So many of the problems inherent to single-sex public school classes are embedded right in the lead of this Washington Post story, about an all-black and Hispanic all-boys honors English class at Albert Einstein High School in suburban Maryland:
When sophomore Richard Scott enters his honors English class at Albert Einstein High School, he knows he will spend the next 45 minutes focused on his work instead of checking out the girl in the next row.
That's because no girls are in teacher William Lee's class.
"I would be distracted if girls were around," Scott said. "Now, it's just a bunch of dudes in class. I can pay attention."
Wow. I wouldn't try to deny that raging hormones afflict 15-year olds the world over. But what kind of lesson are we teaching teenagers when we tell them we don't actually expect them to control themselves? When we imply to boys that girls aren't their colleagues or intellectual partners, but are sexual objects — mere distractions? It is true that in addition to the single-sex classes, the Einstein High School program gets at-risk boys involved with community service and offers them counseling. In 2007, I wrote a feature article about an after-school program in my hometown of Ossining, New York that had similar goals. But the key difference is that the Ossining program offers the single-sex environment as an extra, not as a replacement for a core academic subject.
In addition, the Post piece doesn't delve into the debate over whether single-sex education really has any effect on student achievement. In public schools, such programs are also, much of the time, illegal. The ACLU has succeeded in abolishing them in both Kentucky and Alabama.
cross-posted at TAPPED