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COEDUCATION OF THE SEXES.
AN ADDRESS BEFORE A MEETING OF COLLEGE PRESIDENTS AT SPRINGFIELD, ILL.
B7 REV. JAMES H. FAIRCHILD, D. D., OF OBERLIN COLLEGE, JULY 10T8, 1867.
MR. PRESIDENT, AND GENTLEMEN OF THE Association:
The invitation extended to me by your Executive Committee, to share in your deliberations upon this question, was based upon the fact of my connection with a school in which the system of education under discussion has been in operation for many years; and it was intended that I should present the subject in the light of that experience. It seems more fitting to confine myself to arrangements and results at Oberlin, stated descriptively and historically, than to attempt any general discussion of the subject~a work more appropriate to the members of the Association.
That I may speak without restraint upon these matters, it is proper for me to say that I entered the College as a boy at its opening, and served seven years as a pupil before entering upon the responsibilities of a member of its board of instruction. Thus I appear
before you as one of the children of the school, and not one of the fathers, and shall not seem to speak of the work of my own hands, as I claim no personal responsibility for the wisdom or folly of the arrangement.
Oberlin College is now in the thirty-fourth year of its life, and from the beginning has embraced among its pupils both young men and young women. The first
year it was a high school, with something over a hundred pupils, more than one-third of whom were ladies : not a local school, for the enterprise started in the woods, and one-half of the students at least were from New England and New York. The second year the numbers increased to nearly 300, with theological and college classes in full operation, the ladies being about one-fourth of the whole. In two or three years the numbers reached 500, and maintained that annual average until 1852, when the number was suddenly doubled, and has averaged more than a thousand yearly for the last fifteen years. The proportion of young ladies has not for many years fallen below one-third, nor risen above one-half, except during the war, when the ladies predominated in the ratio of five to four. The last Annual Catalogue gives 655
gentlemen and 490 ladies, and this is about the normal proportion. These are young men and women of such ages as the advanced schools of the land generally present.
The town began with the school and has kept pace with it, containing at present from 3,000 to 4,000 inhabitants. At first, almost all the accommodations for the students in room and board were furnished by the College. The dormitory system was adopted for both young men and young women, separate halls or buildings being assigned to each—the ladies' hall being also a boarding-hall, in which seats at table were provided for young
As the numbers increased and the dwellings in the village were improved and multiplied, the students were to a greater extent provided for among the families, until at present far the greater number are thus furnished with homes. Our present ladies' hall affords rooms for about 100 young ladies, and sittings at table for about 220 boarders. Large boarding houses are not found; but a majority of families that have room receive a few students. The young ladies find their homes under this arrangement as well as the young men.
Some families receive young ladies only; but families are permitted, with suitable arrangements, to receive both classes. The entire female department is under the immediate charge of a lady Principal, and her assistant; and these are occupied, not with teaching, to any considerable extent, but with the care and supervision of the young ladies, their classification and general culture. These principals communicate, as occasion may require, with the matrons of the families where the young ladies board. The special discipline of the young ladies is committed to the lady Principal, assisted by a * Ladies' Board of Managers,' composed in general of wives of professors in the college. The advice of the College Faculty is sometimes taken, but the young ladies do not come before them for special discipline. The regulations of the school, for both ladies and gentlemen, are intended to be addressed to the good sense and personal responsibility of the pupil. We have no monitors, but each one makes a weekly report of success or failure in the performance of prescribed duties : young ladies boarding in families have their report countersigned by the matron of the house, who is in a degree responsible for the conduct of her charge. The ladies' hall is the headquarters of the female department, where the Principal receives all the ladies for general instruction and for personal advice.
Throughout the literary departments the classes consist of young men and young women, taken indiscriminately, as their studies correspond. The larger numbers of both sexes are found in our Preparatory Department—a department which embraces, besides those preparing for the regular courses, a large number that study for a more limited time. This department is under the charge of a gentleman Principal, whose strength is expended chiefly upon oversight, classification, and discipline, and an associate Professor of Languages, who gives himself to the teaching of the advanced classes in Latin and Greek. The other classes in this department are taught by successful pupils (gentlemen and ladies) from the higher departments. After the Preparatory Department, we have two courses open to young ladies—the ‘Ladies' Course,' and the regular • College Course.' The Ladies' Course is a course of four years, requiring, as conditions of entering, a good elementary English education, and a year's study of Latin. It embraces all the studies of the regular College course, omitting all the Greek and most of the Latin, omitting also the Differential and Integral Calculus, and adding lessons in French and Drawing, and some branches of natural science. Those pursuing this course recite with the college classes in the same studies. Separate classes are organized for the ladies in essaywriting until the commencement of the third year, when they are added to the Junior College class in this exercise. Their training in this department is limited to reading and writing, none of the ladies having any exercise in speaking. The great majority of our young ladies pursue this course, and it was supposed at the organization of the school that nothing farther would be required for them; but in 1837 four young ladies prepared themselves for the Freshman class, and were received upon their own petition. Since that time it has been understood that the College Course is open to young ladies, and we have always had more or less in the classes : sometimes the proportion of ladies to gentlemen in the course has been as high as one to four; at present it is one to ten. We have observed no special tendency to an increase in this proportion ; for the last three years there has been a diminution. The ladies in this course are under the same general regulations and discipline as in the other course, and are responsible to the lady Principal. At the termination of their course they receive the regular degree in the Arts. Eighty-four ladies have received this degree, and three hundred and ninety-five have received the diploma of the Ladies' Course.
