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this agitation is more or less uncertain. In certain
institutions of learning the subject has been seriously
discussed. In many educational conferences it has


received much attention, and is, consequently, a
subject which just now deserves the thought of all
who take any interest whatever in questions of gen-
eral education.

It is my desire to present briefly two proposi-
tions. First, I wish to show that coeducation is the
latest of several stages which may be traced in the
gradual development of educational method as it
stands related to success. Second, I shall endeavor
to point out that coeducation may be, and indeed
must be, modified and adjusted to meet the require-
ments of special situations.

It requires only a superficial observer to be able
to note quite definitely the geographical features of the
problem of coeducation. Roughly speaking, we
find in New England and New York colleges for
men and colleges for women separate from each
other, Radchffe and Barnard being almost as dis-
tinct from Harvard and Columbia as if they were
independent women's colleges. In this territory a
larger number of separate schools, including acade-
mies, are to be found than probably in any other
part of the country, although even here the modern
high school open to both boys and girls has had
large growth. In the middle states and the West
colleges for men alone or colleges for women arel
almost unknown. In any case, they form the excep-
tion. In this statement count need not be taken of
certain ** finishing" schools for women, called semi-
naries. A more uniform system could hardly be
imagined than that which prevails.


Jn the Soutii, although the policy of coeducation
has been very largely accepted and put into operation,
it is by no means so uniform as in the West. In the
wealthy East and in the sentimental South parents
have been loath to trust their daughters in so demo-
cratic an environment. In the West it has been
different; to a large extent the girl has been placed
upon the same footing as the boy. Opinions may
differ as to the wisdom of this poHcy, as shown by
its results, but the facts as thus roughly stated are

The geographical distribution just indicated fur-
nishes the clue to the historical development of co-
education. Here again my statement must be the
most general possible. We may observe at least
three stages in this development. The first will
include the period extending far back when college
instruction was provided only for men. During
this period women were given, in the so-called semi-
naries, some knowledge of music, history, the French
language, and EngHsh Hterature; but the provision
for the higher education of women, whether consid-
ered from the point of view of curriculum, endowment,
or instruction, was practically nothing. The second
stage was introduced when Vassar College was built
in the year 1861. In a section of the country in
which provision had already been made for men, no
plan whereby women might enjoy the privileges of
higher education could be devised other than that
of separate colleges. It seems quite certain even

0: "^^


today, both from the economic and from the social
point of view, that any other solution of the question
of women's higher education was impossible. Col-
leges had been provided for men. The only sensible —
in fact, the only possible — thing was to provide
institutions of a similar character for women. At
this time the question of university work, as distin-
guished from that of college, had not yet presented

About this same time, however, people in the
western states found themselves compelled to pro-
vide faciHties for higher education for both men
and women. It is true, a certain number of colleges
for men had been founded in accordance with the
New England poUcy of separate education; but these,
in most cases, were not adequately equipped, and,
besides, they were not numerous enough to meet the
very large demands being made. In the great de-
velopment of education by the people which took the
form of state universities, and was led by the Uni-
versity of Michigan, the idea of separate education
prevailed only a short time. The situation in the
West was characterized by so much flexibility and
was so easily adjusted to the demands of the popular
feeHng, that within a httle while the coeducational
poHcy was adopted at Michigan; and in the univer-
sities afterward estabHshed practically no question
was raised on this point. Among the colleges first
established for men, and later opening their doors
to women, Oberhn, in Ohio, took the lead.


In rough outline, then, we see three poKcies in
operation, the first of which may be called the old,
the second and third the new — these latter growing
out of an acknowledged conviction that women should
have the privileges of higher education; the second
policy, providing for separate colleges for women,
having its fullest development in that section of the
country in which fairly adequate provision had
already been made for men; the other poHcy, that of
coeducation, coming into existence in the West,
where comparatively meager opportunities for higher
education existed at the particular time when the
rights of women in this respect had come to be

It is important, in the study of this problem, to
observe the influence, by way of reaction, which has
been exercised on educational policy by the coeduca-
tional development in the West. This is seen in the
so-called annexes that have been established in con-
nection with some of the largest universities, like
Harvard and Columbia. In these the arrangement
exists by which, in classes for graduate instruction,
and, indeed, in some of the higher undergraduate
work, men and women may be admitted to the same
recitation room. This development seems to have
proceeded farther at Columbia than at Harvard.
It has gone still farther at Yale, where all courses of
instruction in graduate work have been opened to
women. And inasmuch as the Hne between graduate
and undergraduate work in these days is not sharply


drawn, this means that in the later years of college
work men and women in many cases sit together at
Yale. It is seen still further in the number of col-
leges — for example, Rochester and Beloit — which
have within ten years opened their doors for the first
time to women; likewise, in the fact that in the last
few years there has been no perceptible increase in
the number of women's colleges. Three additional
points may be mentioned which look in the same
direction. In several instances in the West women
have been admitted to professional schools in divinity,
medicine, and law. Certain German universities
have admitted women, and in many cases for degrees;
and, besides, there has been a growth in the amount
and character of philosophical work along coeduca-
tional lines, the great majority of modern educational
philosophers making coeducation a fundamental
principle in their system.

