Monday, October 19, 2009

Single Sex Classrooms

Recently there's been some debate about single sex classrooms. For anyone who doesn't know, single sex classrooms is the general term applied to segregating schools by gender. Girls in one class, boys in another.

There are a lot of good arguments for single sex classrooms. The biggest one being that girls are two years ahead of boys in terms of development so segregating would allow more individualized attention to the different developmental stages. And that it would help subvert traditional gender roles because students would feel more free without the opposite sex around.

I have also heard of but cannot confirm the existence of a study that showed segregated students doing 10% better on tests. This was said by my slightly sexist English teacher from last year so I wouldn't pay too much attention to it.

I acknowledge the value of these arguments, but I have to disagree very strongly.

I've been a student for quite a while now, my academic progress has been hampered by bad teachers, bullies picking on me, and the crappy IEP system(I'll rant long and hard about this in a future post), but I cannot say that my academic progress has ever been hampered by the presence of males in my classroom. In fact, it probably was better but I'll explain that later.

Single sex classrooms worked just fine back in long-ago times when there was a San Andreas Fault between the sexes in society. When girls stayed home and sewed and cooked and cleaned and boys went out and worked. Society isn't like that anymore. Both sexes can go into the exact same careers. There's no reason to have separate education except for Physical Education in high school because of physiological differences.

We'd be doing all kids a great disservice if we had single sex education. Whether we like it or not, segregating schools will only cause tension and division in the student body.

While students may (I say this hesitantly because I don't believe it to be true) feel more willing to break free of traditional sex roles in the class room, being almost entirely separated from the opposite sex students in the school will the make them this unknown enigma that they don't get the opportunity to try to understand. And as we've seen many times, people often react to what they don't know about with fear and anger.

Socially it's a very bad idea. Most school-age students don't get much interaction with their peers outside of school. If they don't get opportunities to learn about the opposite sex while they're in school, even though they get recess together that's less than two hours out of an entire day, they'll probably never grow out of the "boys are stupid/girls are icky" thought process and we'll re-open the San Andreas Gender Fault even wider than it was originally.

And perhaps coeducation is slightly detrimental to their academics, BUT:
A) Everyone has to eventually LEAVE SCHOOL and go live their lives and whether you got an 80 or a 90 on your math tests isn't relevant to the big picture.
and B) Isn't this a bad attitude to enforce? "These people work differently than us so we won't work with them at all." Great life skill to teach there.

And let's be honest here. This environment will only breed extreme sexism and turn out a bunch of kids (unless they're parents teach them VERY strongly otherwise) who see the opposite sex as "less than".

More honesty: A large amount of middle school and high school age girls are extremely catty. Shoving 20-30 of them in classrooms together all day, with no balance of boys(who usually aren't catty, someone should do a scientific study on this. Or at least a documentary on The Passionate Eye.) will only amp up the social drama and decrease academic proficiency. Like girls don't get picked on enough.

As a female student, I would never ever EVER want to be a in a gender-segregated school. What may be slightly good academically speaking, is a horrible idea socially speaking. Life is all about balance, let's keep taking steps forward instead of taking 20 steps back.

Also, if your child is doing badly in school because there are members of the opposite sex in their class, you have bigger issues to sort out.

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