Single Sex Classrooms: Innovative, or Evil? (continued)
by Danielle Wood
It’s been more than five years since No Child Left Behind pointed to single-gender classrooms as a possible key to raising student achievement. But public outcry and anti-discrimination laws kept that genie in the bottle until a change in federal regulations in 2006, which gave schools the wink and nudge they needed to start down the road to single-gender classes, as long as they were voluntary and “substantially equal”. Translation: as long as you don’t force single-sex down parents’ throats, you can do what you want.
Still, while gut tells us boys and girls learn differently, the research is slim. Supporters point to studies on cognitive development (for example, the fact that kindergarten boys typically learn to read later). But many activists who’ve lived through the sixties remember all too well how “separate but equal” works in practice, and say that dividing girls and boys will only increase gender stereotypes. In schools where all else has failed, is it wrong to try something new? And if girls do show that they’re more likely to put on a lab coat with no boys around, should we feel guilty about that?
How exactly do we nurture our kids for a co-ed world? Do we fight extra hard to tell our girls they can become statisticians and sign our boys up for drama class? Do we change the lighting and seating schemes in the classroom to account for the way boys’ brains work versus girls? Do we divide and conquer? I’m not sure. For now, I’m tucking books like Leonard Sax’s “Why Gender Matters” and Michael Gurian’s “Boys and Girls Learn Differently!” under my arm, but I’m not running out to sign my kid up for an all-male class. I’m continuing with business as usual-- happy when my son puts his toy puppy to bed and “feeds” him with a bottle, and trying not to grit my teeth too much when he picks up that stick to play “gun”.
Danielle Wood is the Director of Editorial for Education.com. You can reach her at email@example.com