This section is from the book "The Transmission Of Life. Counsels On The Nature And Hygiene Of The Masculine Function", by George H. Napheys. Also available from Amazon: The Transmission of Life.
We have spoken of this in a previous part of this work as an experiment, about the result of which we are not quite fully satisfied. The evidence which has been submitted to the public is nearly all in its favor. We are still, however, not yet inclined to give it our unreserved advocacy ; there are many considerations of locality and custom which must " give us pause;" there are individual instances in which it (cannot be approved, and there are limits to mixed classes which must be defined. But of such importance as a practical question do we consider it, that we venture to insert an extract of some length from the last Annual Report of the Board of St. Louis Public Schools, written by the efficient superintendent, Professor William T. Harris.
" It is in accordance with the spirit of our institutions to treat women as self-determining beings, and as less in want of those external artificial barriers that were built up in such profusion in past times. We give to youth of both sexes more privileges or opportunities for self-control than are given in the old-world society. Each generation takes a step in advance in this respect.
" Occasionally, as in San Francisco, there is a returning eddy which may be caused by the unbalanced condition or society found on frontiers. Old cities, like New York and Boston, may move very slowly in this direction, because of enormous expense required to change buildings and school-yards so as to adapt them to the wants of " mixed schools." In fact, the small size of school-yards in many cities renders this change next to impossible. Western cities will take the lead in this matter and outstrip the East. Within fifteen years the schools of St. Louis have been entirely remodelled on this plan, and the results have proved so admirable that a few remarks may be ventured on the experience which they furnish. I wish to speak of the effects on the school system itself and of the effects upon the individual pupils attending.
"I. Economy has been secured through the circumstance, that the co-education of the sexes makes it possible to have better classification and at the same time larger classes. Unless proper grading is interfered with, and pupils of widely different attainments brought together in the same classes, the separation of the sexes requires twice as many teachers to teach the same number of pupils. This remark applies, of course, particularly to sparsely settled districts.
The item of economy is very considerable, but is not to be compared with the other and greater advantages arising.
"While it is conceded by the opponents of co-education that primary schools may be mixed to advantage, they with one accord oppose the system for schools of a higher grade. Now, what is singular in our experience is the fact that our high school was the first experiment on this plan for classes above the primary. Economy and better classification were the controlling reasons that initiated this experiment, and from the high school the system has crept down through all the intermediate grades. What had been found practicable and satisfactory in the highest grades could not long be kept away from the lower ones.
" II. Discipline has improved continually with the adoption of mixed schools. Our change in St. Louis has been so gradual that we have been able to weigh with the utmost exactness every point of comparison between the two systems.
'• The mixing of the male and female departments of a school has always been followed by improvement in discipline ; not merely on the part of the boys, but on that of the girls as well. The rudeness and abandon which prevail among boys when separate, at once give place to self-restraint in the presence of girls. The prurient sentimentality engendered by educating girls apart from boys - it is manifested by a frivolous and silly bearing when such girls are brought into the society of the opposite sex - this disappears almost entirely in mixed schools. In its place a quiet self->n reigns. The consequence of this is a general prevalence of milder forms of discipline. Boys and girls originating - according to nature's plan - in the same family as brothers and sisters, their culture should be together, so that the social instincts be Saved from abnormal diseased action. The natural dependence of each individual upon all the rest in society should not be prevented by isolating one sex from another during the most formative stages of growth.
" III. Instruction is also greatly improved. Where the sexes are separate, methods of instruction are unbalanced and gravitate continually towards extremes that may be called masculine and feminine. The masculine extreme is mechanical formalizing in its lowest shape, and the merely intellectual training on its highest side. The feminine extreme is the learning-by-rote system on the lower side, and the superfluity of sentiment in the higher activities. Each needs the other as a counter-check, and it is only through their union that educational methods attain completeness and do not foster one-sidedness in the pupil. We find here that mixed schools are noted for the prevalence of a certain healthy tone which schools on the separate system lack More rapid progress is the consequence, and we find girls making wonderful advances even in mathematical studies. while boys seem to take hold of literature far better for the influence of the female portion of the class.
" IV. Individual development is, as already indicated, far more sound and healthy. It has been found that schools kept exclusively for girls or boys require a much more strict surveillance on the part of the teachers. The girls confined by themselves develop the sexual tension much earlier, their imagination being the reigning faculty, and not bridled by intercourse with society in its normal form. So it is with boys, on the other hand. Daily association in the class-room prevents this tension, and supplies its place by indifference. Each sex testing its strength with the other on an intellectual plane in the presence of the teacher - each one seeing the weakness and strength of the other - learns to esteem what is essential at its true value. Sudden likes and dislikes, capricious fancies and romantic ideals give way for sober judgments not easily deceived by mere externals. This is the basis of that ' quiet self-possession' before alluded to, and it forms the most striking mark of difference between the girls or boys educated in mixed schools and those educated in schools exclusively for one sex.
" That the sexual tension be developed as late as possible, and that all early love affairs be avoided, is the desideratum, and experience has shown that association of the sexes on the plane of intellectual contest is the safest course to secure this end."
These judicious remarks, by one who has long and attentively studied the problem under advantageous circumstances, are so clear that we have few commentaries to make upon them. Of course there are certain branches of instruction to which they do not apply, but this is a question we do not enter upon in this connection.
The point to which we wish to draw especial attention is what Professor Harris calls the " late development of the sexual tension," in children of both sexes who are allowed freely to intermingle in the pursuits of education.
Furthermore, as we have shown at the outset of this appendix, that education itself is higher which develops the latent feminine instincts in boys, the inherent masculine traits in girls; which, in other words, tempers each sex with the best characteristics of the opposite sex.
Segregation and isolation do not improve the morality nor elevate the culture, but the contrary. From the earliest years it is better that the sexes should meet in an unrestricted manner, that diffidence, false modesty, and spurious sentiment should be avoided, and that much of the intellec-tual and social training should be in common.
While this is true, it by no means follows that the social basis of children's society should be upon the same theories as that of adults.
No training is more objectionable and more caculated to bring about precocious maturity, in other words, to foster the very tension which it should be our aim to discourage, than to introduce into the thoughts and social life of children the sentiment of sexual love. Hence it was that we have said, on a previous page: "The growing custom of allowing very young people of both sexes to associate at parties, balls, dances, and similar amusements cannot be approved on the score of health. It is nearly certain to favor precocity."
Conversation about beaus and " girls," reference to the admiration of the opposite sex, teasing about early loves, and such subjects, on which too many parents delight to speak with their children, are thoroughly unwise.
While the ordinary intercourse of the family and the school is likely to bring about a condition of indifference, it is not to e trusted to alone. The minds of the young are too exci ible and too eager for novelties to be left to their own di retion. It is essential that they be occupied with matters which will keep them away from seductive and insidious subjects.
The pursuit of the severer studies, such as mathematics, and the proper training of the physical powers, are what we must chiefly rely upon to accomplish this. "With these precautions, we need not fear the result of the freedom which in this country is constantly extending in reference to the relations of the sexes in daily life.
While these associations should be looked upon with approval, they should not be unrestricted. Even in our country, in which we boast of liberty and equality, there are distinctions in society which we do, and which we ought to observe.
It is better that children find their playmates and companions among those of their own social position, than with others less carefully nurtured. Hence the impropriety of trusting them too largely, as is often done, to the care of domestics and to the companionship of their children.