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Schoolgirls Unite!
February 9, 2005 10:03 AM   Subscribe

Single-Sex Education When WNYC's Leonard Lopate Show decided to discuss (audio) the Summer's gender brouhaha, an interesting thing happened. The guest expected to support gender difference interpretations, Dr. Sax, and the guest expected to discuss structural challenges to women in the sciences, Dr. Bell, agreed on one solution: single-sex education. As the AP noted last summer, single-sex public education is up. Though some object on the basis that separate is never equal, Dr. Sax's organization claims both boys and girls see definite results. And even if you don't agree with Dr. Sax's reasoning, he says the studies are on his side. After all, girls schools have given us awesome ladies like Rosa Parks, Sally Ride, and me.
posted by dame (115 comments total)

 
Malcolm Gladwell made a similar argument in favor of single-sex math classes at a talk last week.

It's an interesting idea, but I'm not crazy about removing social interaction between teenagers of different sexes.
posted by bshort at 10:06 AM on February 9, 2005


Segregation is not an answer.
posted by nofundy at 10:07 AM on February 9, 2005


Those schools that have remained all-women boast a good results. But the reason, from what I have read, is that women are intimidated when in most classes with men, and thus do not perform up to their potential.

Onb the other hand, if one can argue that gender separation gets better results, then why not ethnic and color sepration too? After all, when someone (no matter gender, color, etc) graduates he or she gets dumped into the big bad wicked world where distinctions made to help are no longer available.
posted by Postroad at 10:09 AM on February 9, 2005


If we want to continue the further indoctrination and brainwashing that is our public education system, then yes, same-sex education should be implemented!
posted by Sir Mildred Pierce at 10:12 AM on February 9, 2005


actually the presence of females in school is probably the only thing that even remotely civilizes adolescent males.

So put me down as "against."
posted by jonmc at 10:13 AM on February 9, 2005


I will do my best not to moderate my own thread, but I do have to say that I went to all-girls high school, and I loved it. Somehow, I managed to be friends with plenty of guys before and after, and didn't have any problems adjusting to having men in my classes in college. So that tack is a bit of a canard. Also, I watched a bunch of girls go from being very tentative and shy to very kick-ass, and I can't quite discount that anecdotal evidence.
posted by dame at 10:16 AM on February 9, 2005


I hate to echo myself, but I think the problem lies less in school and more in parenting. People raise their girls to be "nice" and they raise boys to be assertive. By the time you get to school, boys are (surprise) being assertive and girls are (surprise as well) being "nice." And, in college, nine out of ten of the girls I knew who were single-sex educated couldn't so much as speak a sentence around guys, which didn't help them figure out how to get a date, or deal with men in the college/university setting, which is a little late to be learning, IMHO.
posted by Medieval Maven at 10:18 AM on February 9, 2005


Oh, the girls will do fine, dame. It's us boys who will suffer. Without the presence of women, the adolescent male is basically up in the trees flinging crap around.
posted by jonmc at 10:18 AM on February 9, 2005


One more quick thing: Jon, you'll note he claims that all-boys school liberates men to investigate subject matter that is traditionally female; that is, single-sex education liberates both men & women from the pressure of gender roles.
posted by dame at 10:21 AM on February 9, 2005


dame, out of curiosity, which school?

I have a deep and abiding loathing of girls schools, which derives largely from having had to live smack in the center of one (a boarding school) as a 14-year-old (male) faculty brat and being told by the administration that it expected I would try to rape its students. and that it would be watching me.

I don't buy that anyone can isolate themselves into a little elite group without eventually deciding that they and their friends on the inside are better than the schmucks on the outside.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 10:24 AM on February 9, 2005


"Those schools that have remained all-women boast a good results. But the reason, from what I have read, is that women are intimidated when in most classes with men, and thus do not perform up to their potential."

To me this seems like the quintessential argument AGAINST single sex education? How do these women who graduate from all-women education do once they have to work and compete with men? My friend Leslie, a graduate of Smith, said that often her alums also expect a segregated workplace.

How can we build a better civilization if we continue to sub-divide and segregate each other into our little islands by race, by language, then religion, and next politics and finally gender. Is that what we want?

