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Author Topic: Same Sex Schools
-Jill
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Anyone attend a single sex high school or college? Or have any single sex classes? Were they helpful to you? Did they feel discriminatory? Have you ever been unable to participate in an educational event (except sports) because of your sex?

A recent article* talks about the rising popularity of same sex schools and classes and I'm wondering what you folks think.

While I do think that the potential benefits of fewer distractions and less peer pressure and more attention to specialized learning styles could be worthwhile, I'm not convinced this is a good idea.

The reality is that the world is made up of more than one sex. Isn't school one of the best times to learn how to interact with others, both socially and professionally? And where does this leave transgender folks? Not to mention the colossal failures "seperate but equal" institutions have been in the past.

Those are my initial reactions. I don't have any experience with this though and I'm curious to hear how it works in practice, not just theory.

*The article requires free registration to read. If you don't want to register check out BugMeNot.


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Grandcannon
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i have gone to single sex classes, and I find them detractive. With out the balance of all types of personalities, claasses start to fall apart. that is why poor, rich, white, black, man, woman only situations on the large don't work out.

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Love is the art of controling something that your not sure exists
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MiaB
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Hi there, I went to a same sex private school for nearly 10 years. I completely disagree with the concept, the only support I've seen for the idea is that it keeps girls and boys away from each other, and being naughty. Not only is that presuming that no-one attending the school would be homosexual or bisexual, it's pointless!
Girls and boys interact outside of school anyway, and from the final 2years I spent in a mixed school (before starting college, which I'm at now) no-one got upto raging-hormone mischief at break times with boys/girls, at least no more that 2girls got up to in my previous all girls school!

It's also very unrealistic - the world has men and women, and I think we need to be educated together to learn about society, interaction and life, being educated in an unrealistic environment does none of this. I consider myself a human, not just a 'woman'. I think neither sex is better or particularly different, so we should be treated as equal and not segregated. I learnt a lot on a social and academic level from working with and participating in class discussions with boys as well as other girls, and I believe you gain a lot more from being around both sexes at school than you ever could being just around your own.

That's my opinionson it!

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*Mia*


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Heather
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Twenty to ten years ago, you would have found me agreeing here.

However, as I've gotten older, I've changed my tune on this issue for some situations.

For instance, some of the women's colleges here in the US are some of the very best schools there are. I am earnestly sorry I didn't consider them when I was younger, because in some areas of study (like women's studies) it seems pretty clear that I would have gotten a far better education than I did in a mixed-gender school/classes. That isn't to say I think that ONLY that is ideal or beneficial, but that SOME of that can be.

Something else that same-sex classes or schools offer (and articulating this is going to be difficult, so humour me) is education and socialization without heterosexual politics and interactions. That isn't to say there's anything wrong with heterosexuality, nor even that the benefit I'm suggesting would only benefit those who aren't. Rather, that there does seem to be a certain flavor to opposite-sex interaction in any environment that is colored by romantic/sexual issues and which can be a detriment in some situations, and which can be awfully nice and productive to escape sometimes, in some scenarios. That's usually obvious: at various times in one's life, most people will want or find benefit in some places and environments which are separated groups: if I'm a rape survivor, for instance, I'm going to find it much more therapeutic sometimes to work out those issues only with others who are, and very difficult on some level to discuss it in a group with those who haven't experienced it or, worse still, may have perpetrated it. If I want a space to really examine women's issues from a female perspective, then spening *some* time only with women doing that is bound to be of some value, and vice-versa were I male and wanted same.

I find I'm not especially concerned with enough exposure to both men and women because of what you said above about the world being both, Mia. There are going to be very, very rare instances where it isn't, and it's much, much harder to find situations where you can experience the opposite. They're rare, and they can offer benefits which I don't feel should be overlooked, especially considering how rare they are, especially in limited ways. talking about a year or two at a smae-sex school or with a same-sex group isn't the same as talking about living a same-sex lifetime.


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Milke
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But is it fair to have classes either men or women aren't allowed to attend, and in the case of someone who's transgendered, or intersex, how do you decide whether they're welcome or not?

