to work that out in a safe environment, to deal socially with one another, to figure out what works and what doesn't. If not at lunch, when?

By the teen years, you've already had recess taken away, and your after-school hours are being taken up by increasing amounts of homework and home responsibilities. Lunch, for most kids, remains the one time when there's no work to be done, a time to settle in and just enjoy the break. Kids need that. Adults need that -- labor law mandates a lunch break for Americans who work a full day because of it.

Better in the cafeteria with teachers watching than at a bar with bad pick-up lines because they never learned, right?


Image via Micah Sittig/Flickr