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May 9, 2002
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Bush wants to turn back the schoolclock to an eduational epoch sometime before 1972. Thirty years after educational gender bias became a legislative reality, Bush has announced that he's pushing for single sex schools, offering no specific reason for this backwards waltz. But what kind of message does this send to tomorrow's graduates about equal gender opportunity? Is there really any discernable advantage in a single sex educational institution? Or is Bush possibly intimidated by the overwhelming number of female graduates that are dominating males these days?
posted by ed (36 comments total)

 
I see very little to worry about here. First, no chance in hell of this passing the Senate. Beyond that, is there any evidence that single-sex schools outperform or underperform co-ed schools? Finally,

Or is Bush possibly intimidated by the overwhelming number of female graduates that are dominating males these days?

Ha ha...Bush-bashing is funny. Let's all have a big laugh now. Whee!
posted by BlueTrain at 5:05 PM on May 9, 2002


Single sex schools don't necessarily turn back the schoolclock to pre-Title IX days. (disclaimer - I attended an all girls highschool - Catholic)

Looks like a Trojan horse to chip away at Title IX. They don't need to amend it, since there are already single sex schools in the public system with Title IX intact.

Personally I go back and forth about whether I would ever send my children, if I ever have them, to single sex schools. Like everything else they have advantages and disadvantages.
posted by birgitte at 5:08 PM on May 9, 2002


It's rather disconcerting. Just when you think you have this guy figured out, there's something crazier and more headache inducing just waiting to pop out. I'm not even sure what his agenda is anymore than just to effect as much change as possible with no consideration where it might lead or even why we might want it. He's clearly right wing but not at all conservative.
posted by shagoth at 5:09 PM on May 9, 2002


Why can't he turn the clock back to 1975...
posted by patrickje at 5:13 PM on May 9, 2002


I find it ironic that this story hit the news about the same time as this one.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:13 PM on May 9, 2002


What, exactly, is inherently wrong with single-sex schools?
(Full disclosure: my high school went co-ed my junior year)
posted by yerfatma at 5:25 PM on May 9, 2002


Several people have suggested that the editorializing be confined to comments and not posts. I agree with those people.

Bush has announced that he's pushing for single sex schools, offering no specific reason for this backwards waltz.

Well, no, he's pushing to give school districts the freedom to institute single-sex schools without being sued. The article you linked to also contains a few specific reasons, namely: The department said it would pursue the changes to support efforts by school districts to improve education and to provide parents with more educational options for their children.

Reasoning?
1. Greater freedom of choice
2. Improved results

Which, of course, implies the question:

Beyond that, is there any evidence that single-sex schools outperform or underperform co-ed schools?

My in-depth and wholly objective google search suggests that there isn't enough evidence to make an appropriate conclusion, and what evidence there is is complicated by other factors, particularly single-sex schools outperforming standard co-ed schools simply by choosing better students to admit (to say nothing of the range of problems facing general comparisons of public and private schools). It would seem that there is little consensus as to whether they are good, bad, or ugly, and as such I have little issue with giving parents the choice, so long as it remains that: a choice.
posted by apostasy at 5:34 PM on May 9, 2002


Seems apparent that the article is focusing on a single possible outcome of Bush's education plan, and that the plan itself is simply intended to lower barriers to access federal support for various education programs--not any one method per se. I see it as not favoring any program just trying to create more flexibility in a highly institutionalized system that isn't producing very good results. Personally I don't see any problem with sex segregation, or not, in public or private education, and it seems really bizarre that it's a hangup for anyone. Why this preoccupation with socializing kids when it's supposed to be about teaching them a well rounded general education? I don't expect separation of the sexes to help or hinder anything, usually barriers to learning relate to the integrity of the family unit and/or nutrition more than the greater community environment. But (obviously) I'm no expert. Yes BlueTrain, we definitely enjoy the Bush bashes; it's fun to watch the fuss over him.
posted by greyscale at 5:53 PM on May 9, 2002


My first, knee-jerk reaction was negative, just because the "separate but equal" concept seems inherently inequal. But after thinking about it a little bit, I really don't have any problems with it as a parent. At the very least, it would be an interesting experiment. My wife, who is Korean, was educated in a sexually segregated system. I can't say she got a great education, but I don't think she was socially stunted because of it.
posted by norm29 at 6:16 PM on May 9, 2002


This actually seems to be one of Dubya's non-evil, actually making sense kind of ideas. Which of course means someone else in the administration came up with it.
posted by owillis at 6:20 PM on May 9, 2002


Speaking as a product of a single-sex school, I think it would be great if everyone had the opportunity to go. I think it was better that way. If anything, it seems like single-sex education is an unfairly distributed advantage to me, and offering it to a broader range of students sort of levels the playing field. I'm sure a lot of people won't believe it's better, but I think it is and a lot people agree with me.
posted by jeb at 6:44 PM on May 9, 2002


There are well-reasoned arguements to be made for single sex schools. The Christian Science Monitor endorsed the idea, and accompanied this endoresement with a less biased examination of the issue.

