Mt. Carmel is wise to remain an all-boys high school

Mt. Carmel’s knowledge of boys is the foundation for a new, trailblazing program specifically designed to meet the needs of young men in today’s age.

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The Mt. Carmel High School campus at 6410 S. Dante campus.

The Mt. Carmel High School campus at 6410 S. Dante.

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Just two blocks from the Obama Presidential Center is Mt. Carmel High School, a 122-year-old all-boys school that was considering welcoming girls as students. In a news release Tuesday, President Brendan Conroy said, “The results of the feedback have made it overwhelmingly clear that Mount Carmel High School’s stakeholders want Mount Carmel to remain all-male, and that changing the school’s all-male tradition is not in the best interest of the school.”

It’s unclear whether Mt. Carmel was trying to capitalize on the gentrification of its neighborhood and the nearby Obama Center, or whether it was just following in the footsteps of Catholic high schools such as St. Ignatius College Prep and DePaul College Prep that have transitioned to co-ed with successful financial results.

Remaining an all-boys school offers Mt. Carmel’s leadership a far better way of ensuring a successful financial future for the school. By remaining an all-boys school, Mt. Carmel can separate itself from its competitors.

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On a typical Mt. Carmel day, a line of fist bumps and mutual admiration greet boys as they walk into school. Teaching techniques focus on keeping boys alert.  In class, boys know the tennis ball in their teacher’s hand could at any time head in their direction, so they better pay attention. Single-gender education allows boys to zero in — without distractions — on what they need to learn to become happy and productive men.

As Craig Robinson, the brother of Michelle Obama and an alumnus of the school, said in 2009, “Mt. Carmel teaches you to finish what you start and do things the right way.”

Most importantly, changing times call for different approaches to how young men are taught. Adolescent boys struggle with lack of direction on confronting today’s issues. We see this throughout Chicago. Boys fall behind girls in college graduation statistics, and their delayed maturity puts them at a disadvantage on many levels compared with their female counterparts. Violence is high in our city. Boys are both perpetrators and victims and are simultaneously the most dangerous and lost among us. 

Young men struggle to understand their role in society because gender boundaries are no longer clear, which leaves them feeling vulnerable and confused. On a date, should they hold the door for a girl? Should they pay for dinner? They may want to, but they also fear this will offend.

These issues are fundamental to the mission of Mt. Carmel: “You came to Carmel as a boy. If you care to struggle and work at it, you will leave as a man.”

Mt. Carmel’s knowledge of boys is the foundation for a new, trailblazing program designed to meet the needs of young men today.

Mt. Carmel is a leader among Catholic schools in Chicago. Following the pack by becoming coeducational may look like a safe financial bet, but it lacks vision. 

By using innovative ways to guide boys through fast-changing society, Mt. Carmel sets itself apart not just from other all-male or coeducational Catholic schools but also from many schools throughout the nation.

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Social and emotional learning  is critical to shaping boys’ leadership skills, a concept that only recently has gained center stage in certain classrooms. Mt. Carmel should adopt it school wide.

Mt. Carmel has racial and ethnic diversity, socioeconomic diversity and a diversity of beliefs. Gender diversity was not what the school needs to remain relevant.

Mt. Carmel is wise to embrace its mission of educating young men, which is what our city and society desperately need. We are glad this amazing school will not be another casualty of the desire to make everything the same.

K. Sarah Hoehn is a pediatrician and mother of a Mt. Carmel rising junior. Giada Litner is a journalist and a mother of a Mt. Carmel rising junior.

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