The XX Factor

Would You Send Your Daughter to an All-Girls Preschool?

If you live in Santa Cruz, you may want to seize this opportunity to enroll your 3-6 year old in the Pink Academy . “It’s pink, it’s girly, and it’s all about them!” The all-pink Web site suggests a world many girls would love: playful, flowery, and utterly empty of boys and their disturbing truck-y, camo-and-gun influence. There’s a nod to gender-neutral subject matter: Your daughter won’t just make fairy wings, crowns, capes and butterfly wands, or snuggle on a flowery couch underneath a canopy of lace-she’ll also learn about sports and science and math in a multi-sensory way. Really. Judging from the Web site, that would apparently be a very pink multi-sensory way. And there’s a plug for the studies behind single sex education. “Research shows that girls are able to excel in single gender classrooms, developing a broader range of interests, forging deeper relationships with other girls and increasing their confidence and self esteem.”

In preschool ?

If you sent me a link for the Pink Academy: an all-girls high school, I’d mock the name, but I don’t know that I’d be that outraged. I probably wouldn’t bother to rally my counterarguments: That we’re still too close to mandatory gender segregation to encourage it voluntarily, that boys and girls have too much to learn from one another to separate them, that studies showing greater success at single-sex schools don’t account for the kind of self-selection that puts kids in those schools, or the increased effort that goes into making them a success, and that even the best all-girl school suggests that girls can’t succeed unless you give them a smaller pond. But a preschool ? A all-girls, pink, girly, nurturing, fairy-winged preschool ?

I’d sooner send my daughters to learn to field-dress a deer.

Preschool may be the age when boys and girls begin to self-segregate, but that’s all the more reason to keep them together-no, to push them together. To make sure your sons hang with girls who are rocking the monkey bars and building the largest mud pies, and your daughters sit in a circle reading with boys and carefully threading the macaroni noodles onto the yarn. They need each other. Especially at that age where they’re beginning to make distinctions between “boy stuff” and “girl stuff,” boys and girls should be confronted daily with the fact that no boy or girl assumption really encompasses all of reality.

Lise Eliot, Ph. D. and associate professor of Neuroscience at Chicago Medical School, wholeheartedly agrees. “Boys and girls are simply not all that different, either neurologicially or psychologically,” she says. “They need each other as friends and playmates. Their brains are far too plastic at this tender age to deprive either girls or boys of the opportunity to interact with an entire half of the population.” Eliot pointed me to the new Web site for the American Council for Co-Educational Schooling , where they make all these arguments and more, and don’t just encourage co-educational schooling, but work with schools and teachers to encourage boys and girls to spend more time, not less, interacting in the classroom. That’s the right education for a co-ed life.