The two years that I spent at an all-girls school have taught me more than my nine years of schooling elsewhere. After 8th grade, my family moved and my education at The Ellis School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania was cut short. When I talk about Ellis or single-sex education in general, comments along the lines of two stereotypical subjects emerge. These subjects are the proof for why all-girls schooling just isn’t that great, but for me they are the reasons why I love it.
The first, being the no boy issue. Some assume that any given student at an all-girls school is either a lesbian or a straight girl who is absolutely dying without a male student body. This claim is simply not logical. We are not cut off from society and spend plenty of time with the opposite sex outside of school. Plus, SHOCKER! Girls can actually live without the presence of boys in their day-to-day lives. Crazy, right?
The second stereotype is the idea that an all-girls environment is an incubator for catty fights and drama. There is no environment in the world where conflict does not occur, and an all-girls school is no exception, but this assumption is still incorrect and fairly negative. Why is it so hard to imagine an environment in which girls boost each other up instead of tear each other down? It’s real, females can actually embrace each other’s differences, encourage each other to take risks, and celebrate each other’s successes.
While both stereotypes turn people away from an all-girls education, their topics are the sole reasons for why I believe in the value of it.
The number one lesson I learned in my two years at an all-girls school is that women can do anything and everything that a man can. Yes, we know this, we hear it all the time, it is practically ingrained in our brains, and (hopefully) we believe it. However, we don’t typically get to see it proven with such a large quantity of young women. At Ellis, 400 girls from PreK to 12th grade are told that they can and will do anything that they set their minds to. They build robots, learn to code, create Rube Goldberg machines, and they do it all without the pressure and competition of the opposite sex.
For a large majority of the existence of man and woman, it has been commonly acknowledged that men are superior. Homo sapiens have only existed for about 100,000 years, and women in the U.S. only gained the right to vote in 1920. Women’s suffrage was a large breakthrough in the movement towards gender equality, but it wasn’t that long ago. Whether we would like to believe it or not, the implementation of equality is fairly new and incomplete. Many people still have a core belief that men are superior, so we still have progress to make. No matter how hard we try, influences of female inferiority are everywhere, yet so subliminal that you can’t quite pinpoint it. I cannot stress how hard it is to notice the actions that cause us to think, unconsciously, that men have and deserve a more dominant role than women. The actions that influence these mindsets can be small, maybe it’s ingrained deep within us without our knowing.
It may be hard to imagine for someone who has always attended a co-ed school to understand, but to learn and grow without the slightest influence of gender inequality is the safest and most encouraging scenario for a young girl. Girls can survive without boys, but they don’t just survive; they thrive.
On my first day at Ellis, I was appalled by how many girls raised their hands with every question that the teacher asked. One question, and the entire class of 15 girls shot their hands up. At my previous school, it wasn’t that ‘trying’ in class was for losers, but it was not exactly deemed ‘cool.’
As simple as it may seem, Ellis taught me how to raise my hand. If I shouted out the wrong answer to an algebra problem I never felt embarrassed. There was no need for perfection and no threat of judgement. With every time I raised my hand, I felt supported by a strong community of girls, just as eager to try, grow, and learn as I was.
The first thing I noticed on my first day at my current co-ed high school is that kids don’t raise their hands. It is ‘uncool.’ The students who avidly raise their hands are viewed as nerds or try-hards. I notice it most in the girls though. Some underlying pressure teaches them to sit there, smile at their friends, sneak a peek at their phones, doodle on their notes, etc. Anything but raise their hands. After the first few weeks of school, one of my classmates mentioned that I raise my hand a lot. Not quite making fun of me, but questioning it. I was genuinely confused and did not understand why he thought my confidence was abnormal, because it should not be abnormal.
I still raise my hand in class. I raise it so much, and I feel that people notice. My teacher doesn’t call on me all the time, and I don’t always have the correct answer, but I raise my hand because I would be stupid not to. I am smart, I am going places, and every girl has the capacity to do so. It's as simple as raising your hand just to give your best shot at a question you may not know the perfect answer to.
If I had not gone to Ellis, even though it was only two years, I would not be the person I am today. I would not raise my hand with confidence. Raising your hand in class is such a small little action, and if a girl cannot raise her hand in class, how is she going to cure cancer? How is she going to become president? How is she going to change the world?
Send your daughter to an all-girls school simply because she can do anything, and she deserves to know it.