All-wrong logic killed off all-male city schools

May 20, 2000|By GREGORY KANE

TODAY, CLASS, we resume discussion of the topic I wrote about in the column just before being waylaid by the illness that kept me out for four weeks. On March 8, I gave details of the male shortage crisis at my alma mater, City College.

The school was once all-male, like its archrival, Polytechnic Institute (Polywreckit Institution for the Cognitively Challenged, to all true Collegians). City went co-ed in 1980, Poly in 1975 or 1976, according to Principal Ian Cohen. Thus ended the tradition of all-male public schools in Baltimore.

Today, City is 70 percent female. Principal Joe Wilson says there are more girls with each entering freshman class. City's traditionally strong football team was mediocre last season, an undermanned and undersized group that lost to teams that had more and bigger players. There was no City-Poly junior varsity football game last year. City didn't have enough bodies to put on the field.

Why are boys growing less interested in attending what was, at one time, one of the finest all-male public schools in the country? And why did City and Poly become co-ed in the first place?

Let's put the blame squarely where it belongs: on liberal Democrats, who let feminists browbeat them into changing all male-only public high schools, colleges and universities into co-ed ones while letting traditionally all-female institutions remain so.

The question is on everyone's minds, or at least should be. So let's ask it: How did Baltimore's liberal Democratic oligarchy justify forcing co-ed education down the throats of City and Poly alumni while letting Western High School remain all-female? If co-ed education is so beneficial, you'd think the changes would be across the board, that city mis-leaders would have required Western to turn co-ed right along with City and Poly.

Mind you, I'm one of those folks who strongly believe Western should remain all-girl. My dudgeon is with those feminists who, by killing all-male institutions, threaten the all-female status of schools like Western. I'm even more upset with the mind-set that says all-male schools are bad and all-female schools are good. The fact is that today we may need all-male public schools more than ever. It is boys, not girls, who face a crisis in education.

Backing that claim is Christina Hoff Sommers, a W.H. Brady Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. In the May issue of the Atlantic Monthly -- passed on to me by a reader -- Sommers contends that the feminist notion of a school system that nurtures boys while oppressing girls is false. Taking aim at the torrent of liberal and feminist drivel that says the self-esteem of girls plummets in school after they reach adolescence, Sommers shoots that assumption down.

"The typical boy is a year and a half behind the typical girl in reading and writing; he is less committed to school and less likely to go to college. [M]ore boys than girls are suspended from school. More are held back and more drop out. Boys are three times as likely to receive a diagnosis of attention-deficit disorder. More boys than girls are involved in crime, alcohol and drugs."

This pathetic state of affairs has not yet adversely affected Poly. Cohen says the school's enrollment is 60 percent male and 40 percent female. It's been that way the past two to three years. But Sommers' story was about the plight of typical schoolboys. Poly's students, male and female, are exceptional, not typical. Poly alumni who graduated in the all-male era have that fact to cherish. But, Cohen indicated, those who might have hoped for a revival of an all-male Poly have given up hope. Enough time has passed that older Poly alumni no longer grouse about the school going co-ed.

"There have been rumblings here and there," Cohen said of those alumni who once protested co-education being forced on the school, adding that he hasn't heard such complaints recently.

"You would hear some of that a couple of years ago or when I first got here," said Cohen, in his sixth year as principal. "Twenty-five years is enough time for reality to set in. There's a place for women in the science and engineering fields."

There's still a place in society for the all-male public school. The feminists who intimidated liberal Democrats into killing all-male public institutions while hoodwinking educators into believing that girls need special nurturing have, either deliberately or unwittingly, put an entire generation of boys at risk. Sommers' article should be required reading for all those concerned about the plight of boys in education.

Which means not one liberal Democrat in Maryland will touch the thing.

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