But in secondary schools, the Catholic policy is decidedly Opposed to co-education. The high schools, academies, and colleges for boys are altogether separate from those for girls. Boys are taught by male teachers, girls by women, usually religious. Nothing in fact so strongly emphasizes the Catholic attitude in this matter as the work of various orders of men established to teach boys, and of no less various orders of women to teach girls. This is the century-old practice of the Church, and it is observed in all countries. Catholics, moreover, have followed with interest the discussions concerning co-education; and though in many other respects they have adopted in their own work the methods approved by experience in non-Catholic schools, they have not been convinced by the arguments advanced in favour of the co-educational plan.
From the viewpoint of economy co-education might seem the wiser plan; but as a matter of fact, by increasing the number of pupils in each class it throws a heavier burden on the teacher and it makes difficult if not impossible that individual instruction, the need of which is now so generally recognized. A saving that impairs the efficiency of the school is hardly desirable. The advantage also that is claimed on the score of improved discipline, is more apparent than real. While the boys probably part with some of their roughness it is by no means certain that the delicacy of feeling and the refinement of manner that are expected in girls, gain much by the association. Moreover, if there is a demand for better discipline, the right way to meet it is to train teachers more thoroughly in the art of school management. A skilful teacher will easily control a class either of boys or of girls by arousing and maintaining their interest in what is really the work of the school. On the other hand, it can do no harm to young people, especially boys, to cultivate betimes a spirit of obedience to law for its own sake, and not merely teach them to behave themselves out of deference for the opposite sex. There is no doubt a decided benefit to be gotten from social intercourse, provided this is accompanied by the proper conditions. The place for it is in the home, under the supervision of parents, who will see to it that their children have the right kind of associates, and will not leave them to the chance companionships which the mixed school affords. It has often been held that the co-educational system extends to the school the "good effects that flow from the mutual influence of mingling the sexes in the family circle"; but this contention evidently overlooks the profound difference between the home situation which associates children by natural ties of kindred, and the situation in school where these ties do not exist. And it further forgets, apparently, that the home influence itself has latterly been weakened in many ways and by various causes; how far co-education has contributed to this result is of course another question. At any rate, it avails nothing to argue that because boys and girls live together in the same family, it is more natural that they should be educated in the same classes. When appeal is taken to the "natural" order of things, the decision is plainly in favour of separate schools.
On physiological grounds, identical education presents serious difficulties. As no arrangement has been devised, and as none can be devised, to make the conditions of study exactly the same for both sexes, co-education really means that girls are subjected to a regimen intended and conducted for boys. To the physical strain which is thus imposed on them, girls as a rule are not equal; in particular they are apt to suffer from that very rivalry which is often cited as a desirable feature of the mixed school. If education is to take as its first principle conformity to nature, it must certainly make allowance for differences of organism and function. This need becomes the more imperative in proportion as the dependence of mind upon organic processes is more fully realized and turned to practical account in educational work.It then appears beyond question that from a psychological standpoint woman should have a different training from that which men receive. There is no question here as to the superiority or inferiority of either sex, nor will it profit to say that "soul has no gender". The fact is that each sex has its own mental constitution and its special capacities. To develop these is the work of education; but this does not mean that unlike natures shall be moulded into a superficial resemblance to each other. Even if it were desirable to have the finished product exactly the same in both sexes, it does not follow that this result is to be obtained by subjecting men and women to the same discipline. Educationists are agreed that the need of the developing mind is the first thing to be consulted in framing methods and in organizing the work of the school. They rightly condemn not only a system which treats the boy as though he were a man, but also any feature of method that fails to secure adaptation, even in detail, of the teaching to the present condition of the pupil's mind. Yet many of them, strangely enough, insist that the same training shall he given to boys and girls in the secondary schools, that is at a period which is chiefly characterized by the manifestation of profound mental differences between one sex and the other. The attempt now so generally made to obviate the physiological and psychological difficulties of co-education by adapting the work of the school to the capacities and requirements of girls, can evidently have but one result, and that not a desirable one, so far as boys are concerned.
It must further be pointed out on vocational grounds that, since woman's work in the world is necessarily different from man's, there should he a corresponding difference in the preparation. Here again it is singular that while the whole trend of our schools is towards specialization in view of the needs of after-life, no such consideration should be had for diversity of calling based on diversity of sex. The student is encouraged to take up as early as possible the special lines of work that fit him for his chosen career in business, in literary work, or in any of the professions; yet for the essential duties of life, widely different as these are, men and women receive an identical education. However great be the share which woman is to take in "the public expression of the ideal energies, for morality and religion, for education and social reforms, and their embodiment, not in the home, but in the public consciousness" — it still remains true that her success as a supporter of these ideal endeavours is closely bound up with the right discharge of those duties which are at once the lot and the privilege of her sex. Any influence that tends to make those duties less sacred to her or less attractive, is a menace to her individual perfection and may lead to far-reaching calamity. The lowering of sex tension, which is the strongest argument brought forward to support Co-education from the view-point of morality, turns out on closer inspection to be a fatal objection; it proves too much. The "indifference" which it is said to produce has its consequences beyond the limit of school-life, and these if left to work out their own results would be, as they undoubtedly are in many instances, antagonistic to the essential interests of family and home, and eventually of the national life as well.
The element of religious instruction, essential to Catholic schools, has a peculiar significance in the present problem. It not only gives free scope to ideal and æsthetic tendencies, but it also provides effectual safeguards against the dangers to which adolescence is exposed. As President Hall has said, "every glow of æsthetic appreciation for a great work of art, every thrill aroused by an act of sublime heroism, every pulse of religious aspiration weakens by just so much the potential energy of passion because it has found its kinetic equivalent in a higher form of expression" (Pedagogical Seminary, March, 1908). The "prophylactic value" of religious training is, from the Catholic point of view, far greater than that of the conditions which co-education involves and on which it depends for the development of character and morals. But this value of course can be got only hr teaching religion with the same thoroughness and the same perfection of method that characterizes the teaching of other subjects, and in such a way as to make the duties which religion imposes on both the sexes not merely pleasing items of knowledge, but also vital elements in habit and action.