Boys will be boys. That old line is usually thrown around whenever we find our young men involved with stick fighting, horse play, creepy-crawly collecting, and other not-quite-gentlemanly behavior. But what if, instead, it referred to young men actively pursuing their own intellectual, creative, and athletic interests? What if it referred to boys being encouraged to follow their own passions, while being supported by a community of friends and faculty on that journey? That’s pretty much what it means at Gilman School, where an all-boys learning environment helps young men (from kindergarten all the way to high school) develop into men of substance, ready to contribute to their community and to the larger world. Of course, this kind of supportive environment can also happen in co-educational settings, but the folks at Gilman have a happily realistic understanding of some of the unavoidable pitfalls of a co-ed environment. A single-sex environment, according to Jodi Pluznik of Gilman, “allows boys to explore interests and passions without fear of embarrassment or the social pressures that a co-ed environment may present. An adolescent might be way more likely to sing and dance in Spanish class in a room full of other guys.” If you’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting an adolescent boy, you probably know how true this statement is.
Gilman’s history and track record are nothing to sneeze at, either. Last year alone, Gilman sent at least one graduating boy to each of the eight Ivy League schools (Princeton and Harvard each had three). And in the last ten years, at least half of Gilman graduates have gone on to attend colleges defined as “Most Competitive” by Barron’s Guide to the Most Competitive Colleges. And at Gilman, the faculty and staff truly believe that single-sex education is a key factor in fostering that kind of success. As Ned Harris, Gilman’s Academic Dean, told us, “in an all-boys environment, teachers can make curriculum choices related to content, activities, methodology, and assignments that are geared toward boys’ interests and boys’ learning.
In this way, the teaching process becomes more efficient and effective.” And in an era when most schools are plagued by short class periods, large class sizes, dwindling attention spans, and more and more technological and social distractions for young people, this kind of simple, realistic perspective is a breath of fresh air. In other words, if a single-sex approach seems a bit old-fashioned or traditional, maybe it is—and maybe it’s just the right antidote to today’s educational dilemmas.
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