To hear many religious people talk, one would think God created the torso, head, legs and arms, but the devil slapped on the genitals. ~Don Schrader
It is now quite lawful for a Catholic woman to avoid pregnancy by a resort to mathematics, though she is still forbidden to resort to physics or chemistry. ~H.L. Mencken
More and more Orthodox schools seem to be becoming single-sex. I'd like to examine what the effects are, both positive and negative, of separating boys from girls until they're old enough to marry.
The GoodThere's no question that keeping boys and girls separate from one another will prevent some pretty bad situations. Girls being pressured or forced into sex, accidental teen pregancy, distraction from studies, emotional problems, sexual harrassment, etc. Teenaged boys can be selfish and vicious and girls aren't always up to defending themselves emotionally or physically. Teenagers of both genders aren't always capable of making the soundest decisions and it's awfully easy for people to end up hurt, pregnant, or with an STD.
The BadOn the other hand, teenagers really miss out by being in a single-sex only environment. The biggest problem is probably that they may never learn how to interact with women in a healthy manner. Exposure only to sisters and mothers may be insufficient for learning how to view women as friends and equals as well as as potential mates. Also, girls often have inferior schooling when separated from boys, at least in Orthodox circles. As the decision in Brown v. Board of Education read in the famous case about racial segregation, "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal."
Perhaps most importantly, people who grow up in single-sex schools often don't get to have practice relationships before they get married. Combined with the very limited dating allowed in many Orthodox communities prior to marriage, people may be ill-equipped to make what may likely be the most important decision of their lives. Not having any experience with the opposite sex, they may not know what they're looking for. (Perhaps this is why we see people matching up based primarily on what kind of kippah he wears or which seminary she attended.) Starved for sex, they may marry too quickly. (I believe this is the reason Orthodox people get married so much younger than others.) Without having had sex, they may marry someone with whom they are sexually incompatible, leading to an unhappy marriage. For example, perhaps gay people deceive themselves more easily into thinking they can lead straight lives when they don't have sex before marriage. While it is true that the divorce rate is lower among Orthodox Jews than in the general population, it may be that this is for other reasons, like lifestyle, education, wealth, number of children, exposure to other members of the opposite sex, less inclination to divorce, and a lack of financial independence for many women.