cover image Boys Themselves: A Return to Single-Sex Education

Boys Themselves: A Return to Single-Sex Education

Michael Ruhlman. Henry Holt & Company, $25 (384pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-3370-0

While many people might consider single-sex schools an anachronism and even harmful, Ruhlman, who graduated in 1981 from University School, an all-boys prep school in Cleveland, would disagree. He cites research studies describing clear advantages of single-sex schooling over coeducation in terms of both academic achievement and social adjustment. Yet this unbuttoned, probing account of the 1993-1994 school year at University School seems to gainsay that research as often as it supports it. Secretive meetings, tense dramas, mini-crises and heated exchanges of letters roil the academy. A majority of the students would rather have girls in their classes. While some boys praise the school's quiet, orderly atmosphere, others scrawl graffiti and rebel against the dress code. Richard Hawley, the idealistic, erudite, didactic headmaster--novelist, poet, author of a Jungian-feminist study on masculinity--is viewed by some staff as a dangerous radical, by others as a too-strict disciplinarian. The commitment of the school's innovative teachers shines through in this candid look at a rare institution. (Sept.)