It is quite possible to base upon the above sketch,
imperfect as it is, certain conclusions. These may
be summed up very briefly. The result of the de-^
velopment which has been taking place during fifty
years, as we see it today, is far from ideal, since the
development has been so largely affected by historical y
and geographical situations. If the coeducational
principle is correct, the East is at least fifty years be-
hind the West. If it is wrong, it will require more
than a century for the West to set itself right. The
South is in a position to move in either direction
without serious difficulty.


The lack of unanimity of opinion becomes more
and more apparent as one looks closely into the facts.
Although at first sight the West seems to have made
its choice of coeducation on purely pedagogical
grounds, a closer examination shows that coeduca-
tion was as much a matter of necessity in the West
as it was an impossibihty in the East. How could
provision be made in the western states for separate
colleges for women when there were so few such
colleges for men? Coeducation in the West has
been an economic necessity. Now that the number
of students is so large and the resources of these
states have increased at so rapid a rate, will it any
longer remain an economic necessity ? And, if not
an economic necessity, will it continue ?

But, notwithstanding this, it is clear that the
pohcy which may be said to characterize the West
is a more modem poHcy, and that in this policy the
western institutions have made large advance upon
the East. It is not merely a question of different
geographical situation, nor of historical environment.
It is more than this. A stage of development has
been reached higher and more advanced than that
stage which is represented in the East by separate
institutions for men and women. The spirit which
opens the doors of every educational institution to
women as well as to men is, one may safely say,
splendidly modern and higher than the older spirit
of the monastery and the convent. It is surely more
American. If, however, we understand that the


principle of evolution holds good in the field of educa-
tional progress, we must conclude that there is some-
thing still higher in educational policy in connection
with this question of coeducation than has yet been
reached. It seems to be certain that this higher
development will always include close association
of men and women, and the extension of equal
privileges by the same institution to both sexes.

It is often the case that the best friends of a move-
ment are its worst enemies. This is certainly true
of those advocates of the coeducational poHcy who
maintain concerning coeducation that, *'hke the
form of a geometrical figure, it is the same yesterday,
today, and forever," and that its permanency depends
wholly upon the acceptance of a definition which
makes coeducation synonymous with coinstruction,
and, therefore, instruction given to men and women
sitting side by side in the same room. Those who
feel that any other definition will sacrifice all that
has been gained for women in the struggles of the
last century may be strong friends of coeducation, but,
in the light of history and the present situation, they
cannot be regarded as wise friends. In a study of
the policy or system it is eminently necessary to dis-
tinguish between the essential elements in a system
and those which may or may not be essential. To
argue that coinstruction is an essential factor in co-
education is simply to advocate a superstition and
at the same time to reduce the whole subject to
formal mechanism.


All will agree that coeducation does involve asso-
ciation between male and female students. The
question is: Shall we reduce to a mathematical
formula the quantity of such association, and shall
we indicate by geometrical figure the exact form it
shall take ? This, it seems to me, is the real question
at issue; and, as Professor Albion W. Small has
said, this conception of coeducation is parallel with
the opinion "that marriage is one unchanging and
unchangeable form of association between a man and
a woman." Under monogamy we have several dif-
ferent conceptions as to the character of the union
involved in marriage; whether, for example, divorce
is at the discretion of the husband, or there shall be
any divorce at all; whether the wife shall have her
own property, or the property shall be in the hands of
the husband ; whether the husband or the wife shall
be acknowledged head, or whether the union shall
be one of equality. Under one general interpreta-
tion of the marriage relation there exist in nearly
every state of the Union laws which interpret differ-
ently the details of this relation. How, then, can an
institution like coeducation, concerning which the
law as yet has taken no position, and in reference to
which custom is not yet fixed, be arbitrarily limited
and restricted to a single phase of relationship ?

