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Why we need mixed learning environments

This is going to be lightning fast. I'm having an engagement party here today, and I'm waiting for my kitchen floor to dry. While I was doing so, I read an article at Christianity Today, which got me thinking. If I don't get this down now, by Monday, I will have forgetten.

The article promotes the need for all-female spaces in the Church. I agree with that principle, but I also think it needs to deliberately balanced to include mixed environments, and I think we need to be careful about making generalizations about what all women "need."

The first time I ever went to an all-female Sunday school class, fifteen minutes into it, there was crying and hugging. 

"What am I doing here?" I asked myself.

I am not a public cryer. I don't share intimate details about my womanly functions in a group, nor will I ever, ever share marital issues with people I don't know and trust very well. And even then, I am hesitant. Unless my husband was being abusive, I would never share such details with people in a setting like that. I'm not sure i want to know everyone else's issues in a grouop like that, either. Sharing, something which is encouraged in the article, is not my reason for going to a Sunday school class. If I want to "share," I will find one friend and we'll share away. Perhaps some women don't mind. Perhaps some women thrive on that. It's a mistake to say all women need that. I go to Sunday school to hear the Word proclaimed.

I have taken one all-female class in seminary. While it was enjoyable, what I hoped I would learn, how to be a better teacher, was not the focus. It was heavy on group dynamics and light on the actual practice of teaching. I learned far more from my mixed gender class on hermeneutics. I don't have any plans to take any more "all female" classes, because I learn far more from my mixed classes. I want to learn content: principles for interpretation, theological truths, and ways to utilize these in my life and in my teaching. If that makes me a minority, then I plead the cause of minority rights.

I would never say that all-female environments should be banned from churches. Surely, women are also capable of gathering a group of women in their homes, in addition to the church. Why does everything have to go through committee?

I believe that women and men may discuss differently. But that cry for all-female environments needs to be made with a caution and with the recognition that sometimes, both women and men need to learn to discuss in different ways.

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