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Milke, with an L, Mrs BD to you, RATS, TMNTP, MF, CWCD, WAOTA

We are your friends . . .


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Heather
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If the opportunities for such are equal, and if classes on the same subjects were also available for all groups, I don't see why not. Or rather, why it's any less fair than say, having groups like the girl scouts and the boy scouts, like support groups or gyms only open to women or men, teachers or doctors conferences only open to teachers or doctors, et cetera. (Though when we're talking abut public vs. private institutions, that may become trickier.)

Per transgender, were I personally running a single-sexed or gendered class, it'd depend. If it's on the basis of biological sex, then it draws the line there. If it's on the basis instead of gender, then it's based on how someone IDs.

Ultimately, determining fairness in these widely varied scenarios is likely going to be difficult to generalize. It's going to depend a lot on the why for them. But I do think there is merit in spending exclusive time with those with whom we share common ground, especially when it's balanced with spending as much time with those whpo we do not, or who may have other takes or experiences when it comes to our own experiences and commonalities.

[This message has been edited by Miz Scarlet (edited 09-19-2004).]


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trytohelp
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same sex schools are an unrealistic fantasy. People need to learn the social skills at school that they will use in life. If their are no women or men at your school then your dealings with them on a regular basis would be decreased dramaticly.
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Londongirl
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I went to an all-girls school from age 11-18. In some ways I think it provided me with a nice environment, and certainly with good academic opportunities, but there was a lack of balance in my life. My parents were quite protective, and I was a late developer socially, so my social life consisted of going to (female) friends' houses and some shopping and cinema trips. I didn't know any boys because I didn't do any activities which weren't with girls from my school. I wasn't in any youth clubs or any other activities with other teenagers. When I got to university I didn't know how to deal with the opposite sex and felt really backward.

I think teenagers need at least SOME opportunities to socialise with the opposite sex, but maybe that doesn't have to be through school.

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[This message has been edited by Londongirl (edited 09-21-2004).]


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illuminatedmind
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I have skimmed some research on the idea that boys and girls learn differently, and though I agree with the idea that we should be equal, I don't think equal means that we are the same. There are differences between the sexes that can affect learning.

Still, I think there is so much we can learn from the opposite sex, especially in the early years where the bulk of our social skills are still developing and that it should be a part of school.


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Heather
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(A little geek on your last statement, illuminated: a lot of research on learning, and certainly via the Montessori method I taught in, shows that for younger children -- pre-elementary age until puberty -- that's actually their peak time for intellectual, rather than social learning. The emphasis on social stuff is often seen/said to happen between junior high and the first couple years of high school most profoundly.

Just something tooncisder and chew on.)


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illuminatedmind
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Always glad to get the info Scarlet. Thanks a bunch.
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Djynnjah
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I went to an all-girl school from 11-19 as well and I loved it. The math and science teaching was first-rate, with none of the usual prejudices about girls' ability in such subjects and no need to fight with boisterous guys for the teacher's attention. We reached for the top and usually got it. The girls' schools are still outperforming the boys at home.

Without boys in the class, there was no need to vie for male attention so we didn't waste time prettying up. We had a strict uniform code and no-make-up rule. Actually I think my school in particular went a bit overboard with it. Other girls' schools were more moderate in that respect. Anyhow, no real harm done in the long run. The point was to learn to focus on what's inside your head, not on it, to become a confident intelligent person.

What I really liked about it was the freedom to talk about menstruation, sex, brassieres or any other 'private female talk' anywhere anytime. We were all girls. There was no need to be ashamed. No hiding the sanitary napkins out of sight or denying that you were having monstrous cramps. Chances were somebody across the classroom would be willing to toss you a midol.

Socializing with the opposite sex was done mostly outside of school in casual settings. Many of us had brothers or friends attending the nearby boys' schools. The bell rang and out we went to meet and greet and talk on our way home. The schools themselves had mixed activities after classes, choirs, plays, game shows, dancing where we could meet and make friends. Some people dated, some just went for group outings. It's a more structured way of meeting the other sex than a co-ed school provides but it's not as if the social aspect of development was completely ignored.

[This message has been edited by Djynnjah (edited 09-22-2004).]


