Adolescent boys don’t know how to relate to girls, reports Gordon Parker, a psychiatrist who talks to parents at boys schools. Miranda Devine (SMH 13 August) linked this to youth suicide, over-medicalisation of depression, growing social pressures on adolescents. A conference at private boys school Shore on the ‘particular vulnerabilities of boys’ appears to miss the point.
The elephant in the room, so to speak, is the question of single sex schools. How do we expect boys to learn social skills vis a vis the opposite sex when they’re quarantined from normal daily contact during critical adolescent years. Doh, as they would say: being around girls is the best way of getting used to them. It starts with boys and girls relating as equals from an early age, and continuing through life. It’s common sense.
Argument about different learning rates of the sexes is a furphy, and inherited English traditions have a lot to answer for. Europeans do not generally have gender segregation at secondary level these days, except in some religious schools. It’s time for Australia to shake off archaic thinking and reunite the sexes at school. Lessening of boys anxiety and improved social skills will surely follow. Girls will ‘normalise’ too, and maybe society at large.
St Kate’s Kookynie accepted boys from nearby St Kevin’s this year, with the declining population adding logic to an effective merger. Historic St Kate’s is now a happy co-ed school for all denominations, with unanimous community support. St Kevin’s site is up for sale.