Boys Needed for (Intellectual) Stimulation – December 1906

(In our less innocent age I have added “Intellectual”)

During the past week, the papers have had something to say about schools in which boys and girls are educated together. Is the tendency towards co-education a good thing or bad? People answer according to their personal experience, observation and prejudices.

Speaking from my own experience of the mixed and girls’ school, I feel strongly that the great defect of the “school for young ladies” in which the faults are most pronounced — is that there are no boys in it.

As I have experienced it, there is little if any mental rivalry among girls. There is even a large class of girls who scorn trying to do their best, who look down on the girl who tries. It is scarcely worth while trying to go above a girl but to beat a boy —- there is spice in that! Intellectual stagnaton is not possible in a class composed of boys and girls.

It is, alas, only too common in a girls’ school. One brain to stir another to increased activity. I have had a vivid memory of the vigour and lively little fellow who was a class mate of mine when I was seven years old — we left the neighbourhood when I was eight — and who had a trick of getting above me sometimes.

I can see him swinging his slate in glee right in front of my face when he had finished his task first and I can feel the keen resolve to beat him next time. The girls have all faded into nebulous ghosts, featureless and insubstantial but that boy stands out clearly, pulsing with life.

What amazes me most in my recollection of school days is the absolute ignorance of parents concerning the real things that are influencing their children for good and evil. And it is an ignorance that is unavoidable and insurmountable — the vast gulf between the school world and the parent world being unbridged.

Moments return to me of sitting in the evening over a school book. Father and mother making the usual parental comments and suddenly looking at them, they seem to slot dimly into some far away strange and prosaic world — not my world, which is wholly hidden from the eyes even of their imagination.

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