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Friday, March 21, 2008

Letters: Teaching to the Testosterone

I was fascinated by Elizabeth Weil’s article because I have studied an all-girls’ school in some depth. During graduate school, I lived among the Lubavitcher Hasidim, in Crown Heights, Brooklyn; I’ve recorded my findings in a book. I spent many days observing, in the girls’ high school and post-high-school seminary. Despite my reservations about same-sex schools, I was deeply impressed. In this ultra-Orthodox community known for its stark gender roles, the girls’ ability to adopt stereotypically male personas struck me. Many girls became noisy instigators, impish troublemakers, charismatic schoolwide leaders — niches that disproportionately may fall to boys in coed schools. The boys were not around to usurp these roles, so the girls snatched them up.

I don’t believe that single-sex schools are best for all students. Coed schools have their own benefits. But I am delighted that an option once reserved for private and parochial schools is open to growing numbers of public-school students.

STEPHANIE WELLEN LEVINE

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