Whether students shall sit together in the same
room is a matter of mechanical arrangement, and
is to be adjusted to the demands of the situation.
But there are, as already hinted, elements which


are essential. One of these is that of association.
The beUever in coeducation may certainly stand
firm in the doctrine that association of the sexes,
rather than separation, is the normal sociological
condition in the years that are called preparatory
years. This principle will be strengthened, and to
some extent determined, by the acceptance of a sec-
ond principle, namely, that for women there shall be
provided instruction on equal terms with men. In-
asmuch as both of these principles depend for effi-
ciency upon administration, we may go a step farther
and agree that this instruction, provided for men
and women associated together on equal terms, shall
be under a single management, in order thus to be
sure that the terms shall be equal. These, then, are
the three essential elements: association, equaHty,
and the same administration.

It is clearly impossible for coeducation to exist
without association of any kind. It will be just as
great a violation of the idea involved in coeducation
to provide one grade of work for men and another
for women, or to assign to either sex special privileges.
It would be impracticable for the state to take gen-
eral charge of the education of men and to assign
the work of women to private corporations or to the
church, because in this way there would not only be
failure to secure association,- but also failure to
secure equal terms. Granting these three essential
elements, it remains to consider some of the condi-
tions present in certain institutions which require,


and indeed demand, variation under these general

An important factor which up to this time has
received small attention is the question of location in
a city. Heretofore the experiment, if it is to be
called such, has been tried exclusively in small cities
or towns. The University of Chicago thus far pre-
sents the only case of a coeducational institution of
higher learning located in a city of more than a
milHon people. It is readily granted that a great
city, Uke Boston, New York, or Chicago, offers in-
comparable advantages, if these are utiHzed in con-
nection with certain grades of higher work. It is
just as true that the same elements, which constitute
advantage in some particulars, prove to be the
source of disadvantage in others. It is manifestly
more difficult to secure mental repose and attention
to intellectual interests in the midst of distraction.
Safeguards must be provided for students, especially
those of inexperience, while they are learning to use
safeguards for themselves. The problem of coedu-
cation in an institution located in a large city is
altogether different from that which presents itself
in a small city or town.

To what has been said there may be added also
the fact that association in an institution located in
a city rests upon principles accepted in the society
of a city Hfe. These are very different from the
principles adopted in town or village life. In the
latter, one is expected to know his next-door neigh-


bor; and for the very reason that he lives next to
him there is more or less of relationship ; but in city-
life one is under no obhgation to know his neighbor
or to associate with him. The lines of separation
are entirely different. Social Hfe itself is different;
and the urban institution is compelled to share this
marked difference.

Another element which has not yet been fairly
tested is that connected with large numbers. As a
rule, coeducation has operated thus far only in smaller
bodies of students. The time has come to test its
efficiency when applied in connection with large
numbers. Here again no one can deny the many
advantages that are found in the association of large
numbers, nor will any one, on the other hand, deny
that these advantages may themselves become a
source of disturbance and disadvantage. It does
not require a long consideration of the question to
recognize the fact that, while a body of two thousand
men or two thousand women may be directed with
a minimum of disadvantage and a maximum of
advantage, it might be quite different if a body of
four thousand students was constituted wholly of
men or of women. Promiscuity in the case of men
has no serious disadvantage; nor will it be injurious
in the case of women; but promiscuity of men and
women in a large undifferentiated mass is a problem
of an entirely different character.

A school system or a library system eminently
adapted to the needs of a city of fifty or a hundred


thousand people will utterly fail, though enlarged,
to meet the needs of a city of one or two mil-
hons of people. In the latter case, as experience
has shown, the entire administration must be
changed. In truth, the word "change" does not
describe the fact. A system admirably adapted to
a smaller city cannot be expanded to meet the de-
mands of a large city. An entirely new system must
be introduced. The factor of large numbers will
seriously modify the administration of any and every
kind of effort. The organization from first to last
must be based on di£ferent principles. It is quite
clear, from even a brief experience, that what is true
in other Hnes of administrative work holds good also
in reference to the question under consideration.
Entirely new adjustments must be discovered and
be put into operation in order to adapt coeducation,
as it is now comprehended, to the needs of large
bodies of students.

Still another factor entering into the problem is
the question of the age of students. In the high
school, whether in city or in town, the pupils Hve at
home. The social Hfe of the home and of the church
predominates. The high school is responsible only
during the hours of actual classroom work — four or
five hours a day. In the first years of college hfe the
case is different. Boys and girls, only a Uttle more
mature than those of the high-school period, come
together without the home restraint and without the
home influence. They come from a score or more


of states and enter into a community, having a per-
sonal acquaintance, in each case, with only a few
who compose the community.

