To the Editor:
In the typical discussion of the pros and cons of single-sex education, vis-à-vis coed education, the elements generally include curriculum, pedagogy, best practices, legal implications, stereotype concerns and assumptions, and academic outcomes (“Single-Gender Schools Scrutinized,” January 18, 2012.)
One consideration, less likely to be included in the critique, is an important one: the impact that single-sex education can have without the daily intrusion of gender dynamics (increasingly sexualized now and at an earlier age) in coed schools, in the classroom, hallways, cafeteria, library, etc. In an educational setting, that factor is for many young people a powerful distraction that drains focus, energy, and attention away from academia and redirects it to trying to be at one’s most appealing socially and sexually.
For many in single-sex schools, the freedom to leave the cultural gender imperatives at the door provides a reprieve from those demands and the opportunity to more fully develop, and more fully express, oneself without the metaphorical white noise and attendant pressure of expected stereotyped sex roles. As one student in a girls’ school said in response to a visiting prospective father’s question about boys: “Well, they’re around, but they don’t get in your way.” A similar conversation about girls might well take place with a boy in an all-boys school.
If research results suggest the value of choice between single-sex or coed schools, why not have both?
National Coalition of Girls’ Schools
A version of this article appeared in the February 08, 2012 edition of Education Week as Remove Gender Dynamics From the Equation