Why does the orthodox community so strongly promote gender segregation, especially in schools? How will these children eventually know how to communicate with the opposite gender in marriage if they don't have any opportunity to learn inter-gender social skills in school?


The orthodox community is privy to what psychological tests have recently discovered—that men and women, or girls and boys, do much better in their own environment, with their own gender, away from any sexual pressures or intimidations. When girls are in classes surrounded by only girls, studies show that their confidence level is higher and they take greater risks at working on new areas of learning. Boys, too, show higher success rates in classes with only boys.

This is true, because, as Torah explains, men and women are very different—biologically, psychologically, physiologically and in just about every area. We communicate differently (thus the best seller "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus") and we learn differently. When we are with peers of the same gender we feel less of a need to prove ourselves and we can each learn in a more comfortable environment conducive to academic growth.

This is true with young children but becomes increasingly obvious when they get to teenhood. The pressures on teenagers in mixed gendered schools to become involved in sexual experiences way before they are ready is astounding and evidence enough for the problems of such a system. Add to that the plummeting self-esteem of so many teens (girls especially, but boys as well) and their self-critical body images (sometimes leading to food disorders and other serious illnesses) and you can see how the system is ripe for disaster.

As far as learning to communicate with one another, I guess it comes naturally enough, when the time is right. Built into the human psyche is the attraction that each gender feels to one another. Being a part of the "segregated" orthodox communities, I have never heard this to be a problem. When the time is right, the young man and woman might feel shy at first, but the barriers are quickly broken, if the two are meant for one another, and they quickly learn the necessary social skills.

Chana Weisberg for