Do we really need more social retards?
posted by tkchrist at 10:25 AM on February 9, 2005


At the very least, we need to deeply examine WHY single sex classrooms provide a better learning experience - perhaps those lessons can be applied to non-gender-segregated schools.
posted by agregoli at 10:28 AM on February 9, 2005


People raise their girls to be "nice" and they raise boys to be assertive.

And some people raise their children to think that people raise girls to be "nice" and raise boys to be assertive. Do you have kids, dame? Try asking them what to think.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:29 AM on February 9, 2005


I once talked to an old professor at Bowdoin College who (in the late 80's) was still lamenting the admission of women starting in the early 70's. He felt that it had made the quality of education there decline-- not because women were inferior students, but because students devoted more energy to dating than they had when it wasn't an option and less to learning. And he was probably right. And it probably applies to all levels of education after puberty.

I would have hated it, and it certainly would have retarded my social development to have no girls at my high school. But if it's voluntary and in a densely-populated area where there's ample opportunity to interact with members of the opposite sex outside of school, it would definitely help concentration.
posted by Mayor Curley at 10:31 AM on February 9, 2005


How can we build a better civilization if we continue to sub-divide and segregate each other into our little islands by race, by language, then religion, and next politics and finally gender. Is that what we want?

Agreed. The only way to prepare people for life in the big scary world is to throw us all together and force us to bump up against difference of all kinds.
posted by jonmc at 10:33 AM on February 9, 2005


actually the presence of females in school is probably the only thing that even remotely civilizes adolescent males.

Oh, the girls will do fine, dame. It's us boys who will suffer. Without the presence of women, the adolescent male is basically up in the trees flinging crap around.


And since men and boys are just more important, it's ok for women/girls to glean less from their (co)education? Is that what you mean to imply, jonmc? This reasoning is glib, Victorian, or glibly Victorian.
posted by scratch at 10:33 AM on February 9, 2005


Public education and gender issues in the same thread. I can already smell the flames coming on.

I agree with Medieval Maven on the upbringing issue: my guess is that if you had been raised in, say, an East Asian culture with traditional parents who strictly enforced gender roles, then it wouldn't make much of a difference whether you went to an integrated or non-integrated school.

Also since there's a very strong self-selection bias for people who enroll in same-gender schools (just like there is for, say, homeschooling or non-traditionally structured schools), anecdotal evidence on this subject is a rather large crapshoot.
posted by DaShiv at 10:33 AM on February 9, 2005


And since men and boys are just more important, it's ok for women/girls to glean less from their (co)education? Is that what you mean to imply, jonmc? This reasoning is glib, Victorian, or glibly Victorian.

When criticizing glibness, one should not be glib.

First of all, it was meant to be a self-deprecating semi-joke, genius. Have your humor gland checked.

Secondly, I don't believe that any underperformance from women is due to co-education as much as it's due to historical factors and parenting based on sexist gender role suppositions. And, IIRC, don't women graduate from college more often than men now, anyway?

Third, as adults we're all ultimately forced to live in a more or less heterogeneous society, anyway. Why not get everyone used to that early on?

And that first sentence is what Freud would call "projecton."
posted by jonmc at 10:40 AM on February 9, 2005


I'm a product of a supposedly exclusive all-girls high school, which I hated. I'm still recovering from having to read a bunch femnazi bullshit and Maya Angelou for English. The math and science departments? Forget about it...awful faculty and facilities..if we were interested in computer science, for example, we had to trek over to our 'brother school.' Just my experience, but it took me several years to break out of the shelter that I developed from being segregated and discouraged from pursuing "male" interests.
posted by ch3ch2oh at 10:44 AM on February 9, 2005


At the very least, we need to deeply examine WHY single sex classrooms provide a better learning experience - perhaps those lessons can be applied to non-gender-segregated schools.

exactly--and train teachers to call on girls as much as boys and vice versa, and to change their own gender biases. Girls do better in schools on the whole i believe, and that's as much due to the structure of schools and what's acceptable behavior within.
posted by amberglow at 10:47 AM on February 9, 2005


ch3ch2oh, that sounds like a very improperly run school - I don't think it's representative of what single-gender schools are supposed to be about - but it's certainly a caution for parents to check out what the school has to offer - or not offer.
posted by agregoli at 10:48 AM on February 9, 2005


I teach in a co-ed high school and this is anecdotal evidence at best, but...

