As I read research and data in preparation for writing this article, I was struck by how much real progress has been made in girls' education versus boys' education over the last decade. I hope that you will read the resources listed at the end. They are just the tip of the iceberg but they will get you started in your exploration and evaluation of girls' schools. Since the subject of single-sex education seems to be gaining traction in the public school arena, I suspect that we shall continue to see some serious academic papers being written on the subject in the coming years. This short clip offers a glimpse inside an AP Biology class.
Personally, having raised two daughters, I can speak with some experience on the subject of single-sex education. Both girls went to coeducational boarding schools. But the benefit of hindsight tells me that going to an all girls school would have been a better solution for both of them. Here then are the reasons why I am such a huge fan of girls' schools.
Girls' schools provide relevant 21st century role models.
It is a fact that there are more visible, relevant role models for girls these days. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi and Harvard President Dr. Drew Gilpin Faust, to name just three highly successful prominent executives, provide our daughters with the very best kind of role models. That's important. You can read about these leaders. You can hear them speak. You can read their speeches. They are real. They are 21st century. They are leading very large global organizations. They are relevant. Furthermore they are operating successfully in what is still basically a man's world. Unfortunately business and politics seem to have been slow to allow women to rise to the top. In any case girls in the 21st century are indeed lucky to have as many excellent role models as they do. And there will be more. Here is an English take on the importance of allowing young women to color outside the lines as it were.
Girls' schools can point with pride to these three examples as well as hundreds of others and state unequivocally: "You could be Secretary of State just like Hillary. Perhaps even a better one than she has been." Years ago that possibility was not a realistic dream. After having three very competent women as Secretaries of State, it most certainly is a star for girls to shoot for. The same can be said of being elected President of the United States. It will happen. Perhaps it will be your daughter who reaches that pinnacle one of these years.
Unfortunately, the old stereotypes still exist. It will take several generations more before we break down all the barriers. Fortunately, outspoken advocates such as Maureen Dowd heighten our awareness of the situation. Sadly the old boys' clubs are going to be around for a long time. That means that girls' schools must not only continue to educate girls to be the best they can be but also must show them how to network effectively and present themselves as the best choices in any candidate pool.
St. Mary's School, Raleigh, North Carolina sums it up beautifully: "SMS offers a comprehensive range of opportunities enabling girls to compete in college and today's global economy." Don't we all want to prepare our daughters to compete and be successful in college and in their careers both at home and globally?
Earlier I chose Hillary Clinton, Indira Noovi and Drew Faust deliberately. They are distinguished leaders in their professions. That's another thing which a girls' school incorporates into its approach to educating girls: leadership. No, there is not AP course in leadership, is there? Yet that is the attribute which needs to be shaped and molded at a young age. A girls' school does that. How? Be developing skills and confidence in dozens of ways both in the classroom, on the playing field and in extracurricular activities. The secret is that in a boarding school situation your daughter is exposed to all this positive energy and reinforcement continually. That's a good thing.
Girls' schools understand how girls process information.
Girls' schools understand the way girls learn. They create an environment in which girls are constantly exposed to positive examples of what they can be. Furthermore, they are shown the path to those goals. Nothing is left to chance. Girls' schools know that success doesn't just happen. That success occurs in a long series of small steps over time. The end result is a high school graduate who knows what she wants and how to get there. This short video explains what is is like to attend a girls school.
"In 1906, Lucy Madeira founded her school with the belief that it is our duty and privilege to help young women to understand their changing world and to have the confidence to live lives of their own making, their own passions, their own dreams."
Girls schools offer personal attention, nurturing and encouragement.
Miss Porter's School, Farmington, Connecticut puts it so well: "Porter's is for smart, strong, and creative girls who want to become young women who are prepared to lead with conviction and courage."
That important phrase 'want to become' is the key to success. The uncertainty and tentativeness which is part of adolescents in the middle school years needs to blossom into confidence in those critical high school years. Remove distractions. Focus on what matters. Provide personal attention. Nurture. Encourage. That's the recipe a girls' school understands reflexively.
The teachers and staff in a girls' school offer a homogeneous approach to educating their students. The students literally cannot escape those integrated, positive influences. And that's another good thing.
Of course, I have saved the best for last. As I stated at the beginning, I am the father of two wonderful daughters. When they were in high school, frankly I worried more about what mischief they might get into than their mother worried. But then, she instinctively had great communication with both of her daughters. I had to learn that skill. So, what of socialization? Every girls' school allows boys and men into the lives of their students. Their girls are not cloistered. But given the kind of broad education in life which is another part of any good boarding school girls from a girls' school can handle the socialization experiences confidently. You might even say that they have the upper hand as a result of their nurturing. Frankly, I feel that they do. Which is why I am such a huge fan of girls' schools.
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