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-Jill
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quote:
Originally posted by Djynnjah:
What I really liked about it was the freedom to talk about menstruation, sex, brassieres or any other 'private female talk' anywhere anytime. We were all girls. There was no need to be ashamed. No hiding the sanitary napkins out of sight or denying that you were having monstrous cramps.

But why can't those things be discussed in a mixed gender setting? And what is there to be ashamed about?

Men are certainly aware that women menstruate; they might not be able to empathize with us but there's no need to hide it from them or treat them as if they're incapable of understanding. I have to say that I couldn't have asked for a better friend than my buddy Curtis when I had to sleep off cramps bad enough to make me afraid to drive at his workplace once.

The rest of your post made these schools sound beneficial -- thanks for sharing your experience. The above makes a pretty strong arguement for coed schools in my mind though. I have to wonder if gender segregation (not just through single-gender schools) makes it easy to think that the other gender is incapable of understanding us like our close friends, all of whom are our gender, do. And I think the last thing we need to do is manufacture gaps between ourselves and others that don't provide any real benefit.


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Heather
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I think the tricky thing, ookuotoe, in what you're asking about here is this: we don't need to manufacture those gaps, they already exist.

They exist per gender, per race, etc. in our culture. They're there, and by being there, having been there for some time, and by existing in a culture which in many apsectsreinforces them for the benefit of certain groups, some of the effects of that are pervasive and inescapable because those gaps and imbalances are not sought to be changed, but to continue. When they don't exist, still at this point in history, tends to be more the exception than the norm in my experience, and I've found that the older I get, the more able I am to see that (and again, not just per gender: per age, per race, per social strata, you name it) and the more able I am to see where I had blind spots in that regard before.

My personal feeling is that MOST of that is man-made but some of it may well be "natural." And it seems to me that in some settings and situations, experiencing life, learning, relating WITHOUT those provides an opportunity to find out what our assumptions about those are, what things we think might be balanced but really aren't are, how the ways we relate to our same gender might be influenced -- something negatively -- by a mixed setting are, among other things. In other words, that stepping out of that into thatdifferent dynamic can potentially not only benefit us individually and interpersonally with our own gender, but with the opposite gender as well.

And I don't think same-gender or same-anything situations as something indefinate and 365- 24/7 ARE the best idea for most people. But I do think that if one is to say that we need the experience of mixed-gender settings beyond the point that we have them no matter where we go, it makes me wonder why then, we might not say we also need or benefit from the opposite as well.


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MiaB
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Wow, I haven't checked this topic for a bit so I've missed a lot! A few comments...
(as usual )


Just on your original post Miz Scarlet, I see your point and mainly I agree, I can see the benefits of what you're suggesting, but I'm not entirely convinced.

As was mentioned later, it's not a couple of years. For me, it was from the age of 5 to the age of 14. Could have been till I was 18 if I hadn't moved school.

As Londongirl said, I didn't know anyone apart from the girls I went to school with. Being a private school, I usually lived a non-walking distance from my friends as we were more spread out as to where we lived than in state schools, and pupils often travelled a lot to get to the school. It was hard to socialise at times, and I had no opportunies to be around boys.

Djynnjah, I'm quite jealous! I wish we had been able to share things about cramps, 'female talk' and share midols. Mine was a very cold, unsharing atmosphere generally.


There was a few mentions of the usual assumptions about girls not being able to cope so well around boys. I can honestly say out of the 11 girls in my year group of 81, I don't think a single girl felt undermined, or had to try to get past 'boisterous boys' to speak up or work when I went to the co-ed private school at 14. My mother was concerned about that, but I think it's a myth. Boys were quiet and academic, or argumentative, but it was great. All it did was introduce more interesting debates including sexism issues, and girls were given as much respect to speak up as anyone else.

That's my two penneth .

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*Mia*


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Heather
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Private educations are optional though, Mia, so whether it's one year or ten isn't dictated by anyone. So, I'm not sure what you mean by "it's not a couple of years," because it certainly could be.