For the sake of full disclosure, I hate the idea of single gender schools. That being said...

When luck of the draw has led me to having an all boy class or an all girl class, that class has advanced farther and faster than a mixed gender class. Indeed, sometimes they advance so much further than the mixed gender classes that when the semester break comes and the kids are suddenly mixed up into different sections, the kids who were once in the single gender class complain that things have slowed down.

What is the difference? Well, it really all comes down to flirting or dating or whatever you want to call it. My observations of my students in my community is that, when they are in mixed gender classes, both genders suffer a huge drop in intelligence. Girls who are otherwise bright and serious turn into giggling hair twirlers. Boys who are otherwise focused and hard-working turn into asinine, dung hurling class clown wanna-bes.

The hormone issue, which I believe is at the heart of this discussion, is irrelevent in a discussion of classrooms of mixed ethnicity.

What is the solution to this without separating genders? Well, strict enforcement of rules of behavior will sometimes superficially take care of the hormone issue - though I suspect that the only way to eliminate it entirely is through some form of intense chemical treatment.

May I propose that one possible way to have our cake and eat it to is for schools to be co-ed (thus allowing for mixed gender socialization in many different situations) with single gender classes.
posted by Joey Michaels at 10:48 AM on February 9, 2005


Sounds excellent to me.
posted by agregoli at 10:50 AM on February 9, 2005


I'm all for Joey Michaels' suggestion. I firmly believe that single gender education has many educational benefits, but the social aspects of segregation are bothersome. A co-ed school with single gender classes is a wonderful solution.
posted by Specklet at 10:53 AM on February 9, 2005


Just wanted to ask: isn't Malcom Gladwell over yet?

I suppose I really don't have a problem with private schools doing whatever they want in this area, but public schools? No. If girls are acutally being bullied and discriminated against/intimidated, then the administration should do something to change the school's culture, not just put everyone in separate systems. I had some great friendships with boys growing up. I would hate to have missed out on that.

I sometimes wonder if same-sex school advocates aren't just uncomfortable with the idea that kids are going to think about s-e-x by the time they're in jr. high, and think that keeping the genders separate might somehow put a lid on those dangerous libidos. It won't.

Also: the "studies" linked to all come from Sax's site. Not exactly an unbiased source, consider the book he's hawking is *Why Gender Matters*.


quote: "After all, girls schools have given us awesome ladies like Rosa Parks, Sally Ride, and me."

So none of you would be awesome otherwise?
posted by emjaybee at 10:58 AM on February 9, 2005


The only way to prepare people for life in the big scary world is to throw us all together and force us to bump up against difference of all kinds.

One reason I love cities like New York. You get all that stinky friction forced to get along in a confined space. And damn it, it works.

At the very least, we need to deeply examine WHY single sex classrooms provide a better learning experience - perhaps those lessons can be applied to non-gender-segregated schools.

Think about the idealistic self-selection of not only the parents who send their kids there but of type educator who wants to work there? If we simply gender segregated public schools with the current students and staff... I bet the change would not be so dramatic. Most of the gender-segregated schools are fairly elite to start with.

And isn't it offensive to you gals, this constant cry "we got to protect the wimin folk" -- the poor frail darlings. Even for the best of intentions. I know that shit pisses my wife off to no end.
posted by tkchrist at 10:59 AM on February 9, 2005


It seems that there is a bit of a paradox in the single-sex education debate - women seem to benefit more from it than do men. An all-boys school is going to have a much different culture than an all-girls one... though I must admit my only concepts of the former are from A Separate Peace and Dead Poets Society, etc. I had several friends in college who had graduated from the same all-girls high school, and to me it sounded like an excellent educational experience. The school (The Hockaday School in Dallas) was founded by a very progressive woman who believed that women could do anything that men could, and her school had a very firm foundation in math and the sciences. The girls I knew who had gone there were all very confident and intelligent and had no problems around men.

On another (perhaps stereotypical) note, from my friends' stories, it seemed that there was plenty of "flirting" and "dating" going on in the bathrooms (if not the classrooms) there. HOT.
posted by salad spork at 11:01 AM on February 9, 2005


Without the presence of women, the adolescent male is basically up in the trees flinging crap around.

