From Bedales Since the War
Chapter I Bedales in 1919
" At Bedales you have begun to solve our greatest problem―that of intellectual apathy; you seem to have got everybody interested in everything, though you have done so at the expense of such things as fatigue, dissipation of energy, and a lowering of academic achievement. You have also made school life a thing which is thoroughly happy, and thoroughly healthy
Chapter II Coeducation
I have said that coeducation solves some of the problems of the segregated school. while it creates others of its own. I will try to amplify this statement in the light of my experience at Bedales.
Let us first of all take the most obvious problem, the one by which co-education is most likely to be judged--that of human relationships. The awakening of sex-consciousness is the most difficult problem with which the educationalist has to deal, for it is the most difficult problem with which the boys and girls themselves have to deal. It cannot be dealt with merely by information about the facts of sex; the most important thing of all is that the whole matter should be treated in relation to the rest of their life and development, so that they realise that it is important, but perfectly ordinary-- a thing to be treated neither with flippancy nor with solemnity and mystery. The necessary information must however, be given, and this needs to be done in different ways at different ages. At Bedales, as no doubt in all modern schools, this is done partly by the House authorities, and partly in the study of Biology. ....
But coeducation brings its own problems. When sex-consciousness does awaken, the boys and girls naturally begin to show an emotional interest in each other. Up to the age of twelve or so, there are no serious sex difficulties. Then follows a period of largely unconscious sex-hostility, when the girls and boys will not mix more than they can help. Then, between fifteen and sixteen, the girls begin to show interest in the boys, which is reciprocated with gradually increased willingness. Sometime sit is an older boy who initiates the interest in a younger girl. During this time the awakening sex-consciousness exhibited in a certain amount of flirtation and sentimentality, irritating to adults but fairly harmless to the children if kept within reasonable bounds by the traditions of good taste which it is essential to maintain in the School. During the last year at school, the boys and girls cease, for the most part, to be either hostile or foolishly sentimental. They acquire ease and dignity in their relationships, and many close friendships are formed. As will be readily seen, a boy or girl who passes without complications through this process of development leaves school with an understanding of the other sex and with a sureness and poise and dignity which is rarely acquired by those from segregated schools until they have left school for some years, and then only after a considerable distress to themselves. And we should remember, as it is very easy to forget, that the primary object of education is to fit them for life; not to discover ways of avoiding our difficulties in doing so.
Unfortunately however, they do, not all pass through without complications; if so coeducation would be unassailable--but then human nature would not be what it is. The two main difficulties are first to allow scope for and yet keep within reasonable limits the romantic and unduly exhausting cravings of awakening sex-consciousness, and secondly to prevent the friendships between older boys and girls assuming the proportions of more adult love affairs, and so destroying their composure and sense of proportion at an age when they have not the experience or the control to deal easily with such disturbances. Some years ago it was the practice to hold up, throughout the school, an ideal of hearty and simple comradeship which seemed to imply that the emotional element in inter-sexual friendship, and particularly the expression of this emotion, was sentimental and silly and "un-Bedalian". This proved to be a very dangerous idea. Not only is the attraction of the opposite sex one of the principal springs of beauty in the human mind, but it is the one most readily acclaimed by the adolescent. In fact, if he is denied other forms of beauty, he will give himself up to it exclusively and immoderately. To dismiss with contempt what they feel instinctively to belong to the highest part of their nature cannot be but harmful.
....... It is not enough to preach self control to a girl of fifteen who is just beginning to realise her power over the other sex, or to a boy of seventeen who is seriously disturbed by a girl of his own age. They don't want to be self-controlled. But one of the most valuable things that psychology has taught us is the importance of sublimation, and here is our chance. Adolescence is a time when it is natural to be active, and it is also an awakening to the power of beauty, beauty of all kinds--in colour form, movement, sound and spiritual aspiration. The boy and girl see these first in their human counterparts, and if left to themselves will hardly look anywhere else. But it is now that they are ready for the beauty of poetry, music, painting, drawing, and above all the earth around them, and these they must be given without stint.....
...The tendency of modern civilisation is to hurry on the awakening of sexual consciousness--a fact that is much to be deplored, and that makes the tasks of all schoolmasters and schoolmistresses far more difficult. Children now see erotic films and posters and read erotic books at an age when we had not thought about such things. They hear erotic dance-music, with its imbecile sentimental words, wherever they go. The attitude of a city-bred boy of fourteen to a city-bred girl of fourteen is quite different from what it was ten years ago.