Document 16: "Joint Education," Oberlin Evangelist, 11 September 1861, p. 151.
Whatever tensions were encompassed within the Oberlin policy on women's public speaking, the institution nonetheless had no doubts about the propriety of educating men and women together in a Christian environment, where religion guided all students.
THE OBERLIN EVANGELIST _________________________________________________________
With all candid minds, these facts will have weight upon the question of the joint education of the sexes. Thinking men have asked--Can this system be sustained? Is it practicable to maintain thorough healthful discipline among several hundreds[A] of young people of both sexes, brought together as fellow students, and allowed to associate as freely as is common elsewhere under the usages of elevated Christian society?
It is not our habit to boast of Oberlin; there is no need, and we have no heart for it; but if any considerate educators are ready for enquiry and feel an interest in the result of facts, we invite them to the case above presented. And we should be especially pleased to have them come upon the ground and make their examination special, careful and thoryugh. Let it also embrace a patient hearing of the Essays[B] read by the Young Ladies as a testimony to their range of thought, as well as to their taste, logic and power as writers and readers. For ourself, we know of no stimulus to mental, moral and social culture, possible under the system of separate education, which is equal to that which springs up spontaneously and legitimately, where, under healthful religious influences, the sexes are brought into classes and general society together.
Or our view of the matter may be put thus: Given, a healthful and earnest tone of Christian life. Let the object of education be, the best social, mental and moral culture; then, there is no stimulus possible under the system of separate education equal to what obtains naturally under the system of joint education.
In yet other words, place together in College life, four hundred youth of both sexes at an age ranging between sixteen and twenty-six, and their desire to do well and appear well before each other as students, is an impulse second to no other in power. The motive which it brings upon the mind to do its best, is in most cases fully as severe and earnest as any judicious parent could desire. Nor is it easy to find any motive that is more healthful or more unexceptionable.
Since this comparative view supposes religious considerations to act with vigor on both sides, we have no occasion to express any opinion of their relative force or importance.
A. In 1861, Oberlin College enrolled 199 students in the four college classes; 32 were young women. The Ladies Course enrolled 222 young women.
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B. The commencement essays were written and read by the young ladies.
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