By an Anonymous Contributor
Some years ago, I applied to, got into, and enrolled in St. Albans. Everyone knows it’s an all-boys school: my parents and I and all other families applying consider this fact when making a decision about coming to the school. But everyone also knows that there is a coed element to an STA education, contributing to what I call “the best of both worlds.” In Upper School admissions events, STA representatives discuss coed academic opportunities, coed arts programs, and even coed athletic programs, all of which, I would argue from personal experience, enhance an STA career. I myself led an Upper School admissions tour this fall and mentioned these opportunities. But I didn’t mention AmLit specifically. I wonder if any Upper School admissions guides do, and I highly doubt the Lower School guides that took my parents around all those years ago did either.
What if they had? Would it have affected my or anyone else’s decision to come to St. Albans? Not even remotely. But there seems to be something of a false pretense: being an all-boys school with coed opportunities is central to the mission and reputation of STA, and that notion completely ignores the not insignificant coed requirement that rolls around junior year. And I believe it’s important to stay true to that mission I mentioned and the reputation it creates. That would mean that either we make the coed requirement known, altering the mission slightly, or we stay a little closer to that mission as it already exists. I would argue for the latter.
There are reasons STA is an all-boys school that I won’t go into, but I’d point out that many of them are certainly vindicated by the brotherhood that STA students feel during and after their time at STA. That brotherhood forms on the field, in out-of-school activities, and, of course, off-campus altogether, but I would argue that it also forms in the academic realm, which is supposed to be the first priority of an academic institution like STA (think the decision to build Marriott Hall by 2009 rather than a new fields complex or arts center). But in the upperclassman years, students have begun to pursue different academic interests at different levels and thus rarely all take the same class at the same time. As it is now, the only such uniform classes in Forms V and VI are U.S. History and a semester of Encountering God (I wonder what the parallel situation is at NCS). I think single-sex AmLit would be a great way to add to the academic setting in which guys in different language programs, different levels of math, and different electives can come together in the same English curriculum to discuss some of the most important texts in American history.
But why not embark on that important task with girls from NCS? After all, it’s even more important that STA graduates know what it’s like to work with females before entering the real world. But here I would first return to our ostensible mission and the difference between coed opportunities, on which we pride ourselves, and coed requirements, about which we seem to be far from up-front. Second, I would argue that the student that leaves STA without experience interacting with females in a work or cooperative environment is virtually non-existent. I myself have been in four other coed classes, and that number is by no means on the higher end of the spectrum. I’ve also been on an athletic team and in countless choral and theater events with NCS girls. I, and all other STA students, would have ample opportunity to learn with young women and work with them toward a common goal without a coed AmLit.
STA and NCS are different schools with different philosophies. One thing both philosophies have in common is the importance of a single-sex education with coed opportunities, and at STA, that’s typically how it’s framed. But that’s not quite how it is. If an STA student wants to try out an NCS class, good for him! But he shouldn’t be forced to take a class at school he doesn’t go to.