Amazing articles on just about every subject...

Some Psychical Sex Characteristics

( Originally Published 1907 )

"IN the last meeting of this club," said Miles O'Brien, "Miss Geddes triumphantly vindicated woman's capacity and woman's claim to higher education, and we have all been waiting for you, Professor, to follow suit this evening, that we may see how you measure up beside her in your plea for coeducation for the male and female sexes."

"It is not fair to expect me to defend the cause of coeducation in this company. The Doctor aroused my curiosity the other evening; I wanted to see him extricate himself from his tangle of fallacies. It is one thing, however, to see through Dr. Studevan's fallacies and quite another to espouse the cause of coeducation, particularly in the present company, for many of you have given the subject more thought and study than I have. There are, however, a few obvious facts in favor of coeducation that do not seem to have impressed our pedagog.

"The family is the oldest of human institutions. It was the only school known to primitive man and the verdict of the ages has been decidedly in favor of mixed families. When-ever Divine Providence sees fit to bestow segregated families, no one seems to be particularly grateful. Man seldom successfully interferes with nature's plan and we should scarcely expect good results from the artificial separation of the sexes in our schools. The constant presence of the opposite sex is a natural stimulus for the development of many of the best traits of both boys and girls. Segregation has a long history back of it and the results can hardly be pointed to as evidence in favor of the plan. It is something like the maiming of the feet of the Chinese women or the disfigurement of the heads of the South American Indians. The placing of man's ideals above nature's laws is the folly involved in each of these cases, and wherever this happens the one thing we may count upon with certainty is that nature will be avenged.

"When the girl is excluded during all the years of her school life from the companion-ship of the opposite sex she grows weak and defenseless. The results of this procedure, however, were not so disastrous in the past as they are proving to be in the present. When, in the olden time, the girl left her convent home only to enter under the protection of the parental roof, where she was not allowed to meet men until her parents had selected a suit-able husband for her, the defects of her education along the lines we are now considering were not so fatal. The economic changes of the past half century have driven woman from her old position. Steam and electricity have robbed her of domestic employment; and, at least as far as the masses of our city population are concerned, the girl is obliged on leaving school to seek employment in the shop and the factory and in the busy marts of trade. Woman must find for herself a new position and new employment, and this away from the protection of the home. Where her school training has left her unfit to meet these conditions disaster is the usual result. It is only the silly ranter who now lifts his voice against the new woman. To try to drive her back into her old position is as futile as it would be to inveigh against the waters of Niagara and expect as a result that they would return to the placid bosom of the Great Lakes.

"In view of these facts the segregation of the girl during her school life would seem to be the worst possible preparation for her successful struggle with the environment which she must enter the day she leaves school. If she is to succeed here she must be taught to rely upon herself; she must know man; she must know how to protect herself from him and how to compete with him successfully. The attempt to give her this equipment in a segregated school would seem to be as hope-less as the attempt to teach physics or chemistry or biology without the aid of a laboratory. It is worth remembering also that woman is not the only loser by the system of segregation. A study of our boarding schools where boys are huddled together away from woman's refining influence during the formative period of their lives shows a decided tendency to coarseness as the general result. The presence of the girls keeps the boys on their good behavior; it appeals to their unselfishness and to their chivalry and it develops many of the finer traits of character.

"The demand for coeducation, therefore. would seem to have back of it natural law and to be reinforced by present social and economic conditions."

"All this talk," said Mr. Eaton, "about woman's meeting man on equal terms is pure moonshine. She is not now and she never was content to meet man on equal terms. She has always played the rôle of queen and still insists on doing it. She has an unfair advantage of man as the case stands. When I reach the street car on my way home from my office, tired to death, and get on at the end of the line so as to secure a seat, we hardly go a block when a bevy of your `women competitors in the busy marts of trade,' who are crying out for the privilege of meeting man on equal terms, boards the car and straightway we men must relinquish our seats to our 'equal' and hang to a strap the rest of the way home ! We have been having altogether too much talk about woman's rights; it seems to me high time that we heard something about man's rights. Women are invading our offices and driving men out of position after position by unfair competition; they compel men to contribute part of their support and then underbid them for every desirable position in sight. The equal terms that woman wants seem to be all the soft snaps with the homage of man thrown in. Man is old and hardened and is beginning to get used to his chains, but throwing girls in among a lot of young boys in our universities to take their thoughts away from their studies and to keep them dancing attendance on the fair sex and digging into the paternal exchequer to buy theater tickets and soda water and candy is carrying the joke a little too far."

"Poor man, it's a pity about him," retorted Miss Geddes. "Crows will come home to roost, you know. Man naturally rebels when he is compelled to take a dose of his own medicine. Whose fault is it, I'd like to know, that woman supplies the demand for cheap labor? If there were any fairness in man he would see to it that the scale of wages was regulated by the quality and quantity of the work instead of by the sex of the worker. But of course this would deprive him of an excuse for inveighing against women and Chinamen as cheap laborers.

