Confidence. Moving, speaking, living with confidence. For a long time this was an impossible task. Stop, breathe, lift your shoulders. A mantra of my intermediate years. This wasn’t something that could be just labelled as ‘introverted’. I believe there was a reason behind my lack of confidence. Growing up with an older brother and sister, I was able to observe as they went through schooling before me. I saw how they changed as people, and I tried to follow their footsteps. I saw my sister with heaps of friends and my brother able to weave a conversation like it was nothing. I assumed I would follow their lead. New school, year 7. Leaving all my friends at my old school I found my new school a change for the good at first, I settled in alright but didn’t really fit in. It took me two years to get up and leave the school that didn’t work for me. No big deal, I started where I left off with my friends at a new school in year nine. What I hadn’t realised was that those two years were more damaging to me than I could ever have thought. I am here to propose to you today, that single-sex schools are not only pointless, but can be damaging to student’s lives. They promote poor social skills, they create stereotypes about the opposite gender and that there is no proven benefit of these schools, not even academically.
I talked briefly about my older siblings. Two social butterflies. I always looked up to them and how they could interact with people of both genders. It was so easy for them. Talking with guys, I didn’t really have a problem, a bit on the quiet and monotonous side but once you got to know me I was louder and more open, though still monotone. Girls, no way. Couldn’t do it. I could not do it at all. No conversation with a female outside of my family would extend past basic greetings. My siblings had both gone to the local co-ed school, I the single-sex private school. Could it be that two measly years had ruined my confidence with the opposite sex. Yes. The ages of 11 and 12 I had no contact at all with females. Those are very impressionable years, not talking to girls had become a pattern and they are hard to break. Year 9 was probably the hardest year of my life. Interactions with girls suddenly became more frequent. Seeing my friends weave conversations with them, while I could just stand there absolutely shattered my confidence. Once you get in a rut like that it is insanely hard to get out of.
I would lie awake at night trying to picture conversations I would have with girls that day and try to come up with a response for every answer. The thing I dreaded most about talking to girls was that look. You know the one. The, man he’s a weirdo look. I became so scared of this that instead I would just say nothing. Conversation would die as quickly as it started. You know what’s more weird than a guy saying too much. Saying nothing at all.
Alright so that’s my first point, social skills, imagine someone like me, but in a job situation. Straight out of an all boys school. How is he supposed to do a good job with female coworkers, sure you can learn over time how to manage it but the impressionable years are over, the block has been formed. Now it may seem like a bit of a scapegoat to just blame the schooling system. However According to the American Psychological Association, this type of schooling can cause problems in forming adult relationships as children get older. The APA has defended that school is preparation for adult life and how boys and girls learn to interact will dictate relationships formed in the workplace.
My next point is that single-sex schooling causes stereotypes about the opposite gender. I’m gonna throw a real-life situation at the people that aren’t convinced by my one situation. That still think I’m a one-off weirdo who can’t talk to girls. You may have heard of an incident that happened earlier this year in which all boys school Wellington College was bombarded with hate, after comments about taking advantage of drunk girls emerged, leading to mass protest against sexist comments around the country. While this may seem on the severe end of the spectrum of being related to my topic, these comments are made every day, the direct cause being a lack of knowledge about the opposite sex. If they had a strong understanding of the opposite gender then they wouldn’t need to form their own versions of them through their classmates, jokingly or not these are the foundation for stereotypes to arise. One of the main protesting schools was Wellington High School, the only co-ed high school in Wellington City. Stereotypes about the opposite gender are a common subject in all boys schools (speaking from experience ) whether jokingly or not they still exist, coming down to MAC there is a clear lack of this kind of talking, from what I’ve researched and from what my friends at Wellington High School have told me, MAC isn’t a special school in that regard, it’s just a co-ed thing. The truth is; girls and guys are vastly different, with many intricacies that can only be understood through experience. There is a reason that WC of all the schools in Wellington has had these comments arise. Over 2000 pupils all male forming their opinions of women through lack of knowledge.
So there is all this downside to these schools, surely there is a reason they exist. Actually these schools exist on traditional grounds, they’ve just always been there. There have been countless studies on academic benefits of single-sex schools but no consistent evidence has been gathered. It’s an ancient tradition. Girls and boys learn differently, it’s a fact. But wouldn’t you agree that there is so much more to school than just learning core subjects. School is a place where students are eased into the scary big world, one that demands that both genders work together to move forward.
Why am I telling you all of this now, nearing the end of year 13? It’s because this is a problem that had a massive effect on my confidence at an important time of my life. I think it is important for people to know. As year 10 was ending my confidence was girls was slowly increasing. Time spent at the rowing club and at music practice sessions increased my experience with females. A common theme of the speeches throughout the assessment has been thick skin and how we as kids often over think things that don’t actually matter. I overcame this fear by doing activities that I was passionate about and where it didn’t matter who I did it with, I could talk to them about my interests. Take my music. I could talk about this for hours with anyone. That’s how I overcame this fear.
The fact is, I’m just a kid, I can’t change how the schooling system is run. But if I can overcome the negative effects of it, so can anyone. I honestly believe these experiences in my life have improved me as a person, as I can now see where I should put my priorities in life. If you take anything from my speech take this, true confidence can’t be forced, you have to believe in what you are doing. So stop, breathe, lift your shoulders and be confident in anything that you do. Thank you.