To most Americans,
single-sex education seems strange and old-fashioned. Few
Americans have had firsthand experience with single-gender
education, and fewer still have ever been inside a single-gender
Besides: Women and men work together and live
together, so shouldn't girls and boys go to school together?
The argument in favor of coeducation seems obvious and intuitive.
But, as neuroscientist Dr. Joseph LeDoux has written,
The strongest arguments for single-sex education are
Sometimes, intuitions are just
wrong -- the world seems flat but it is not ... Things that
are obvious are not necessarily true, and many things that
are true are not at all obvious.
Thirty years ago, many educators believed
that the best way to ensure equal educational opportunity
for girls and boys would be to insist on educating girls and
boys in the same classroom. However: a thoughtful review of
the evidence accumulated over the past 30 years suggests that
coeducation may not work as well as expected. In fact, the
best evidence now suggests that coeducational settings actually
reinforce gender stereotypes, whereas single-sex classrooms
break down gender stereotypes.
Girls in single-sex educational settings are more likely
to take classes in math, science, and information technology.
Boys in single-sex schools are more likely to pursue
interests in art, music, drama, and foreign languages. Both
girls and boys have more freedom to explore their own interests
and abilities in single-gender classrooms.
In recent years, there has been significant press coverage of success stories such as the Thurgood Marshall Elementary School in Seattle, Washington, where an imaginative principal reinvented his school as a gender-separate academy, and -- with no additional funding -- transformed his school, with students' grades and test scores soaring, disciplinary problems vanishing, and everybody's attitude improving.
These press reports, unfortunately, have often failed to mention the careful preparation and professional development behind these stories. As a result, other educators have sometimes experimented with gender-separate education, simply putting all the girls in one classroom and all the boys in another. No professional development. No careful consideration of which teacher is right for which classroom -- because neither the principal nor the teachers understand how girls and boys learn differently,
and therefore they have no clue how to determine which teacher is right for which classroom. The results of such poorly-thought-out experiments are not impressive. Sometimes they're disastrous.
We invite you to spend a few minutes
to look over the
evidence, pro and con, regarding single-sex education. We start with some
very basic, but often overlooked, facts about girls and boys:
of girls and boys differ in important ways. These differences
are genetically programmed and are present at birth.
Girls and boys have different
learning styles, in part because of those innate, biologically-programmed
differences in the way the brain works.
As a result: single-sex schools offer unique educational opportunities for
girls, and for
Girls who attend single-sex schools are more likely
to participate in competitive sports than are girls
at coed schools.
schools break down gender stereotypes. It's cool
schools break down gender stereotypes. Girls at
single-sex schools are more likely to study computer
science and technology than are girls at coed schools.