The Tug O' War Over Single-Sex Schooling

Illustration for article titled The Tug O War Over Single-Sex Schooling

There are definitely some worthwhile arguments in favor of single-sex schooling; for example, on a recent post we wrote on the topic, dozens of you said single-sex education was "the best thing that ever happened to you" because it made you more confident and less distracted.


But the number of public schools that separate boys and girls based on faulty studies — research that shows boys learn better when they're competing in brightly-lit rooms while girls should sit still and quietly talk about their feelings — is rising, even as the ACLU fights hard to stop their sexist tactics.


The Daily Beast's Abigail Pesta took a deeper look into one ACLU lawsuit against Van Devender Middle School in West Virginia that accuses the school of promoting "harmful sex stereotypes" and violating Title IX. Here's how their principal defended their new sex-segegated programs based on "the differences of how boys and girls' brains are made up, what their interests are, what motivates them":

"We know that boys have a much shorter attention span than girls have, so we have set the boys' classrooms up so they can get up and move around, and lay on the floor if they want, whatever, while girls are much more organized; they sit at tables-round tables-facing each other, sharing things, doing that sort of thing. We know that boys like brighter lights, so we have the boys' rooms lit a little differently than we do the girls' rooms."

The school was inspired by Leonard Sax, a psychologist who runs a nonprofit group called the National Association for Single-Sex Public Education. Sax believes that single-sex education helps kids succeed in a "sexist society." But aren't his tactics propagating sexist — not to mention heteronormative — stereotypes?

ACLU lawyer Amy Katz thinks so. "Yes, it's a sexist society," she told Pesta. "You don't have to make the schoolroom sexist." She says Van Devender's tactics "do more harm than good. If you don't fit whatever the crazy stereotype of the classroom is at Van Devender, you're not a ‘proper' girl or a ‘proper' boy."


As is perhaps fitting re: an elementary school scandal, Katz and Sax have resorted to name calling: Katz called the school's girl's room Gestapo-like, While Sax says the ACLU is making him out to be "the Ku Klux Klan." At least no one has accused anyone of having cooties...yet.

Classroom Warfare: Same-Sex Classes at Public Schools Ignite a Fight [Daily Beast]


Image via Blend Images Shutterstock.

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I think this would be interesting to study from a research perspective. I'd like to set up a series of classrooms with different atmospheres, and then, without (ideally) any outside influence, let the students gravitate to the space they choose and study how their choices may or may not affect their learning.

That said. These people are sexist. Definitely. I would have wanted to be in the "boys" room. I had horrible experiences with girls up until college. And boys generally just ignored me. Also, I do not consider myself an organized person and love to move around.