Singled Out

Baskin, Kara
March 2004
New Republic;3/22/2004, Vol. 230 Issue 10, p34
Though the movie "Mona Lisa Smile" failed at the box office, its romanticized portrayal of Wellesley College in the 1950s as a place where well-coiffed women had little ambition beyond learning proper etiquette reignited a heated debate on the virtues of single-sex schools. In fact, three months later, Wellesley's alumnae website still offers an interactive section devoted to a discussion of the film and the future of single-sex education. All-women's colleges originally offered their students both refuge from and preparation for male-dominated society. And, in many cases, such schools were the only alternatives for smart women, as the Ivy League and other top-notch colleges had yet to become co-educational. Most students choose colleges based on social factors as well as educational merit, and so women's colleges are forced to straddle a tenuous ideological line: They must argue that learning is best done without men while also admitting that life without them is incomplete.


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