My high school was all-boys for my freshman year and then went co-ed my sophomore year. I would say there was a significantly lower amount of tree-swinging and crap-flinging when it was all boys, mostly because there weren't any girls there to "impress" with such behavior.

Also, about 10 of us guys took a class that freshman year that required us to head over to the girls' school that we eventually merged with. It was interesting to see guys who were normally reserved and intelligent in other classes act like morons in the presence of real, living, breathing girls. Heck, I was one of the morons.

I'm not sure where I fall on the same-sex school argument... I had positive and negative experiences in both environments.

on Preview: or, what Joey Michaels pointed out
posted by turaho at 11:02 AM on February 9, 2005


May I propose that one possible way to have our cake and eat it to is for schools to be co-ed (thus allowing for mixed gender socialization in many different situations) with single gender classes

Well. There you go.
posted by tkchrist at 11:02 AM on February 9, 2005


Wow, so far every commenter has assumed that every student is heterosexual. Sure single sex education might keep the straight kids from flirting, but ultimately I think it would hurt the kids who aren't so sure of their gender roles. I think it's ultimately unnatural that the modern world tries to take sexually mature people (teenagers) from engaging in any sexual behavior (in this case, flirting/socializing) whatsoever .

The only single gender class I had was sex-ed and I went right up to my teacher after the first class and came out as queer (she was my field hockey coach and I trusted her, which turned out to be a very good thing). I told her I might not participate as much as she expected of the rest of the class. As progressive as my school was in that department, the best sex ed discussions I had were co-ed over lunch at the geek table. I felt really odd and out of place whenever I found myself in an all female situation, even being a feminist and a femme.

Please, think of the geeks, queers, and freaks!
posted by GlitterBum at 11:09 AM on February 9, 2005


Great post, dame.

I don't think a significant number of boys would become social derelicts simply because of a single-sex education. I also think socialization is a task for the parents. If anyone comes out of a single-sex education as a "social retard" I would think this a matter to take up with parenting and not education.

I think the fear that women might be unprepared to deal with men in the "real world" is more of a sexist attitude than the idea of single-sex education. The idea is to give as many participants the scholarly tools necessary to become productive citizens. I think if they have studies that show it to be highly beneficial to this cause then maybe we can put aside any PC stigmas and consider the proposition on its merits.
posted by effwerd at 11:11 AM on February 9, 2005


It was interesting to see guys who were normally reserved and intelligent in other classes act like morons in the presence of real, living, breathing girls. Heck, I was one of the morons.

Because you weren't used to their presence.

Please, think of the geeks, queers, and freaks!

Well, as a non-queer freakish geek, I agree that it's best to throw us all in the box together so we can learn to appreciate (or at the very least get used to) the presence of difference of all kinds.
posted by jonmc at 11:13 AM on February 9, 2005


dame, I think that there is another connection between the Summers flap and single sex education. It is pointed out in the AAUW position paper you link to.

The proposed regulations [regarding single sex education] divert attention away from more serious education problems.

Summers, Pinker, and others want to focus on fairly minor differences in neurobiology instead of the more obvious obstacles that are staring them in the face. Bush, Sax, and others want to reinstitute pre-Brown vs. Board of Education notions of fairness to improve education, when there are far more obvious obstacles to student achievement.

On preview: but joey, that's anecdotal evidence, and the science shows that the higher achievemnt of students in same sex schools disappears when you control for other factors (class size, family incomes, etc.) .

On preview2: what glitterbum said.
posted by Cassford at 11:14 AM on February 9, 2005


Third, as adults we're all ultimately forced to live in a more or less heterogeneous society, anyway. Why not get everyone used to that early on?

Well then, why do we have single age classrooms? After all, what are the odds that you are ever going to be working in an office with only people your own age? Let's just go back to the one room school, and the innate hierarchy that comes with it: older kids are expected to set an example for and help mentor younger students.

Back to the actual topic, I think that the "gender gap" in education, where it exists, is usually* the result of the fact that for a couple thousand years, it was only considered practical or desirable to give a classroom education to boys. The methods that developed and which were considered optimal were developed and tested on boys. No grand conspiracy here, just the fact that the test population artificially excluded half the population.

