In a pluralistic school like Prozdor, gender separation is probably not the first thing you’d think about when referencing the 21stcentury Jewish classroom. This year, however, some interesting things are afoot in our hallways, as more and more of our teens are embracing the idea that time in single-sex classes might actually be a good thing.
The numbers don’t lie- our boys’ groups and girls’ groups in both Makor and Prozdor have enrolled 85 students this semester- over 15% of the entire student body. In these settings, our young men and women are exploring issues around gender, Judaism, relationships, identity, sexuality, and safety with the assistance of charismatic and talented educators like Elyse Rast, Chanit List, and Brett Lubarsky. There is clearly a need and a demand in this area that we are happy to meet. And it’s certainly not just us- organizations like Moving Traditions, G.I.R.L.S, and my former PresenTense venture Making Jewish Men are all designed to serve this market of young people looking to connect with their peers of the same sex in a meaningful way.
What we are seeing is a reaction against the reality in which our students are growing up. They are living in an accelerated world that has made information instantly accessible to anyone with an iPhone, and at the same time has sped up everything from dating, to bullying, to cheating, to sexual identity development. Teens are already growing up too fast and being consumed by emotions, and this generation of digital natives has taken those hormones, connected them to their 4G networks, and now operates on a high-speed internet connection that pushes them dangerously fast.
The move towards gender-specific education is a sign from this generation that they’d like to slow down, find time and space where the usual risk factors can be put aside for an hour, and take an opportunity to make meaningful and personal connections to other students who are facing the same challenge of slowing down in a world that is speeding up every day.
This post originally appeared on Hebrew College’s youth education forum- http://hebrewcollege.edu/youthedforum.html.