Separating kids based on gender is nothing new in schooling–boarding schools and private schools have been doing it forever. But according to a new article in USA Today, with boys drop out rates plummeting, gender separation is becoming a new trend across the US. Over 100 schools alone popped up in South Carolina alone and over 500 emerged across the country.
The concept is based on the different learning styles of boys and girls as well as cuts down on “distractions such as flirting.” In one class in Missouri, the boys class does a “camping” theme and the girls do an “under the sea” theme. And according to the article they’re even separated based on athletic interests.
When preparing for a test, the boys may go for a run, or engage in some other activity, while the girls are more likely to do calming exercises, such as yoga.
Because as everyone knows, girls only like “calming” exercises. I wonder if they teach the boys how to build lamps in shop class and teach the girls to wash dishes in home ec as well?
The ACLU, unwilling to wait and see if the next step would be to paint the girls’ classroom pink and the boys’ classroom blue, decided to launch a national campaign, Teach Kids, Not Stereotypes, in May and sent cease-and-desist letters to school districts in Maine, West Virginia, Alabama, Mississippi and Virginia. ACLU legal director Doug Bonney says there’s no evidence that splitting up boys and girls works–in fact, he says it only increases sexism.
“This isn’t the right step to address higher dropout rates by boys,” Bonney said. “They promote false stereotypes about sex-based differences that don’t exist. Promoting sex stereotypes can harm both girls and boys.”
And then if that doesn’t sell you on the sexism issue–because the founder of the Pennsylvania-based National Association for Single Sex Public Education, argues that the controversial schooling is “about breaking down gender stereotypes, not promoting them”–then maybe information from a psychologist will. Says the article:
Diane F. Halpern, a former president of the American Psychological Association, co-authored a review of studies last fall in the journal Science that found research doesn’t support the benefits of single-sex education. Additionally, there are lots of problems whenever you segregate people into groups, Halpern said.
“Stereotyping increases so we really do have lots of data that says it’s just not supported,” she said.
With all this said, my son still thinks that boys are stronger than girls–but only when it comes to sports, because as all the stats show (and which is the number one reason the single-sex education is being pushed) boys are struggling.
Wouldn’t it make more sense that schools employ the system that, say, my husband’s school uses: inclusion learning. My husband, who is a special education teacher at the New York City Lab School runs a classroom with a co-teacher; they split the class (up to at least 35 kids) based on learning styles, aptitude and ability. My husband takes the kids who need more help and the other teacher is more general ed. The beauty of the inclusion learning is that it’s collaborative. The kids learn from each other.
Maybe these single-gender schools–if they really believe certain kids need a tailored education (i.e., running before class or yoga)–should focus on policies that are based on choice and performance rather than gender.
(Image: theirhistory/Flickr Creative Commons)