*Sure, there are dicks out there who honestly think a Y chromosome is necessary for certain educational and professional paths. I'm not talking about them. I'm talking about why an ordinary and maybe female teacher might find differences in performance between boys and girls.
posted by ilsa at 11:15 AM on February 9, 2005


May I propose that one possible way to have our cake and eat it to is for schools to be co-ed (thus allowing for mixed gender socialization in many different situations) with single gender classes.

I'd even be interested in seeing single-gender "academics" (math, science, English, history) while electives (i.e., the arts, both visual and literary, and special topics) remain co-ed. This only during junior high and high school, of course. It'd allow for (what I believe to be important) male-female interaction while also having the bonus of only requiring one section to be taught of electives where the combined male-female enrollment is only one classful.

Of course, my gut reaction is what agregoli and tkchrist said. Specifically: if men and women perform poorly in classes together (especially if women perform poorly because they are "intimidated" by the presence of men), the most important step seems to be addressing the roots of the problems ("intimidation," for one) — going single-gender just seems like a cop-out that will just push the problem past schools and into adult life and the workplace.

I think it would hurt the kids who aren't so sure of their gender roles.

What gender roles?
posted by rafter at 11:17 AM on February 9, 2005


Single sex education: Because high school didn't suck enough!
posted by borkingchikapa at 11:35 AM on February 9, 2005


Well then, why do we have single age classrooms? After all, what are the odds that you are ever going to be working in an office with only people your own age? Let's just go back to the one room school, and the innate hierarchy that comes with it: older kids are expected to set an example for and help mentor younger students.

Heh. I'm all for mixing ages.

There is enough room and need in public education to consider single-sex education. rafter's suggestion might be a viable start in both logistics and mustering public support.

I think the idea of addressing the root causes of any disparity in coed schools is a great idea. But there isn't anything preventing that now. This idea of single-sex education evidently needs some venting.
posted by effwerd at 11:37 AM on February 9, 2005


weapons-grade: I didn't say that, so I don't know why you're asking me.

emjaybee: I don't think the studies themselves are biased, even if they come from a biased place. However, my demented google skills prevented me from finding a good anti roundup, so please feel free to post a link to one.

Third, as adults we're all ultimately forced to live in a more or less heterogeneous society, anyway. Why not get everyone used to that early on?

I dunno, an argument could be made that it's like learning to scuba in a pool. You get your head on straight, you fill your pack with skills, and then you go out and tackle the world. But really, I don't know that I think absolutely everyone should go to single-gender schools. I did, and I liked it. Were I to have a child, I would very seriously consider sending it to single-gender schools for sixth through twelfth grades. It's possible I would be totally rad if I had gone to co-ed high school or to school in a cave, but I can't really say for sure since I didn't. It's possible that the benefits I got from my school had more to do with it being small and private.

I sometimes wonder if same-sex school advocates aren't just uncomfortable with the idea that kids are going to think about s-e-x by the time they're in jr. high, and think that keeping the genders separate might somehow put a lid on those dangerous libidos. It won't.

That may be it sometimes, but I very much enjoyed the freedom of just not thinking about boys all day long. I had guy friends from our brother school, with whom I hung out on weekends. Yet being able to go to school without feeling the need to show off and look pretty was rather liberating. I would like other girls and boys to get that liberation if they want it. So it isn't about putting a lid on libido for fear, but on shrinking the time spent on libido, because after all, there's plenty of time for sex later. Not because sex is bad, mind you, but because it isn't going anywhere and attention is limited.

On preview: God, this is long, but I wanted to at least address some stuff from the perspective of being there. Trying to shut up now.
posted by dame at 11:39 AM on February 9, 2005


They're talking about it not from a perspective of "boys assertive girls not," though, but about learning style differences.

I saw a story a few weeks ago about separating boys and girls, and the boys got more hands-on activities and were able to get out of their seats more, while the girls were called on by name and praised/complimented a lot, because "that's how boys and girls learn differently."

My ass. I fell completely into the "boy" classification in spite of being a girl. I would have been left completely behind in the girly environment they talk about. Almost my friends have always been male, I don't get along well with the vast majority of women. To me, this would have been absolute hell, not from a romantic/relationship perspective but a simple fitting-in one. The only way I ever found to fit in when I was in high school was with a clique of geeky boys.
posted by u.n. owen at 11:40 AM on February 9, 2005


Think about the idealistic self-selection of not only the parents who send their kids there but of type educator who wants to work there? If we simply gender segregated public schools with the current students and staff... I bet the change would not be so dramatic. Most of the gender-segregated schools are fairly elite to start with.