I wish -- oh, how I do -- the inequities in education based on race., gender and social strata were myths. Unfortunately, they're not, and that's borne out far above a micocosm of personal experience in piles of statistical data and in-depth study in many different systems of education. I'm not sure that same-whatever schholing and education is a simple answer to those inequities by any means, but the inequities exist, and very extensively, in many systems.

Mind you, as well, there are often gross differences between public and private educations, especially here in the States.

Per sexism in general, from a personal standpoint, I find that the further away I get from certain experiences and situations, and the older I get, the more I'm able to see sexism where I couldn't when I was in the thick of things, or at a much younger age with less variety of both personal experience and study. For instance, if you'd have asked me, even in my small arts school, when I was 16 if there was sexism in our school, I would have said absolutely not. Given the fact that women were the majority to begin with, how many teachers and students were queer, how alternative the school was, the sexism was certainly far less than I experienced in a large public school, but it by no means wasn't there. For example, the men in the dance department had a very different experience than the women did (they were less supported in that art), and the women in the art department had a far different experience than the men did (they were less supported in that art). The girls who were sexually active were treated differently than the boys who were, and the male teachers who slept with students were not judged half as harshly as the young girls who slept with them. As a girl who dated other girls, I was treated far differently than the queer boys and men is the school. And so on.

But removed from the immediacy of those situations by almost 20 years now, it's far easier for me to see that then when within them.

Heck, at some of the schools I taught at, I'd bet some of the older students would come out of them saying they were not sexistenvironments. And yet, there was so much sexism going on behind the scenes in the faculty and administration which they could not see, but which very clearly created some gender inequities in their education through certain types of invisibility and false apperances.

Per a different sort of inequity, I recall listening to some students in a private school I taught at talk about how balanced the school was in terms of not worrying about who had what money the very same week I was on the public bus home and a mother of a student came on MORTIFIED I'd seen her and her child, telling me she'd really appreciate it if I didn't tell anyone they didn't have a car. Again, inequities, even when not obvious to everyone, often exist in most things, and certainly in education.

[This message has been edited by Miz Scarlet (edited 09-27-2004).]


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MiaB
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I understand where you're coming from. I'm divided, to be honest. I know my own personal experience of an all-girls school, which I didn't particularly enjoy. Saying that, I loved my junior school (prep school?) - also all-girls, and the mixed state school I attended for a term prior to that I really didn't like because I thought the boys were too.. rowdy!

I can't help thinking where, with the financial option, I might want to send a daughter of my own, (I know, I'm a bit young for that yet ) and although I can see how single sex could benefit educationally, I know how much I enjoyed the social side of mixed!

Just so you know, when I said 'it's not a couple of years' I just meant it's a lot of your childhood, and teenage years you can miss out interacting with the opposite sex in.

There aren't from my experience so big differences between private and state schools here, but there does seem to be a bigger difference between day-only private schools, and private boarding schools.

Can I ask, a little off topic, how accepting is your area of same sex couples? (I say your area, because I couldn't expect you to have been all over the US with a girl )

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*Mia*


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Heather
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I've not ever seen any child/adolescent development data, studies or theories that purported that the teen years were critical for social development with the opposite sex.

To be frank, if I saw it, I'd have to wonder what that theory was based in and how it could not be based in the assumption that everyone was heterosexual, in other words, that that was about sexual, rather than social, issues.

Per the difference between UK public and private schooling, the educational research I've seen hasn't actually showed the issue of inequity to be all that different from what we see in the US. Again, basing these things on personal experience tends to be ungodly limited. One of the nice things about education is that it is such a big issue and such a universal that loads of studies are often being done, books are written, evaluations taking place, so looking into that data isn't difficult.

Per "my area," I don't live now where I grew up. Minneapolis is the second gayest-city per capita in the US after San Francisco, so suffice it to say, while issues still exist, being queer and out here is not generally a big problem. I grew up mainly in Chicago, which isn't QUITE as queer a city, but it was alright. It's tough to really say anything on that without taking into account that I came of age in the eighties, not now, and that was a very different time when it comes to queer issues, in ways both good and bad, and as well I was also dating both men and women then, and more often men than women, which makes a big difference when it comes to equity in that regard when you're female (to make clear: bisexual men tend not to get the same quasi-acceptance bisexual women do and never have).


