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Sweet Rose Ramblings (AKA The Call-Waiting Blog)

A place for my unformed thoughts. Help me sort them out!

Friday, February 29, 2008

Single-Sex Public Education

I haven't had the chance to read this entire article yet, but it discusses the trend in public education to switch to single-sex classrooms. This is something that I am very in favor of, as I definitely saw the difficulties that coed classes could encourage, especially in high school, during my own education. The article discusses the different learning styles that males and females thrive with, and how single-sex education can nurture that. Check it out.


At March 02, 2008 5:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

From the article: "Among advocates of single-sex public education, there are two camps: those who favor separating boys from girls because they are essentially different and those who favor separating boys from girls because they have different social experiences and social needs."

I belong to a camp of folks who acknowledge the likelihood of certain probabilistic behavioral and even mental differences between male and female children (and adults), but who argue that the distinction between "essential difference" and "learned difference" is immaterial, because MOST OF IT IS LEARNED. In other words, both camps are probably right, and almost definitely in some cases, but 97% (or 90%, or 99% - I don't care) of the differences in behavior and learning expressed between boys and girls derive from distinctive (read: unequal and oppressive) treatment of each group in the service of societal heteronormativity, masculine bias, and "performance" (see Judith Butler) of sex-specific gender roles.

But I'm not letting the group that sex-segregates men and women because "they have different social experiences and social needs" off the hook, either. What I don't understand is why these people aren't trying to change the social CAUSES of these different experiences and different needs, instead of just throwing up their hands, accepting the inequality as inevitable, and embracing segregation!

Can you imagine the outrage about their argument, if we were talking about race instead of gender? That blacks and whites should be segregated in schools, because even though they're "essentially" the same, they have different social experiences and needs, so we'll do better to separate them? They made this argument in the Jim Crow era: it was a trite euphemism known as "separate but equal."

We need to address the root causes of gender oppression and unequal educational achievement, not indulge the problem (and subtly endorse its causes) by segregating students, further worsening understanding between the children themselves that they're 97% the same inside, and completely misunderstanding their needs.

It really frustrates and disappoints me that it's not until the FINAL paragraph of the 7-page article that someone has the courage to point out another big assumption: "Given the myriad ways in which our schools are failing, it may be hard to remember that public schools were intended not only to instruct children in reading and math but also to teach them commonality, tolerance and what it means to be American. “When you segregate, by any means, you lose some of that,” says Richard Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation. “Even if one could prove that sending a kid off to his or her own school based on religion or race or ethnicity or gender did a little bit better job of raising the academic skills for workers in the economy, there’s also the issue of trying to create tolerant citizens in a democracy.”


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