Separate Gender Education

I’m here at wonderful Camp Kahdalea and Chosatonga in the mountains of North Carolina for a few days. I come up each summer to serve as camp chaplain, unwind, do some writing and be with my own kids who are campers here. I usually spend part of each day at each camp: Kahdalea for the girls and Chosatonga for the boys.

What is so beautiful to see is how differently the boys and girls live when they are separated. The girls are relaxed and happy together and are being totally girly without being prissy or sexy or catty. They’re busy swimming and riding horses and canoeing and climbing and hiking and camping. No one has to be concerned with make up and texting and boys and gossip and relationship traumas. Of course there are problems too. They can be bitchy and exclusive and stroppy. My point is that they can be girls in a much more uncomplicated way together, and through this they have their real femininity affirmed and strengthened. When I say ‘real femininity’ I mean a natural, wholesome, positive and strong femininity which is not dependent on the male of the species as a sounding board.

So much of modern femininity (for all the feminist rhetoric) is still determined by masculinity.  This is so in two ways: one I’ll call sexy and the other I’ll call tough. The female who’s femininity is determined by how much she appeals to men is constantly worried about her appearance, her sexiness, her allure and her charm. This is a false femininity which only finds its meaning as it refers to the men in her life. The type which is ‘tough’ is a sort of hard feminist version in which the female seeks to be more independent and often sees the male as the enemy. The problem with this is that this sort of female’s femininity is also determined by its reference to the male. In this case the male is the subconscious role model, and it trying to be tough and independent of the male she actually tries to imitate him and be more masculine. How dumb is that?

Instead the girls at Kahdalea (because they are separated out from the boys) are just naturally being girls. Some are  tougher others are prettier and prissy, but whatever they are, their natural personality types emerge through their femininity and they grow as whole persons in a natural and wholesome setting.

If this is true at Kahdalea with the girls, the same is true mutatis mutandi at Camp Chosatonga with the boys. The beauty of that camp is that the boys can simply be boys. They don’t live in a female controlled suburban school environment. They’re together with older guys and men for five weeks doing guy stuff. They’re shooting rifles, hiking, climbing, swimming, fighting, rolling about like cubs, eating huge meals, making stuff, camping out, building fires, hunting snakes, getting filthy, farting, yelling and throwing each other in the lake.

Not being with the girls means they don’t have to worry about pleasing some woman all the time. Mom isn’t there to hug and protect and nag about making the bed and cleaning the room. Big sister isn’t there to tease and push them around. Girlfriends, with all the joys and sorrows that go with them, are absent. In our modern society girls often predominate. They tend to be more achievement oriented, and the guys are too often happy to take a back seat. At camp there are no girls to compete with. The guys can just be guys, and through this their emergent masculinity is affirmed and strengthened.

Here’s a dream that I need another lifetime to accomplish: a boarding school in the mountains where camp and school are combined for a complete educational experience. This is being pioneered at Wyoming Catholic College. Wouldn’t it be great if there were such a place for younger kids?

  • croixmom

    Have you checked out St. Gregory's Academy up in the Poconos?

  • Charlie

    Beautiful camps up there. I went last summer for a few days with the Abbey's Hintemeyer program. Wish I could go back! Is your son still considering the Abbey?

  • flatlander

    Fr Dwight-I've been reading your blog for a few months now, enjoying it, but had no idea you had ties to the camps up near Brevard. I worked there for a summer just before entering the seminary–it was a glorious summer, wandering about half-clad and sunburned, seeing how long we could go without showering and raiding the kitchen for pita pizzas to take with us on float trips. A wonderful, wonderful place, and I'm so glad to hear you putting the word out about it. Spot on when it comes to boys and girls, by the way … though as a counselor, I did notice the heavy fumes of body wash and cologne in the vans as we drove over to Kahdalea on Saturday evenings…. !

  • missmarple

    But don't you think that the family should have a very important role in the children's education? And upbringing in general?

  • Elsasser SC

    I say, let's start at St Joseph's!I really mean it.