From the CSMonitor:

[N]o one suggests that single-sex schools are a cure-all. Most proponents readily acknowledge that the instruction probably isn't even right for most kids. But it is exactly what some students need, they say, and it should therefore be an option.

Their arguments are familiar: Short skirts and muscle T's can leave kids more focused on flirting than Faulkner. Girls speak up less when boys are around. Boys just want to be cool for the girls. In short, the opposite sex can be a real distraction to learning.

posted by croutonsupafreak at 6:46 PM on May 9, 2002


croutonsupafreak - and without the presence of the oppsite sex, we men will lose whatever thin veneer of civilization we possess. Trust me on that. If it weren't for the presence of girls in schools, the boys would be behaving even worse. No data here, just my knowledge of human nature and the male psyche.
posted by jonmc at 6:57 PM on May 9, 2002


The same argument goes for the workplace, eh? So the women should work in a seperate workplace from the men, lest the adults focus more on flirting than on work. Gendersegregated workplaces - but equal in status. Yeah, right!

Some might think it's a joke - but IMO segregation promotoes inequality.

Plus, why should young people be repressed and treated like animals? It is exactly because things like segregation of the sexes that warps the relationship between them. If they don't learn through school that it's perfectly normal to be around the opposite sex without it is a sexual relation, it's bound to go wrong when they finally get together. Gendersegregation is the breeding ground of the exact sentiments of that Christian Science Monitor above: The idea that any situation involving both sexes automatically is a sexual situation. It's utter bollocks!

Men and women - even young men and women - are perfectly capable of going about their businesses without being overtaken by sexfiend demons. Yes, there might occassionally be some flirting, no, they will be better persons because of it.
posted by cx at 7:18 PM on May 9, 2002


I remember seeing a BBC documentary ages ago, which argued that segregation of schools in Iran under the ayatollah did wonders for the advancement of women, because it put women into schools for the first time on a 'separate but equal' basis, with trained-up female teachers for all-girl classes. Though I doubt Bush would appreciate being congratulated for following the Iranian example. And cx has it right: segregation at school, especially during adolescence, does the same thing as criminalising booze until you're 21.
posted by riviera at 8:00 PM on May 9, 2002


dude, nerds are *never* gonna learn how to talk to girls if this happens. china & india should take a cue from G.W. if they wanna keep their populations down.
posted by clango at 8:18 PM on May 9, 2002


< completely off-topic>

Where's Aaron been lately? I periodically scan the "charged" threads just to see what he has to say about an issue, and it's been a week or more since he seems to have commented.

< /we now return you to your regularly scheduled ideologies>
posted by yhbc at 8:24 PM on May 9, 2002


fyi for the bush haters: In case you care, your girl Hillary supports single sex schools, so you might wanna check with the DNC HQ thought police before y'all get too prissy on this issue.
posted by nobody_knose at 8:54 PM on May 9, 2002


See? If I didn't scan the political threads, I'd miss out on clear, stimulating and illuminating reasoning like that.
posted by yhbc at 8:57 PM on May 9, 2002


If it weren't for the presence of girls in schools, the boys would be behaving even worse. No data here, just my knowledge of human nature and the male psyche.

I too have no data to support this, but between the stories of my and my friends' various college experiences, I'd be more than inclined to agree.
posted by youhas at 10:21 PM on May 9, 2002


Is there really any discernable advantage in a single sex educational institution? Or is Bush possibly intimidated by the overwhelming number of female graduates that are dominating males these days?

Or maybe (just spitballin' here) he understands that a damn good amount of the American population wouldn't mind a few more options in deciding where and how their children are schooled? That they may actually believe that they - and not the social engineers or teachers unions that dominate the debate - might like to decide what is "best" for their children? To quote from the article:

"The Young Women's Leadership School, a public school for girls in the Harlem neighborhood of New York, enrolls 370 students. Among its mix of black, Asian and Hispanic students from low- and upper-income families, virtually all go on to college. The school has operated for six years and currently has a waiting list of 1,200 for three ninth-grade slots ... "

Seems like it is not just Bush that thinks the idea is worth a shot ...
posted by MidasMulligan at 11:07 PM on May 9, 2002


cx: All this may be true in the aggregate, but no one is suggesting this be a model for education or that it's even appropriate for all children, only that it be an option, and unless there is compelling evidence that segregated schools seriously screw up kids I see no reason this choice shouldn't be offered to those who could benefit from it.

And, with regard to "turning back the clock to 1972", are we not trying to do precisely that wrt the War on Drugs? Turning back the clock shouldn't be immediately scoffed at.
posted by apostasy at 11:11 PM on May 9, 2002


bush is just stupid.
posted by delmoi at 1:03 AM on May 10, 2002


I remember this argument from a few years ago, when the received wisdom was that girls did better in single sex schools because they weren't encouraged to act stupid in front of boys, whereas boys did worse because they were encouraged to act stupid in front of each other - and the statistics seemed to back it up. Then everyone realised that girls' schools in the UK were generally fee paying and selective, and therefore shouldn't really be compared with the local free, mixed, inclusive comprehensives.

My own view is that the supposed influence of boys is overrated. Girls tend to stick together anyway, and if a girl is interested and academic, the presence of boys won't get in the way. In fact, I always took pride in being able to academically outdo the boys in my school. Plus the opposite sex shouldn't be seen as something dangerous and foreign. The sexes are far too differentiated as it is. Good quality teaching, a wide curriculum and small class sizes are far more important factors IMO.
posted by Summer at 2:33 AM on May 10, 2002


Single sex schools have worked in the past because they were the turf of highly motivated families that were willing to pay for the privilege of private or parochial education.

The critical difference in achievement wasn't the gender of the students, but the level of involvement of the parents. Without that, the concept is just another conservative educational fad.

Such a limiting choice is fine for those that wish to pay for it. Though taxpayers don't benefit from a publicly funded spectrum of boutique schools for each and every political perspective, let alone the overhead of supervising such a nightmare.
posted by Sqwerty at 2:49 AM on May 10, 2002


Despite the fact that males make up 51% of the population, it is young women who are graduating in higher numbers from postsecondary institutions. The question is whether the extent of that education would have any distinct advantage on society as a whole if the majority of women obtaining graduate and postgraduate degrees were to be siphoned off towards a single-sex education.

If education is about improving the quality of the education, then shouldn't U.S. education policy be hinged upon overhauling the current curriculum and providing more funds for vigorous college prep classes in inner-city schools and for higher education? We've already achieved some remarkable results in defeating what was only thirty years ago a tremendous gender divide. Now it's time to begin improving the quality of education as a whole. Bifurcating coed institutions into single-sex schools is an idea that will serve no one in making this happen. The world of 2002, with young women at long last resisting the "go to Vassar, get an education and then become a 2.2 children uterus popping housewife" mentality, is a far different place than the world of 1972. And yet despite the rise in woman graduates, they still fall behind proportionally in such fields as science, engineering and medicine.

To poke a few holes in the "freedom of choice" argument, where does the freedom of choice come for the male nurse or the young lady who wants to join a military academy? It comes in the form of funds that are simply not there in most cases to support more classes and more schools. Where do those funds come from? The parents and students who can afford it.

Young men and women are already under a particular burden in contending with their overflowing hormones while attending university, but they must also contend with the reality that men and women must be treated as professional and intellectual equals. Coed educational facilities allow that to happen. Single-sex institutions won't.
posted by ed at 6:45 AM on May 10, 2002


In Toledo, where I used to live, two of the academically best high schools in the city were Catholic, single-sex schools. And the boys' school didn't have an Animal House atmosphere. Why not give public school parents and students the choice of single-sex schools?

And we should be concerned about the plight of boys and young men. Females way outnumber males in colleges in this country -- almost 60 percent of bachelor's degrees are awarded to women. This disproportionate number should concern all of us because it implies that a lot of talent and brainpower is going to waste. I don't know if all-male public schools would help solve this problem, but it's worth trying before we dismiss it as turning back the clock. Why not experiment and judge the results?

