"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Boys and Girls Separate and Unequal

It is important to remember that the decision of what to make the basics of education, like every major curriculum decision, depends not simply on the way the world is but on the way we think it should be, on the kind of life we believe to be worth living, and on the kind of society we believe to be worth living in.

-Jane Roland Martin, “Two Dogmas of Curriculum

When it comes to gender stereotyping, separate and unequal is gaining momentum as conservatives push for more segregated schooling along the lines of male vs. female as means toward higher achievement. Based on nothing but a Neanderthal view of the world, these ideas have no basis in reality or science. However, the proliferation of gender-based segregation in schools has been proven to lead to sexism and stereotypes that not only does nothing to improve either the education of children but is detrimental to encouraging boys and girls to learn how to work together, how to understand and appreciate any differences and most important, to work together to foster the egalitarian spirit so necessary to find solutions to the great humanitarian crises of today.

Jane Roland Martin, education philosopher, in much of her work examines the important of valuing both the reproductive and the productive aspects of human endeavors. In a world where women are still being raped and abused, where one in four children in the United States is now living in poverty, men and women must find the common ground and understanding to work together, with whatever talents, strengths and insights each has to offer as men and women who are dedicated to creating a better society.

Under George W. Bush Title IX rules were watered down to allow for more segregated public schools along the lines of gender. The recent report released in September in the journal Science by eight prominent scientists, titled The Pseudoscience of Single-Sex Schooling arugues that "there is no well-designed research showing that single-sex (SS) education improves students' academic performance, but there is evidence that sex segregation increases gender stereotyping and legitimizes institutional sexism." The lead author on the piece was Professor Diane Halpern of Claremont McKenna College, past president of the American Psychological Association (APA).

"The single-sex movement in public schools has been growing fast. According to the New York Times, there were only two single-sex public schools in the mid-1990s; today, there are more than 500 public schools in 40 states that offer some single-sex academic classes."

This is another misguided attempt at trying to turn the clock backs to a world in which boys and girls are stereotyped, separated and pitted against one another under the guise of improving academic achievement. However, instead of creating an academic environment in which they might learn to live and work together in pursuit of a healthier, more sustainable future for all of humanity, perhaps their test scores are higher as a result of being segregated.

The downside of this and the empirical evidence is in -- segregating boys and girls leads to sexism and is detrimental to the type of collaboration and empathy necessary to live and work together. It's time to start treating all sexes, including all forms of sexual preferences whether students are homosexuals, or transgender with equality and respect as individuals who share the same basic human characteristics necessary to become whole, healthy human beings with the capacity to appreciate both differences and commonality.

Now, that would be a step in the right direction towards a society that might be worth living in.

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