School Choice & Charters Opinion

Single Sex Education as ‘Pseudoscience’

By Richard Whitmire — September 22, 2011 1 min read
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That’s the argument that Pink Brain, Blue Brain author Lise Eliot and coauthors make in Science. Here’s a podcast version.

Here’s another take on the study from ABC.

Write the coauthors:

The strongest argument against SS education is that it reduces boys' and girls' opportunities to work together in a supervised, purposeful environment. When teachers make children's sex salient, students choose to spend less time interacting with other-sex peers (25). Even in coeducational schools, boys and girls spend considerable time with same-sex peers, which exaggerates sex-typed behaviors and attitudes. Boys who spend more time with other boys become increasingly aggressive (27), and certain boys experience greater risk for behavior problems because they spend more time with boys (28). Similarly, girls who spend more time with other girls become more sex-typed (27). Institutionalizing gender- segregated classrooms limits children's opportunities to develop a broader range of behaviors and attitudes. Positive and cooperative interaction with members of other groups is an effective method for improving intergroup relationships.

Wrote Eliot to me in an email:

As you know, most research finds no clear support for single-sex education, but the few studies that do find an advantage find it for girls. Boys actually benefit from a higher "dose" of female classmates. There is no reason why the pro-academic innovations that have worked in some of the new all-boys schools wouldn't work in a coed setting, which reduces the risk of sexist practices and better prepares students for their mixed-sex workplaces and families.

I’m going to resist opining on the science. Not my expertise. But I do understand what she’s talking about here. I raised the question in Why Boys Fail. The academic innovations at the all-boys Excellence Boys Charter School resembled the innovations at the co-ed Kipp Key Academy in Washington. Boys did well in both schools. If you introduced girls to Excellence would the boys fare as well? I’m guessing both sexes would do well.

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The opinions expressed in Why Boys Fail are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.