The Theological Department has never been opened to ladies, as regular members. Two young ladies attended upon all the exercises of the department through a three-years course, and were entered upon the Annual Catalogue as resident graduates pursuing the Theological course.' This was nearly twenty years ago, and we
have had no applications since. Doubtless the same privileges would be afforded as formerly.
The association of gentlemen and ladies out of the class-room is regulated as experience seems to require. They sit at the same table in families and in the Ladies' Hall. Young gentlemen call on ladies in a social way at the parlors of the Ladies' Hall and of private families, between the hour for tea and half-past seven in the winter, and eight o'clock in the summer. They walk in groups from one class-room to another, as convenience and their sense of propriety may dictate, with the help of a suggestion, if needed, from thoughtful and observing friends. Now and then the young ladies have permission to attend an evening lecture given under the auspices of the College, and in such case to accept the attendance of young men.
No such association is permitted in the case of religious meetings. They do not ride or walk together beyond the limits of the village, except on a holyday, under special arrangements. There is no association of the sexes in literary societies, or other voluntary and independent organizations.
It seemed necessary to give this detail of arrangements, that the conditions npon which the solution of the problem has been conducted with us may be fully understood. In speaking of results, I wish to be understood as giving not merely my own individual judgment, but the unanimous opinion, so far as I understand it, of all who have had responsibility in connection with the school. If there has been any diversity of sentiment on the subject, it has been unknown to me. Others might choose different terms in which to express their opinions, but I shall endeavor to make no statement from which I suppose that any one of those that are or have been associated in this work would dissent.
Among the advantages which seem to be involved in the system, as we have observed its operation, are the following:
1. Economy of means and forces. The teaching force and other apparatus required in all the higher departments of study is made available to a larger number. In most Western Colleges the higher classes might be doubled without any detriment, and often with great advantage. Scarce any one of these schools has had larger classes than our own, and yet only once or twice have we had occasion to make two divisions in any college class, including the ladies pursuing the same study. In the preparatory department, classes must be multiplied on account of numbers; but in the higher departments of instruction, where the chief expense is involved, the expense is no greater on account of the presence of ladies. If a separate establishment were attempted for ladies, affording the same advantages, the outlay in men and means would have to be duplicated; or, as would often happen, the force would have to be divided, and the advantages as well. Of course, if there were obvious disadvantages in the arrangement, the argument from economy would have essentially no weight. We must have the best system of higher education at any necessary cost.
2. Convenience to the patrons of the school. It has been a matter of interest with us to note the number of cases in which a brother is accompanied or followed by a sister, or a sister by a brother. I can not give exact statements upon this point; but it is an interesting and prominent feature in our operations. This is most convenient and wholesome; each is safer from the presence of the other; and the inducements to attend school, to the one or the other, are in. creased by the possibility of having each other's company. The want and tendency in this direction are shown in the fact that in the vicinity of every flourishing college, opened for young men only, a ladies' school, equally flourishing, is almost sure to be established, requiring afterward a good degree of vigilance to keep apart those who have thus naturally come together.
3. Another advantage we find in the wholesome incitements to study which the system affords. This is a want in all schools, provided for often by a marking and grading system involving a distribution of honors and prizes. An acknowledged defect in this plan, not to speak of any thing unwholesome in the spirit of rivalry which it induces, is in the fact that it appeals to comparatively few in a class. The honors are few, and the majority soon cease to strive for them. The social influence arising from the constitution of our classes operates continuously and almost equally upon all. Each desires for himself the best standing that he is capable of, and there is never
lack of motive to exertion.. It will be observed, too, that the stimulus is the same in kind as will operate in after life. The young man, going out into the world, does not leave behind him the forces that have helped him on. They are the ordinary forces of society, and require no new habits of thought or action in order to their effective operation. We have introduced a marking system into the recitation-room, pertaining solely to the performance there, and used for the information of teachers and guardians, and the pupil himself: not for the assignment of grade or distribution of honors, or for any publication whatsoever. We rely upon the natural love of a fair standing with teachers and associates as the supplement to the higher motives for exertion, and have not found it a vain reliance.