Why a school for boys? An inquiry into why parents choose independent boys' schools

Andrew Thomas Weller, University of Pennsylvania


The latter half of the 20th century saw the rightful advancement of American women into places of equality with men: political, corporate, economic, social. As part of this movement, academic research and cultural trends in the 1990s called attention to how schools were perceived as shortchanging girls. This resulted in a movement for the promotion and support of single-sex schools for girls. In this new-found era of gender equality, political correctness, and the elevation of women and girls, it leaves hanging the question: what about the schools for boys? Why "in this day and age" would a parent pro-actively choose the seemingly antiquated educational option of an independent school for boys? To answer this question, parents at 13 independent day schools for boys in the United States were surveyed. The survey gathered both quantitative and qualitative data. Lichert scales, rankings, free response, and demographic information composed this on-line, mixed-methods instrument. The qualitative data were coded and translated into quantitative codes for the purposes of statistical analysis. The research and questions were grounded in two previous, groundbreaking studies but that considered more who sends their children to single-sex schools rather than why. This research sought to examine why and what were the roles of student grade placement, familiarity with popular literature on boys, and a family's previous experience with single-sex education, but went beyond these to exploring why parents have made this choice by delving in to their perceptions of the current gender culture. The results are as much about how parents of boys perceive the current gender culture in schools as they are about the practical and financial implications for schools for boys. The research found that parents ranked issues of program quality and gender as most important in making their choice. An understanding of how boys learn and a program tailored to that understanding was important to parents, as well as a school culture and environment that celebrated, encouraged, and challenged boys. The dissertation concludes by discussing how schools for boys might use these data in practical application as well as suggesting questions and topics for subsequent study.

Subject Area

Educational sociology|School administration

Recommended Citation

Weller, Andrew Thomas, "Why a school for boys? An inquiry into why parents choose independent boys' schools" (2006). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3209979.