I don’t typically look at Supreme Court nominees and think, Wow,we have a lot in common. But Amy Coney Barrett is my age, and we are both moms and Christians. So there’s that. When I heard she was from New Orleans, I took another look.
Judge Barrett attended St. Mary’s Dominican HS in New Orleans, LA, about an hour’s drive south of St. Joseph’s Academy – Baton Rouge, which I attended. We both graduated in 1990. While that’s kind of fun, and it’s very gratifying to see a peer attaining career achievements the way she has, the similarity that stands out to me is the all-girls education she received. No, I’m not at the pinnacle of my career. But I know the sort of training and opportunity that single-sex high school education provided both of us.
Without boys to compete with (or for), we were allowed to focus on science, math, English, government—whatever subject we gravitated toward, we were encouraged and pushed to succeed. Neither our sex nor social gender expectations played a part in whether we should be leaders on campus—every position was open to us by default. Excellence and opportunity were the norm, and I believe that foundation did (and continues to do so for current students) catapult us and our classmates into confident, competent thinkers and doers.
Integrated schools offer many opportunities to boys and girls now. I’m not knocking them (my family is intimately involved with our public school district). But an all-girls school empowers girls in a unique way: when the system itself invests in girls, they learn their value in a world that often subjugates or condescends to them. They are actively taught that they are capable and valuable as workers and leaders.
I didn’t always appreciate SJA. And I know single-sex education is a privilege not available to nor wanted by all. But the Amy Coneys and Kelley Marantos who now walk the halls of SJA or Dominican or other similar institutions will emerge knowing they have gifts, talents, smarts, and hearts that the world deserves to know.