School Choice & Charters Opinion

The Single-Sex Phenomenon

By Richard Whitmire — May 21, 2010 1 min read
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Forbes does a decent job summing up the issues and recent evidence. What’s lacking is a discussion of the controversies about “brain based” education.

The piece points to the political debate (but misses the behind-the-scenes lobbying to curtail the single-sex public option):

So far, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is the movement's most outspoken opponent. It has initiated three lawsuits--two currently active--against schools that have segregated classes by sex. One lawsuit against a Louisiana school board was settled out of court. The remaining lawsuits, one in Kentucky and a second in Louisiana, charge that the schools did not give parents an equivalent coed choice for their children. Moreover, the group has contacted dozens of schools considering the option and successfully persuaded them not to move forward. The director of the ACLU Women's Rights Project, Lenora Lapidus, believes single-sex classrooms do more harm than good by reinforcing gender stereotypes. Says Lapidus: "The programs push the notion of a fundamental difference in the way boys and girls learn. Pseudo-scientific research says the brains of boys and girls are different, and they need to be taught differently. In reality, you need to look at the individual child." Lapidus feels these teaching methods endorse age-old stereotypes: for example, that girls don't do well under pressure, boys are better at analytic thinking, girls are interested in relationships and boys are interested in competition and fighting. These stereotypes shape their perceptions of what they excel at and have a lasting impact, she says, equating single-sex classes to racial segregation. Meanwhile, psychologist and family physician Leonard Sax, who founded the NASSPE to champion and track the developments of single-sex education in the U.S., says all parents should have the chance to enroll their children in single-sex education. Wealthy parents have always had the choice to send their children to all-boys or all-girls private schools, he says. "Why should that choice only be available to rich people?" Having the option boils down to a "pro-choice voice in the debate."

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