"And as for man hanging to the straps in the street cars, it serves him exactly right. If women were permitted to vote how long do you suppose the streetcar companies would be allowed to bulldoze the public in this way? They take good care to collect the fares and a few thousand dollars slipped into the hands of public servants secures them the privilege of packing human beings into the street cars like sardines.

"And as for our young men in college, if they are such imbeciles as you paint them, it is about time that they had chaperones appointed to protect the poor dears against the girls ! But judging from the statement of President Eliot, the young men do not seem to be falling very rapidly into the nets which the young college women are spreading for them."

"Now, will you be good," said Miles O'Brien, turning with an air of mock seriousness to Mr. Eaton. "Evidently segregation must look elsewhere than to man's wrongs for support when coeducation has such a brilliant advocate as Miss Geddes. I vote for fair play. Let's divide the thing between them; give man the coeducation and woman the segregation.

"I taught for many years in a university where we had coeducation and my heart always bled for the poor girls. Girl freshmen bloomed like roses and lilies, but by the time they had grown into seniors the blood had all faded from their cheeks and the drawn looks on their faces would melt the heart of a stone. In those years when every young woman's fancy should be turning to poetry, to music and painting, with a little serious work thrown in for condiment, it's a sin that cries to heaven for vengeance to have them wasting their beautiful young lives trying to keep up with the young men in mathematics and in civil engineering. If they listened to nature's void during those years, they would be designing pretty gowns and Easter bonnets and growing into graceful ways that would soften the heart of even such confirmed bachelors as our friend Shannon. Give the dears higher education, of course, but give it to them in smaller doses. If they don't get married, give them six or seven years to drink it in instead of four. There is no sense in hurrying up the dear creatures. They have so many things to learn that never bother a man's head. And besides they are handicapped in other ways ; look at the time it takes them every morning to fix their hair and dress becomingly, at least if it takes them as long as it takes Kate."

"Oh, it's easy for you to talk, Miles," said Mrs. O'Brien, "but you keep the whole house waiting on you when you are dressing. Your studs have to be put in for you and your tie fastened, and the dear knows all. Women aren't a bit slower in dressing than men are."

"It is all well enough to laugh at the question," said Miss Ruth, "but it is really a very serious matter for all that. A good college education is now a necessity to all of our women who must provide for themselves and who would rise above the rank of clerks and domestic servants. There seem to be insuperable obstacles whichever way one turns. On the one hand we are told that segregation leaves woman weak and defenseless; and on the other hand we are assured that coeducation destroys her physical constitution and takes the young men's thoughts away from their work. Dr. Studevan should be able to find a solution for us. The key to the situation is surely not to be found in the constantly changing social environment but in the process of mental unfolding."

"Well, I tried to give my views at our last meeting, but Shannon wouldn't give me a chance to talks The root of the whole question, as I said, lies in the fundamental difference between the mental and moral life of man and the mental and moral life of woman. When I first took up the study of psychology, some fifteen or twenty years ago, I felt that undue emphasis had been laid upon this contrast between the character of man and the character of woman. It was evident, of course, that woman was more beautifully at-tired and that man had a more convenient, if less artistic, costume. They both spoke the same language; they delighted in the same books; they worshiped at the same altar; they ate the same food. But on closer acquaintance the superficiality of this view became evident. The longer I have known men and women and the more intimately I have become acquainted with their methods, with the springs of their actions and the color of their thoughts, the more unlike each other they have seemed until now my difficulty is to find points of resemblance, so completely do they seem to differ from each other."

"Doctor, you talk as if you were lecturing to your class in pedagogy this evening," said Miss Geddes, "and as usual dealing in glittering generalities. Would it be asking too much of you to point out to us some of these striking differences of which you are always talking ?"

"Why, I don't mind, Miss Geddes, if you will only be good enough to listen to me. - To begin with, in their loves there is this important difference between man and woman : the instinct for concealment seems to be an integral part of man's love, while woman glories in her love. In religion there is a similar difference. The man who parades his religion is usually wanting in genuine piety and the prudent man suspects him of designs on other people's purses. The piety of woman, on the contrary, finds no need for concealment. Again, a woman suddenly confronted with overwhelming evidence of some fault, will deny everything until her conscience has had time to assert itself and compel her to make a confession; whereas, man, under similar circumstances, will break down immediately and admit his fault until his intelligence comes to his aid in concocting a lie.