This strikes me as too much of a generalization - you'd have to know the motives of the majority of people who send their children to single-sex schools.

And isn't it offensive to you gals, this constant cry "we got to protect the wimin folk" -- the poor frail darlings. Even for the best of intentions. I know that shit pisses my wife off to no end.

If that was their reason, then yes, it's offensive. I don't think that's most people's reason.
posted by agregoli at 11:44 AM on February 9, 2005


I went through 13 years of coed public education, and for my college chose a single-sex institution. I would like to point out that I chose this school on my own, and that, far from pushing me into this, my parents were quite concerned that I would miss out by not attending a college that men also attended. I didn't.

I enjoyed the experience of being around and getting to know so many women, without the distraction in the classroom. Of course, there were three coed schools in the same town, and one all-guy's school 45 minutes away, so those who were interested never lacked for male companionship. Also, we could take classes at any of those schools, and their students of any sex could take classes on our campus.

The science and mathematics departments operated on the belief that women could do just as well as men in these fields, which would seem to be supported by how well those who majored in those fields have done since they graduated (a number of these women have received full funding through the PhD level in the area of their choosing). Even for those of us who weren't interested in pursuing these disciplines further, achieving a certain level of proficiency in math and science was necessary for graduation.

I found the single-sex educational model to be one that worked for me, but I wouldn't recommed it for everyone or say that it should be a standard. I saw a lot of students at my college transfer because they couldn't deal with an environment that was composed primarily of women. For me, being at a woman's college provided me with an undergrad experience so rich and rewarding that I can't imagine that a coed school could have compared. I don't know about sending children to single-sex schools before they are old enough to decide for themselves; I have no experience with that. I enjoy coed schools well enough and have always felt equally comfortable with people of all sexes, so maybe for me single-sex vs coed education will always be a question of the merits of program/location/etc. than of female to male ratio.
posted by LiliaNic at 11:54 AM on February 9, 2005


I would have loved to go to an all girls school. But then again, I'm a guy. And I would have hated going to an all-boys school. Bleh.

Look, the reason girls are 'intimidated' by boys in math classes is that they've been acculturated to be dimmure. We need to remove these inhibitions. Teach girls to be loud and assertive, just like the guys. (and at the same time, get the guys to calm down). Really the solution could be as simple as having the teacher make sure to call on as many girls as boys.

These girls might get better scores in math, but if their sheltered from men their entire k-12 career, they're not going to know how to deal with guys properly in the real world.
posted by delmoi at 11:57 AM on February 9, 2005


also, an all boys school would be horrible for frail, sensitive guys.
posted by delmoi at 11:57 AM on February 9, 2005


dimmure

shy and stupid?
posted by liam at 12:01 PM on February 9, 2005


This "cause" is just another example of junk social engineering trying to pass itaself off as junk social science (which is trying to get accepted as a junk science). What it means is that white bourgeois NOW members are frustrated by Society's continuing preference for Britneys and Ashlees, including especially all the "I'm not a feminist" grrls who want to be Britney or Ashlee, and want to resort to more direct means of indoctrination.

My sans-statistics hunch is that for their students "women-only" colleges are for girls who fear boys, as "men-only" sports clubs are for boys who fear girls. Hey, I gotta tellya, y'all don't *have* to be heterosexual if you really don't wanna.

On preview, I agree with delmoi's point: an all boys school WOULD be horrible for frail, sensitive guys. Even if the student body is nothing but frail, sensitive guys.
posted by davy at 12:06 PM on February 9, 2005


Single-sex schooling did give us cinematic classics such as this, on the other hand...
posted by jonmc at 12:07 PM on February 9, 2005


Really the solution could be as simple as having the teacher make sure to call on as many girls as boys.


That's part of it - I believe another strong component (as mentioned above) is making sure the curiculum is being taught in a way easily accesible to both girls and boys.
posted by agregoli at 12:14 PM on February 9, 2005


My sans-statistics hunch is that for their students "women-only" colleges are for girls who fear boys, as "men-only" sports clubs are for boys who fear girls.