Moreover, in the majority of cases, it is the first
experience of freedom from the supervision of par-
ents. The situation under these circumstances is
particularly delicate and difficult. It is the very
urgent desire of educators today that boys and girls
shall enter college even earlier than they have been
accustomed to do hitherto, and when it becomes the
rule in families of certain financial competence for
daughters to go to college, as it has been for the sons
to go, they will be able to enter at an earUer age than
heretofore. The average freshman coming from the
city is younger than the average freshman coming
from the country. Unless one is ready to acknowl-
edge that the coeducational method, followed in
western institutions, itself an altogether modern inno-
vation, represents a perfect ideal, beyond which
there can be no progress, and of which there can be
no modification, no adaptation to changed condi-
tions, he must earnestly and frankly face the new
elements thus presented and consider how, in all
truth, the present coeducational plan may be im-

Only one of these conditions will present itself
to some institutions ; perhaps two of them may exist
in others. In the institution with which I am myself
connected all three have arisen, and have compelled
consideration. If the question of numbers -is con-


sidered, and plans are taken up for dividing the
student community as a whole into smaller units, in
order that each distinct class may receive that kind
of oversight and guidance, and that type of moral and
physical instruction, which are most conducive to
the highest education of the individual, the basis of
cleavage must first be estabHshed. Lines of sepa-
ration naturally will be partly those that divide
younger from older students. But will they not
inevitably go farther than this and include those
that separate men from women? And is this not
entirely natural, provided that it is subject to the
condition that men and women shall have equal
opportunities, and that the separation shall not be
carried to unnecessary extremes?

In concluding this statement, it is necessary to
refer to two or three other matters which are more
or less closely connected with the problems thus far
presented. Many advocates of coeducation have
assumed, and the system, as it is frequently advo-
cated, certainly justifies the assumption, that men
and women should be trained to be just as nearly
aHke as possible. This has been one of the greatest
evils of the system as thus far appHed. Why should
we attempt to train women to be Hke men, or men
like women ? Is there not a serious loss if the uni-
versity places too much emphasis on what they have
in common, and gives too Httle weight to the fact
that in many respects those essential common inter-
ests may be best promoted separately? What is


called identical instruction is probably something
legendary. No two instructors ever give the same
course in exactly the same way. It is hardly possible
for a teacher to give to a class of women the same
course of instruction that he would give to a class
of men. If he is a true teacher, he will adapt him-.:;
self to the different mental attitudes of men andi
women. The more successful he is as a teacher, the y
more varied will be the instruction given. -'

A sociological fact must also be considered. Girls
from sixteen to twenty years of age are physically
and socially older than boys of the same age. They
are more mature. Their social interests are higher
than those of the boys of corresponding age. In
view of this, girls are Ukely to be patronizing toward
the boys, and the latter are self-conscious and em-
barrassed when thrown into company with the girls.
This furnishes some basis for the opinion that during
a certain period in the development of the boy it is
better that he should associate with girls of a younger
age rather than with those of his own age. The
period is a short one, and corresponds in general to
that of the first two college years. An opportunity
at this time to associate more exclusively with those
of his own sex will surely be appreciated by many

In conclusion, I may suggest that it is not safe
to press too closely the analogy between college life
and family life. Many of the ideals of family Ufe
may be cultivated in connection with college Hfe,


but it is to be remembered that the ordinary family
is made up of persons of different ages, ranging from
the young to the old. In college Hfe the range is
much more restricted, the difference being at the
most, in ordinary cases, three or four years.

Still further, as has been said, there is the question
of numbers. If the college class is only a little larger
than a family of good size, there is much larger scope
for the appUcation of the methods and poHcy of
family Hfe than in a class or community made up of
one or two thousand.

Coeducation demands for its acceptance as a
principle, association of men and women in educa-
tional work, on absolutely equal terms, and under
the same general management. I trust that I have
been able to point out that, aside from these funda-
mental principles, there is not only ample room,
but a stern demand, for liberty of action as well as
of thought, in those things which pertain to the
further development of this policy. The question
is no longer. Shall there be coeducation ? but. How
shall the principles of coeducation be adjusted to
particular situations ?



The word "luxury" is a relative, not an absolute,
term. What would seem poverty to the average
student of one institution might seem luxury to the
average student of another. What would actually
be poverty for one student might be luxury for
another in the same institution. I have known

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Online LibraryWilliam Rainey HarperThe trend in higher education → online text (page 19 of 24)