by Michele Sweetmon
I think my experience in “shopping” for a Catholic high school for my daughter is a unique one. Our high school “shopping list” includes the following.
- Diverse fine arts program.
- Excellent academic program.
- An environment where my introverted but strong-willed daughter can become a principled, well-rounded, Catholic woman.
This list is probably not so different from your list. So why is my experience unique? I am a teacher at Gross Catholic, a co-educational high school, but I am also a parent looking into both co-ed and single-sex schools for my daughter.
For the last 6 months my family has struggled with this decision. I know the in’s and out’s of co-education at Gross Catholic – the blessings, the challenges and the miracles!
I have had candid conversations with current students, alumni and teachers at Gross Catholic AND at other schools, both single-sex and public.
I thought, “What message am I sending my son and daughters about each other and about their self-worth if I tell them that the opposite gender is a distraction or is immature or is a hindrance to their educational and social growth?”
In the end, I turned to prayer. My answer came in the form of the Theology of the Body.
Perhaps some of you are struggling with this decision too. Maybe what my family discovered might help you.
We have made our high school decision – one that will greatly shape the person my daughter becomes. We feel our choice will form her into a woman ready to act with genuine strength and independence; our choice will prepare her to appreciate the men she will work with, date, and perhaps, someday marry; our choice will provide her with diverse thinking and decision-making.
Our choice is co-educational schooling at Gross Catholic High School.
3 Reasons Why We Chose a Co-ed School
1. Co-educational schools challenge boys and girls to find dignity in all human persons
Saint John Paul II often wrote of the dignity of the human person, especially as it applied to gender. He explained that freedom for both genders is dependent upon reciprocity, mutual complementarity, appreciation of the talents of the other gender and mutual responsibility for each other.
He said: “We are old enough to accept our female classmates’ differences. Their hormones don’t phase me anymore.” (Alex)
She said: “When I leave high school I will encounter boys. I need to learn to interact with guys in preparation for college and the real world.” (Kellee)
In co-educational schools students can develop a sense of responsibility and respect for one another that can carry over into healthy relationships. A 2016 document entitled Advantages of Co-education states that “for both girls and boys co-education provides a more realistic way of training young people to take their places naturally in a wider community of men and women. It helps break down the misconceptions of each sex about the other and provides an excellent foundation for the development of realistic, meaningful and lasting relationships later in life.” Furthermore, it is believed that extended exposure to the opposite gender is successful in “challenging sexist attitudes.”
Teaching students to value one another creates an environment that fosters the type of cooperation and personal growth necessary as young adults prepare for the adult world of work and eventually settle into Christian marriages. Boys and girls learning together, become men and women working together.
He said: “I don’t have sisters, but the girls on the basketball team have shown me what I am missing. When we travel together the bus is a totally different place. It is louder; there is a lot of chatter. Typically, when we travel without the girls, we all just tune out and listen to our headphones. Win or lose, the mood is better with the girls there because we know we have their support and they know they have ours.” (Trey)
She said: “As captain of my co-ed robotics team, I feel I have grown as a leader because we work as a team. The head designer and I have completely different perspectives on how to communicate and how to approach a challenge. He often comes up with a million ideas, but he needs me to organize and communicate those ideas to the rest of the team. I have taught him to work in a more cooperative, less ego-driven way. He has taught me how to deal with my frustrations in the open instead of gossiping or keeping all my feelings bottled up. We play off each other’s strengths. I think this is the reason that Gross Catholic’s Robotics Team is number 2 in the world – we are one of the only schools that values men and women both working in the science field.” (Abbigail)
As Saint Paul says in Romans, “Each of us has various parts in one body, and the parts do not all have the same function: in the same way, all of us, though there are so many of us, make up one body in Christ, and as different parts we are all joined to one another.”
2. Inclusion Is Not a Distraction
Saint John Paul II highlighted the “prevalence of ‘gender distrust'” seen when men or women seek to eliminate the opposite gender rather than learn to cooperate and compliment them (On the Collaboration of Men and Women). He cited God’s words in Genesis that solitude is not “good”, and that men and women need to provide “adequate support” for one another so both genders can develop healthy man and womanhood.
He said: “In reality we have been going to school together all our lives. I do not feel distracted by my female classmates any more than I did in grade school.” (Tyler)
She said: “Sometimes we girls can be too emotional and heavy. I am glad my male friends are there to lighten the mood and put things into perspective.” (Kellee)
This support can be seen in co-educational schools when students challenge each other’s viewpoints. Boys and girls learn to listen and defend their ideas, therefore, achieving a more well-rounded perspective. They also learn through working together that “equality” does not mean “sameness” as ideas can sometimes split along gender lines.
Genuine self-esteem is also developed when boys and girls attend school together. Social skills, realistic expectations of the opposite sex, and true diversity are found in co-educational schools.
3. Community Builds Unity
In co-educational Catholic schools, community is built by learning, playing and praying together. True community is built on unity – sports teams, extra-curricular activities, retreats, pep rallies, and the day-to-day interactions between students in the classroom. Community is built because students share similar experiences and values not because they share the same gender. Students in co-educational schools value their differences and allow those difference to strengthen their bonds.
He said: “Despite depictions on T.V., guys’ nights or girls’ night just don’t exist. We enjoy hanging out together. I feel that I can have friends who are girls and those relationships have nothing to do with sexual attraction.” (Alex)
She said: “We need each other to succeed. I have never felt the need to change myself because there are boys at my school. I don’t need to wear makeup and act differently just because they are there.” (Martha)
Recently Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato Si stated “The removal of [gender] difference, in fact, creates a problem, not a solution.” He advocates a “rediscovery” of the “alliance between man and woman.”
My daughter is excited to be enrolling at Gross Catholic in the fall of 2018! We believe that we made the right choice.Learn More About Attending Gross Catholic