Bullshit.

Sorry I can't be more eloquent, but that's just a rediculous statement.
posted by Specklet at 12:20 PM on February 9, 2005


And isn't it offensive to you gals, this constant cry "we got to protect the wimin folk" -- the poor frail darlings. Even for the best of intentions. I know that shit pisses my wife off to no end.

It's not about protecting them. Its about educating them. So no one is (or should be) crying this. It's about maximizing results. The various education systems do not operate unbound from capitalism. To put it bluntly, they have a product they are mandated to produce with what little funds we scrape together for them. As with any flailing business they have to figure out some basic things. How do they maximize productivity? How do they attract capital? What can they do to focus their product line? The point is, this is a pragmatic matter only rife with social engineering implications to people who would rather argue over principles than actually solve and accomplish anything.

I don't think anyone here can raise above the level of slippery slope fallacy any assertion that this will lead to some segregation-permissive society populated by social retards who can't interact with the opposite sex.
posted by effwerd at 12:25 PM on February 9, 2005


Jonmc is completely, totally, and explosively correct.
posted by Freen at 12:30 PM on February 9, 2005


About the Phoebe Cates nudie flick? That goes without saying, man.
posted by jonmc at 12:32 PM on February 9, 2005


It's another variation of "sex debate" ....the hope is to divert attention to the fact that people need to learn how to socialize (and that's done by...d'oh..socializing, spending time with others...not necessarily by debating and arguing, but by simply being with others) and to focus attention on sexuality as YET another difference that can be used to further scare people into NOT knowing each other.

The very reality is under our eyes ; boys and girls, women and men live on the sample planet, in the same city, in the same apartment or house and sometimes in the same bed...so for what stupid reason should we -separate- them for many years of their youth ? They're supposed to, willy nilly, live togheter or in close proximity for the rest of their life...so why keep them separated while young ? The sooner they get to know each other the better, so that by dint of staying togheter minimal differences show themselves are they are really, minimal and most of the times not relevant.

Anybody with half a clue around the age of 30 can remember how our parents were educated (by deriving their education by their behavior when we were kids) and how a number of them that were either exposed to absolutely stricts segregation of sexes (real woman do that, real men do that, gay people is sick and against nature...with its religious propaganda piggybacking on sexuality with scare tactiques) .

Other remember how a (relatively minor) another number of the was exposed to the opposite extremization... sexual promiscuity for rebellion shake, aka "i'll fuck anybody and many to make a point that I have sexual freedom" with mixed results....either parents who preached sexual freedom without living it, or parents who lived it in a emotional mess or a few "successful" ones who got the message right : there is nothing ineherently WRONG or RIGHT with sexuality..it's part of human nature.

Guess that more then sexual education we could use sexual information and emotional education..that is to say for example, learn to respect other people sentiments as much as you want yours to be respected...and also remember that if you don't use condom you're much more likely to get a disease or to end up with a pregnancy.

And no there is nothing wrong with sex...get over religious platitudes before we turn west into another crypto theocracy like its happening in USA.
posted by elpapacito at 12:34 PM on February 9, 2005


...just another all-girls school graduate saying amen to dame. I'll never know for sure, but I strongly believe that had I not been given the opportunity to experience single-sex education, I wouldn't have become the person I am today.

She gets it right on so many levels, especially the idea that the school isn't meant to be representative of "the real world," but a safe place to hone your skills/build your toolset/gain self-confidence before you dive in. I think single-sex education can, and does, do that for guys as well. (Just ask my boyfriend.) Props to the girls who say they would have set the world on fire anyway, but that doesn't mean the harder-won path is necessarily better, or "more authentic," because they had to suffer the knocks of a coed high school.

At this point, I definitely think there is an argument to be made that single-sex schools can more easily provide a positive, nurturing and supportive learning environment. Obviously we can argue about how bad experiences can be "character-building," or how schools that reflect the "gritty reality of the streets" or whatever give you a better grounding in "the real world," but... shouldn't we aim a little higher? Isn't that what education is all about? Isn't being a teenager shitty enough? I guess that makes me some kind of drippy liberal naif, but, what the heck.