Women should have selfish reasons to increase the proportion of male college grads: Who are all these college-educated women going to marry? If 60 women graduate for every 40 men, 20 of those women had better either be: I think a lot of women would find all three of those choices unpalatable.posted by Holden at 7:55 AM on May 10, 2002


Not that I'm saying homosexuality is a choice. Maybe I shoulda said a lot of women would find those, uh, conditions unpalatable.
posted by Holden at 8:02 AM on May 10, 2002


Holden: A lot of talent going to waste? I think not. This is clearly a case of "survival of the cleverest." For whatever reason, women have simply been the ones to finish out the four years or more to get their degrees. A male undergraduate, or for that matter any undergraduate, makes a conscious decision to drop out. Whether it's the allure of an obscenely high-paying job (as we saw during the dot com heyday) or a lack of financial aid coming in, it is ultimately the student's choice to quit college. Rather than have a woman subscribe to the incredibly limited role of "mother and nurturer," which they have now thankfully abandoned in droves, it would make a good deal of sense to figure out why males are dropping out as frequently as they are and draft appropriate remedies to encourage them to stick to their guns while simultaneously preserving relatively equal educational opportunities. And that's something that takes research and a solution grounded upon legitimate and proven evidence. Bush's dismantling of Title IX, cast under the aegis of "choice," has not been proven to have direct eduational remedies to the problem at hand.
posted by ed at 8:17 AM on May 10, 2002


I find it hard to believe that this is where the focus of Bush's agenda to improve education should be. There are so many other issues that, for me, seem more pertinent. I guess what I'm saying is that I don't disagree with same sex schools, I just don't care very much.

It is interesting to note that Bush was against letting women attend Yale. He was there during the crossover period.

In general, I'm all for integration, because I believe its more more difficult to unfairly discriminate in an integrated system. At the same time, I could see that by going to a same sex school one might be more interested in being educated and less in... other stuff.
posted by xammerboy at 8:58 AM on May 10, 2002


Actually, ed, women make up 50.9% of the US population. (Source)

On topic, I don't know exactly how I feel about single-sex schools. I think they might be best at the junior high level (ages 12 to 15, approximately), rather than high school.
posted by acridrabbit at 9:19 AM on May 10, 2002


In general, I'm all for integration, because I believe its more more difficult to unfairly discriminate in an integrated system. At the same time, I could see that by going to a same sex school one might be more interested in being educated and less in... other stuff.

i don't know that i agree with the thought that people who go to coed schools will be "preoccupied." i think about the studies that show girls tend to see a dropoff in math scores at the start of adolescence. i think about the people who argue, by way of explanation, that one of the factors is the presence of boys who make these girls swoon. (of course, boys don't see a similar dropoff, so that argument is right out.)

interest in boys or girls is a tough thing to measure. i could use an anecdote. i could say, you know, there was this hot chick in my AP calculus course i took, and i was checking her out. but not for half of the time during the final exam! perhaps people mean infatuation and not attraction. i could see how infatuation might drain some time and thought from you, but i don't really see how infatuation is a big problem for everybody. (has everyone had a crush on someone else in high school that would be so severe your grades suffer?) during all of my crushes in high school, i should point out my grades improved. (which is true in general for me and school. i was and still am quite stoopid, but maybe less so now.)
posted by moz at 9:38 AM on May 10, 2002


true in general that my grades improved over time, i should say.
posted by moz at 9:41 AM on May 10, 2002


acridrabbit: My bad. My brain had it momentarily backwards.
posted by ed at 9:56 AM on May 10, 2002


And we should be concerned about the plight of boys and young men. Females way outnumber males in colleges in this country -- almost 60 percent of bachelor's degrees are awarded to women. This disproportionate number should concern all of us because it implies that a lot of talent and brainpower is going to waste.

while i went to college it tends to bother me when people imply that those who didn't must be wasting their lives away. i have a number of friends who did not go to college and are, in fact, some of the brightest and most productive people i know. i know that for many people college is the best way to advance in life, but just because you didn't go does not mean that you sit around all day doing bong hits letting your talents go to waste.
posted by m@L at 3:05 PM on May 10, 2002


Well I don't think it's the federal's government to determine whether to allow this or not in the first place, here's why it's *not* a good idea on a local level:

First, women and men are fundamentally different in their thought process. Classes I took, such as Theory of Knowledge, would be radically different if the women or men were not there. I wouldn't have been well-prepared for the real world, regardless of whether I got better grades in math because of the single-sex nature of the world.

Second, the real world isn't segregated. In the real world, there are guys and girls working together, writing papers together and going to meetings together. If we want to prepare kids for the real world, they need to learn how to do these things with people of the opposite sex.
posted by Kevs at 7:31 PM on May 10, 2002


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