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MiaB
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Yes, I haven't read any research on accepting female/male bisexuals, but I have noticed that very much.

Thanks for sharing your info I know, personal experience is always a bit patchy, just adding the picture i've got from talking to people.

I can't say I've looked for any research on development and teens, but I'm not sure. I, personally think that as much as both sexes are equal, both sexes are also different. So that's the reason I support the social side really - I wouldn't at all suggest it on a sexual basis, to solely benefit heterosexuals.

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*Mia*


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Heather
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I agree with your last statement (though I'd say it's more complex than that, especially given that not only is gender also a factor, but there are more than two sexes and given that I still think in most cases the world around us provides plenty of mixed-sex exposure so that even a few years in a same-sex school isn't going to leave us with a substantial or problematic deficit and I wouldn't say the same of isolated gendered environments).

But what I'd add to that is this: there are benefits to plnety of *limited* same-sex situations, classes and environments.

And if I heard the same level of argument from people as to why, for instance, private schools or classes should not segregate the way that they do economically and often racially, with orientation, with nationality and class, etc. (or neighborhoods and workplaces for that matter), I might give more credence and weight to arguments against separated environments that clearly aren't based in invisiblity and discrimination.

And if I haven't read and heard -- from all genders -- benefits found in same-sex scenarios from so many different sources and avenues which I really DON'T hear in regard to other sorts of separations, I might too feel that they were more problematic than I do.

Heck, if I didn't personally very much crave same-sex and/or same-gendered environments myself sometimes, I might feel differently, but I do, and I have found benefit in them, and am sincerely regretful I didn't have more of them earlier in my life. I think the Girl Scouts was the only same-sex environment I had growing up and even that was something I really enjoyed and know I could not have enjoyed on some levels as I did were it mixed-sex and gender.


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MiaB
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I know what you mean. It is most likely that there are some strong benefits to single-sex education, my school probably fell down by not providing a pastoral side to the school, which didn't make things very social.

Also, I'm probably very biased. I had a.. problem at the school whilst I was there (it probably won't sound much, but basically, I was stalked by another girl who went there when I was 13. She apparently very much liked me, she passed me notes in lessons depicting/describing us kissing, and she followed me and tried to get me/beg me to go to her "hiding places" places alone with her. I was a late developer and quite naive then, it's caused a few problems trying to figure myself out since..)

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*Mia*


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Heather
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Not sure of the relevance, but actually Mia, that scenario you just described is pretty much one that many, many adolescents deal with at least once in ANY setting, from any gender, and often both genders, on at least one side of that sort of situation (as the obsessor or the object of the obsession).

So, if something like that is a problem with the school, it's a problem at every school. (Though I'd say it's not a school issue at all: it's pretty typical socialization/crush/obsession stuff.)


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MiaB
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I just meant I'm probably a bit biased as a result of it about the school - it carried on for about a year, and it didn't make school much fun, so what I'm trying to say is there's a chance I might have spoken more favourably of the school, and single sex education, if it wasn't for that, that's all.


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*Mia*


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Djynnjah
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I'm sorry you ended up in an uncomfortable situation, Mia. Oddly enough, I got hit on by a lesbian too during high school, but it was during one of the afterschool activites. This girl from another school (a co-ed one) started complimenting me and making some comments I wasn't comfortable with. I don't really think that the nature of the school has as much to do with that kind of thing as people seem to believe.

With respect to the sexism issue, I'm from a very sexist culture so I know a mixed-gender environment would not have been too great. There was enough proof of it in those after-school classes as it was.


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thesmall001
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My school REALLY got it right.

We're an all boy grammer school (i'm not sure if you have those in america, they're basically high schools for children who pass a special test proving them to be slightly more advanced.)

Opposite, and i mean literally on the other side of the road, of our school is an all girl grammer school.

Our classes are better due to the lack of distraction caused by girls and we still get to interact with the girls.

--------------------
One thing you have to understand about me is that there is nothing about me you can understand. See what I mean.

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crystalgates1989
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well i went to a all girl school and haf the teachers were guys and there wher girls being raped there by them
Posts: 14 | From: redding | Registered: Aug 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

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