Separate: Still Not Equal, After All These Years

Despite a total lack of evidence that separating girls and boys increases the academic achievement of either sex, public schools around the country continue to experiment with the idea. Yesterday the New York Times profiled sex-segregated fifth grade classrooms at Public School 140 in the Bronx, and observed lessons and teaching techniques aligned with gender stereotypes. Boys read Marvel comics and play chess while girls research Harriet Tubman and Michelle Obama. Teachers assume that the main problem for boys is that they are too aggressive and need to be taught "how to be men," and that girls are mean, gossipy, and obsessed with fitting in.

I continue to find this trend disturbing. Young men should be exposed to literature and history featuring women. Shielding them from those stories because, in their immaturity, they find male heroes more compelling, is hardly a recipe for developing lifelong respect for women and their leadership capabilities. And it seems that in every district that tries sex-segregated classrooms, either boys or girls lose out big time; in one Kentucky town, boys were denied entrance into the most advanced math class, prompting an ACLU lawsuit. Isn't it time to put this trend to rest — at least until any actual research emerges proving that it helps children learn?

cross-posted at TAPPED

One thought on “Separate: Still Not Equal, After All These Years

  1. lmv

    same sex schools need not adhere to the confining definitions of gendered curriculum you caution against above. rather, a full curriculum – in which girls and boys engage with a wide range of texts, have comparable opportunities to participate in advanced classes, and access to enrichment experiences – within the context of same sex school environments can provide positive learning experiences. researchers who agree with this position cite, among other reasons, the elimination of cross-gender posturing that exists in coed contexts. of course, the argument against such reasoning is that it’s infantilizing to assume that some kids can’t hack it in a coed classroom, so they need to be separated.
    given all of that, i’m routinely appalled that sex-segregation in practice is reduced to a boys=comics, girls=home ec formula.
    there is potential in providing same sex spaces within schooling contexts, however the potential is squandered by archaic and stifling notions of gender, interest, intellect, and engagement.

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