"There is a difference between man and woman more fundamental than any of these : woman reaches the truth directly by a sort of intuition, while man gropes his way slowly toward the truth as the conclusion of an argument. In the one case the propositions of an argument are fused into one conscious state; in the other they are merely articulated. Again, woman is predominantly emotional, while man's conduct is more amenable to reason and argument; a difference which is due in large measure to the difference in their way of arriving at truth. George Eliot has pictured a fundamental difference in the sympathies of man and woman in her portrayal of the characters of Savonarola and Romola. Savonarola was carried away by his enthusiasm for principle and was often blind to the sufferings of the individuals about him, while Romola's broader view was dimmed by her tears of sympathy for the sufferings of those with whom she came in contact.

"Now, the bearing of all this on the question of coeducation seems to me quite evident. The multiplying of several unlike numbers by the same number must give unlike results. So, too, a like treatment of unlike natures must result in different developments. The principle here involved carries us much further than the question of coeducation. There are scarcely two boys or two girls in any of our schools who receive similar treatment without its resulting in injury to one or the other. The aim of all true education must be to deal with each child according to his needs, and these needs will differ in proportion as the children differ from one another."

"That view is set forth beautifully in 'The Ambassador of Christ,' by Cardinal Gibbons," said Miss Ruth. "Have you the book, Mr. O'Brien? Thank you. Let me read these few lines ;

" The professor who would aim at shaping the character of all his students according to one uniform ideal standard would be attempting the impossible, because he would be striving to do what is at variance with the laws of nature and of nature's God. In all the Creator's works, there is charming variety. There are no two stars in the firmament equal in magnitude and splendor, "for star differeth from star in glory"; there are no two leaves of the forest alike, no two grains of sand, no two human faces. Neither can there be two men absolutely identical in mental capacity or moral disposition. One may excel in solid judgment, another in tenacity of memory, and a third in brilliancy of imagination. One is naturally grave and solemn, another is gay and vivacious. One is of a phlegmatic, another of a sanguine temperament. One is constitutionally shy, timid, and reserved; another is bold and demonstrative. One is taciturn, another has his heart in his mouth. The teacher should take his pupils as God made them, and aid them in bringing out the hidden powers of their soul. If he tries to adopt the leveling process by casting all in the same mold, his pupils will become forced and unnatural in their movements; they will lose heart, their spirit will be broken, their manhood crippled and impaired.

' " I will respect human liberty," says Monseigneur Dupanloup, "in the smallest child even more scrupulously than in a grown man; for the latter can defend himself against me, while the child can not. Never shall I insult the child so far as to regard him as material to be cast into a mold, and to emerge with a stamp given by my will."

" `Instead of laboring to crush and subdue their natural traits and propensities, he should rather divert them into a proper channel.

" 'Jesus Christ is the model Teacher. His conduct toward His disciples is the best example to be followed. He did not attempt to quench their natural spirit, but He purified and sanctified it in the fires of Pentecost. After Peter had graduated in the school of his Master, he remained the same ardent man that he had ever been.' "

"The Cardinal is entirely right," said Dr. Studevan. "Every line of psychology insists upon the truth that it is the business of the teacher to go to the pupil and to deal with him according to his needs. The situation in the schools renders it impossible to deal with each child separately, and some classification is necessary in order to economize time and to se-cure system. This classification must be based not alone on differences of actual attainment but on the differences of the underlying natures of the children. Now, since the most fundamental of these differences seem to be associated with sex, a classification along sex lines would seem to be desirable."

"But, Doctor, is not this placing theory above natural law? If the home is nature's school, coeducation is nature's plan and a separation of the sexes is consequently a violation of it."

"Miss Ruth, we must not be misled by the Professor's fallacies. You see, he was compelled to defend coeducation, and we mustn't be too hard on him. It would never do to take it for granted that he has failed to make a close analysis of such institutions as the home and the school. In any such analysis he must have discovered many fundamental differences of the utmost importance to a proper understanding of this question. The school is but a specialized offshoot of the home and it is very far from being analogous to it. The school does not deal with infancy nor does it normally include the social life of the pupil.

"The need of social intercourse between the sexes has been pointed out, but it is not at all necessary that this social intercourse should take place in the classroom. Again, we might very well concede the advantage of mixed faculties which would impart to the young women the strength and quality that is supposed to emanate from the masculine character and which would give the boys that cultural development which can only be secured through a woman. Moreover, the question of Coeducation versus Segregation applies more particularly to the period of adolescence to the high school and college. Many advocates of segregation for the older pupils are quite content with coeducation in the elementary schools. And among all primitive peoples, however closely the sexes may be associated in infancy, their occupations become quite sharply differentiated before the children reach the period of adolescence. So that the argument from nature is clearly in favor of segregation and no one is more keenly aware of this than the Professor himself. There are, however,. so many phases of this subject which merit our consideration that I do not dare take them up now. The Professor is already growing restless; he is afraid, I suppose, that his landlady will lock him out."

Home | More Articles | Email: