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Former NHL linesman Ray Scampinello on single-sex education (Anthony Jenkins/The Globe and Mail)
Former NHL linesman Ray Scampinello on single-sex education (Anthony Jenkins/The Globe and Mail)

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Former NHL linesman Ray Scapinello on single-sex education Add to ...

Ray (Scampy) Scapinello, who officiated in the National Hockey League for 33 years, retired in 2004 and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2008. His memoir, Between the Lines , was published in 2006. The eighth annual Ray Scapinello Road Hockey Tournament, benefiting youth, takes place April 28 at the University of Guelph.

Where did you go to school?

From Grade 1 to 6, I was in a single-room schoolhouse … in Puslinch, Ont. One teacher taught every grade. Grade 7 and 8, we moved into Guelph from the country and I went to Holy Rosary School and, for high school, I went to John F. Ross.

Were any of those single-sex schools?

No. None of them were.

What sort of student were you?

My first couple of years at high school, I would say I was average at best. Then my last two years, I found out what was more important and I stopped clowning around and I did extremely well.

You say you were “clowning around.” That seems to be very much a guy thing, at least when I went to school.

I agree 100 per cent. Showing off or being the class clown or trying to get attention, it’s just what boys do sometimes.

Do you think your education would have been improved in an all-male environment?

Boys tend to show off for girls. Girls mature faster than boys do and tend to pay more attention in school. I think if I had been in an all-boys class, I probably would have done better.

Is the co-ed status quo fine or is it time to reassess that?

Obviously, when all is said and done, it’s a decision made between the parents and the child. You are going to do what is best for your child. If they sit down and say, “Listen, I think you are going to do a whole lot better in an all-male class or an all-female class,” then that’s where I would be steering my child. It’s tough out there. There are so many people competing for a single job. As parents, you try to give your child the best possible education you can.

I would lean toward same-sex classes. The boys won’t be showing off as much. You know how competitive boys are. If there are 20 boys in one class, they are going to compete against one another for the best grades and not who styled their hair best that day for the girl sitting across from them.

Statistically, boys are underperforming – getting poorer grades and dropping out in greater numbers than girls. Is that sufficient justification for questioning the system? For generations, the system focused on boys. It was assumed girls would grow to become homemakers. Now boys appear disadvantaged, and there seems to be a panic. Is this fair?

Wonderful point. Girls are competing for the exact same jobs as the guys now. That certainly wasn’t the case when I was going to school. You find situations now where the female is the breadwinner and the husband is staying home to take care of the children.

Education is the only way to go, and the sooner it gets drummed into their heads, the better off everyone is going to be. If I knew for one second that an all-male class was better for my son, that’s exactly where he would be going. During recess and intramural sports and lunch, he can mix with the young ladies. But for that one-hour class, it’s going to be geared toward young men and make him better, and I think that’s the way to go.

I’m saying, during your school years, you get the best possible education you can and that, going forward, is going to enhance your ability to be a more intelligent person and open up job opportunities. In school, you still have to deal with the opposite sex. It certainly doesn’t hurt you to have a curriculum geared toward a male student or female student. I can’t see that hurting in any way, shape or form. But once the bell rings, you are going to be dealing with boys and girls until class next day.

One knock against co-ed education is that it can reinforce stereotypes. In a mixed classroom, one can get the sense that math and science are “guy things” and literature and music are “girl things.”

Even in an all-girl or all-boy class, they will be taking science or literature as well. If you’re taking poetry with 20 other guys, you’re going to deal with it. Guys get embarrassed pretty easy, but it is easier to do things like poetry in front of your peers. The laughing will be gone after a couple of classes, then you get down to business.

It has been pointed out that to segregate schooling by gender alone is an oversimplification and overlooks other factors in learning differences such as culture, economic status or home life. Should these factors be addressed with their own schools?

Oh, I disagree. I wouldn’t want to see that. I have no problems whatsoever with all-male or all-female classes. With such a diversity we have in Canada, in Ontario, if you used that technique, we’d have a million schools.

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