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Learning Together

Learning Together: A History of Coeducation in American Public Schools

David Tyack
Elisabeth Hansot
Copyright Date: 1992
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 384
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  • Book Info
    Learning Together
    Book Description:

    Now available in paperback, this award-winning book provides a comprehensive history of gender policies and practices in American public schools. David Tyack and Elisabeth Hansot explore the many factors that have shaped coeducation since its origins. At the very time that Americans were creating separate spheres for adult men and women, they institutionalized an education system that brought boys and girls together. How did beliefs about the similarities and differences of boys and girls shape policy and practice in schools? To what degree did the treatment of boys and girls differ by class, race, region, and historical period? Debates over gender policies suggest that American have made public education the repository of their hopes and anxieties about relationships between the sexes. Thus, the history of coeducation serves as a window not only on constancy and change in gender practices in the schools but also on cultural conflicts about gender in the broader society.

    "Learning Togetherpresents a rich and exhaustive search through [the] 'tangled history' of gender and education that links both the silences and the debates surrounding coeducation to the changing roles of women and men in our society....It is the generosity and capaciousness of Tyack and Hansot's scholarship that makesLearning Togetherso important a book." -Science

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-540-5
    Subjects: Education, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    Anthropologists often make the familiar strange. Similarly, historians seek to solve the puzzles posed by the origins of the ordinary. This book analyzes a practice that most Americans take for granted: coeducation in public schools. It treats coeducation as the major theme in a broader inquiry that asks why and how Americans educated not only sons but daughters as well. Carl Degler observes that when one views American educational history from the viewpoint of women, an issue “calls out for attention. It is the decision to include girls in primary and secondary schooling on a par with boys.”¹

    Although coeducation...

  5. 1 “Smuggling in the Girls” Colonial New England
    (pp. 13-27)

    “In the early history of Massachusetts, and long after provision for Public Free Schools had been made,” Horace Mann said in 1853, “it was a common thing for boys only to attend them. In many towns, the first improvement in this respect consisted in smuggling in the girls, perhaps for an hour a day, after the boys had recited their lessons and gone home.” Harvard College, the Latin grammar schools that prepared young men for college, and most publicly supported town English grammar schools admitted males only. In the male-dominated public life of seventeenth-century Massachusetts, viewed from the top down...

  6. 2 Why Educate Girls?
    (pp. 28-45)

    The Revolution created a fresh sense of possibility among the advocates of the education of women. The reformers of the revolutionary generation made a strong case that girls had a moral, social, and civic right to thorough schooling, not simply the rudimentary or frivolous learning they were permitted to acquire during the colonial period. During the early nineteenth century a resurgence of evangelical Protestantism gave new impetus and urgency to the conviction that the new nation required a new kind of educated woman. This emergent Protestant-republican ideology fused new concepts of gender and education to supply answers to the question:...

  7. 3 Coeducation in Rural Common Schools
    (pp. 46-77)

    The entry of girls into public elementary schools in the first half of the nineteenth century was a gradual, decentralized, and obscure process. The paucity of records documenting debate about coeducation suggests that it was not a particularly controversial issue and probably was not even a considered act of public policy in most communities. But it was arguably the most important event in the gender history of American public education. At the time of the Revolution, only a few schools were open to girls. By the middle of the nineteenth century almost as many girls as boys were attending elementary...

  8. 4 Coeducation in Urban Public Schools
    (pp. 78-113)

    Not until the middle of the nineteenth century did Americans begin to debate coeducation in public schools in earnest. For a variety of reasons coeducation became what a leading educational journalist called a “live issue” in policy talk, ending what had been a general policy silence. European visitors, often astonished to see teenage boys and girls together in the same classrooms, made Americans more self-conscious about coeducation; several surveys of coeducation by the U.S. Office of Education were explicitly designed to answer foreigners’ questions and to defend the practice. The term “coeducation” itself appears to have entered these discussions in...

  9. 5 The Rising Tide of Coeducation in the High School
    (pp. 114-145)

    Many of the pioneers in creating public high schools believed that the sexes should be educated separately, and in the early years often regarded public secondary education for girls as an experiment. Most early advocates of the high school could not foresee, and probably would not have approved of, what actually happened. In the last three decades of the nineteenth century four facts were becoming clear:

    1. Public secondary education was overwhelmingly coeducational. In an 1882 survey, only 19 of 196 cities reported that they had separate-sex high schools. By the end of the century, only 12 cities out of 628...

  10. 6 King Canutes Attack the Perils of Coeducation and Women Teachers
    (pp. 146-164)

    The rising tide of coeducation in the high school did not go unchallenged, however natural and expedient it may have seemed to most school people. Chief among the King Canutes who would command this tide to stop were two men who claimed the authority of science and attracted much public attention: Dr. Edward H. Clarke of Harvard Medical School, a specialist in nervous disorders who had written an influential book entitledSex in Educationin 1873, and G. Stanley Hall, president of Clark University, a flamboyant psychologist. Both men argued that there were such fundamental biological differences between adolescent girls...

  11. 7 Differentiating the High School: The “Boy Problem”
    (pp. 165-200)

    InThe Saturday Evening Postin 1912 William D. Lewis, a high-school principal, described how high schools cheated boys and what should be done to remedy the boy problem. The hero and the victim of the article was Rogers, a star football player. The scene opened with the fans praying “to the great god Mars for a victory that meant a celebration in assembly next day.” The quarterback made a fake run to the right and threw a pass to Rogers, who caught it in a blaze of glory. Then the triumph aborted: “‘Take him out!’ commanded the principal. …...

  12. 8 Differentiating the High School: The “Woman Question”
    (pp. 201-242)

    “Whether we wish it or not,” M. Carey Thomas wrote in 1908, “the economic independence of women is taking place before our eyes.” The changes amounted to a “stupendous social revolution,” she believed. “Women are one-half of the world, but until a century ago … women lived a twilight life, a half life apart, and looked out and saw men as shadows walking. It was a man’s world.” Now that “women have won the right to higher education and economic independence,” she declared, “the right to become citizens of the state is the next and inevitable consequence of education and...

  13. 9 Feminists Discover the Hidden Injuries of Coeducation
    (pp. 243-278)

    By the second decade of the twentieth century a few feminists were dreaming of a world in which traditional gender distinctions would wither away as a result of truly identical coeducation. One of these visionaries, a New York teacher named Henrietta Rodman, argued in 1915 that “coeducation is one of the essentials of civilization. This mixing makes the girls brave and resourceful and the boys courteous and helpful.” Boys might play with dolls and dishes if they wanted, and “girls would not be told that they can’t play vigorous games because they must keep their dresses clean and they must...

  14. Conclusion
    (pp. 279-292)

    Controversy over gender policy in the schools has a complex history, in part because Americans have long used debate over schooling as a way of projecting preferred gender futures for the society as a whole. Rather than attempting to change the behavior or attitudes of adults or to redistribute power directly, they have often talked about changing the young. Frequently, actual practice in the schools has changed little in response to such policy talk. And it is by no means clear how directly the changes that did occur in the education of girls and boys actually translated into major shifts...

  15. Appendix Using Photographs as Evidence of Gender Practices in Schools
    (pp. 293-296)
  16. Notes
    (pp. 297-358)
  17. Index
    (pp. 359-369)