The first-ever court hearing over sex-segregated classes in coed public schools began in a federal court in Lafayette, La., last week, featuring arguments from feminists, who have long opposed single-sex education. My favorite phony argument is pointing to the federal survey of all single-sex programs, which concluded that on average they work no better than coed classes. That’s like the federal survey of charter schools the unions always embraced that shows that, on average, charters work no better than traditional schools. True, but what about the roughly 300 elite charters that daily hit home runs for inner-city kids?
There is a case to be made against single-sex education, but discrimination against girls isn’t the real issue. In fact, girls appear to be benefiting more from it than boys. The real issue is whether schools are carrying out their programs effectively. How could they? The U.S. Department of Education has offered no research on what works and doesn’t work with single-sex education. If I had to pick an entity to sue, I’d go after the Department of Education. —Richard Whitmire
New research from Michigan State University suggests that parental influence and access to math courses are likely to guide students to careers in the STEM fields and medicine, says an article in ScienceDaily. “Only 4 percent of students who experienced low parent encouragement to attend college planned to enter a postsecondary program and major in a STEMM field,” said Jon Miller, a professor of integrative studies at Michigan State who presented the findings at the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s annual meeting. (Note: The extra “M” in STEMM is for medicine.) Miller adds: “This compares to 41 percent of students whose parents strongly encouraged college attendance.” —Erik W. Robelen
I think part of our disagreement over the years has been a disagreement about “objective truth”—which is why I recommend the Max Hastings piece in the current New York Review of Books on the teaching of history. Our argument, of course, is not about whether there is or isn’t—but whether we dare claim we have it. My old friend Sy Fliegel used to remind audiences that, while nowadays we want all the kids to join in when we sing together, when he was a boy, the principal would order those with a tin ear just to pretend to sing. No one was shocked by the advice. What, he asked, are we not shocked about today that will, in retrospect, look equally harmful or absurd? The way we “see” the past is affected by the present, which in turn influences the future. —Deborah Meier
Restraint and seclusion policies have been under scrutiny recently. The U.S. Department of Education just posted on its Web site a summary of state laws, regulations, policies, and guidelines regarding the use of restraint and seclusion techniques in schools.
A Government Accountability Office report in May found allegations that children had been abused, or even died, because of misuse of restraint and seclusion in schools. Many of the children on whom these practices are used are students with disabilities.
A bill that would regulate the use of restraint and seclusion on students in schools, and require any use of such practices to be reported to parents, was passed by the House Education and Labor Committee last month. The bill would be the first national regulation of such practices, as state policies vary. Now the full U.S. House of Representatives can take up the Preventing Harmful Restraint and Seclusion in Schools Act. —Lisa Fine
A version of this article appeared in the March 03, 2010 edition of Education Week as Blogs of the Week