And u.n. owen, I was (am) that girl with the geeky guy friends, too. So were most of my friends from high school; you probably would have fit in better than you think. I do agree with your ooky assessment of "girl" and "boy" teaching styles--that kind of crap never would have flown with my nuns. It was all about beating the boys at their own game ; )
posted by leslita at 12:37 PM on February 9, 2005


but... shouldn't we aim a little higher?

No. The damage done by foisting utopian ideals upon an imperfect, flawed world is incalculable.
posted by jonmc at 12:39 PM on February 9, 2005


Also, what effwerd said:

It's not about protecting them. Its about educating them.

I don't think anyone here can raise above the level of slippery slope fallacy any assertion that this will lead to some segregation-permissive society populated by social retards who can't interact with the opposite sex.

Amen.
posted by leslita at 12:42 PM on February 9, 2005


elpapacito

The very reality is under our eyes ; boys and girls, women and men live on the sample planet, in the same city, in the same apartment or house and sometimes in the same bed...so for what stupid reason should we -separate- them for many years of their youth ?

You are assuming they will be absent all contact from opposite sex peers because of school. This is false.
posted by effwerd at 12:43 PM on February 9, 2005


jonmc, I'm sorry you're so cynical. I think we're going to have to chalk this one up to a worldview conflict.
posted by leslita at 12:44 PM on February 9, 2005


Why is aiming high for educational standards a bad thing, jonmc?
posted by agregoli at 12:45 PM on February 9, 2005


I went to UMass and, as part of the five-college consortium, I was able to take some great courses at Smith, a women's college.

I found the women in my classes there no more or less outgoing than women in similarly-sized UMass classes. I did find them very parochial in their views on the world. This could have been because of their single-sex environment or their tendency to be from families of wealth or my chose courses (seminars in philosophy) or just the luck of the draw.

More useless anecdotal information to add to the mix.
posted by Cassford at 12:46 PM on February 9, 2005


What ever happened to the idea of catering to the educational needs of each individual student, employing a variety of teaching styles, guiding classroom discussion to prevent subtle sexism or racism, and using a vibrant, interesting, curriculum?

Oh, right, that's *hard*.
posted by kyrademon at 12:49 PM on February 9, 2005


Why is aiming high for educational standards a bad thing, jonmc?


It isn't and I din't say it was.

Obviously we can argue about how bad experiences can be "character-building," or how schools that reflect the "gritty reality of the streets" or whatever give you a better grounding in "the real world," but... shouldn't we aim a little higher is what leslita said.

And I believe that the job of educators is (at least somewhat) to prepare students for life as adults in the world, so, no we shouldn't aim higher. I'm a pragmatist, not an idealist. Utopians are always flummoxed when the reality of the world dosen't met their expectations for it, and they generally react badly.
posted by jonmc at 12:49 PM on February 9, 2005


Also, what bearing does this (that we live coed so school should be coed) have on the studies' findings that there is demonstrable benefits from same-sex education? The advocates appear to have some semblance of verifiable evidence. I would think this makes it a reasonable proposition and not a "stupid reason."
posted by effwerd at 12:51 PM on February 9, 2005


Obviously we can argue about how bad experiences can be "character-building," or how schools that reflect the "gritty reality of the streets" or whatever give you a better grounding in "the real world," but... shouldn't we aim a little higher? Isn't that what education is all about?

You were responding to the above, weren't you? Seemed to me you were advocating not trying harder in regards to a better learning environment, which seemed odd to me. Sorry if that's wrong - I just didn't understand the "
No. The damage done by foisting utopian ideals upon an imperfect, flawed world is incalculable." Preparing students for life in the world SHOULD include the best education possible, in my opinion. If we can learn things from same-sex education and apply it, I think it's a great thing.
posted by agregoli at 12:55 PM on February 9, 2005


(I guess what I'm seeing it is that it's like saying, "The world is tough and puts women at a disadvantage - why should high school be any different?" That's just so defeatist.
posted by agregoli at 12:56 PM on February 9, 2005


So at what age is it appropriate to tell your student they'll never be good enough to [fill in the blank], and that they should just take whatever crap job they can get to pay the bills? 14? 17?

Like I said, I guess it's a worldview issue--what are teachers for, what is education for, etc., and I'm willing to leave it there. But I have to say that to me you sound less like a pragmatist and more like an idealist who's been burned--the "flummoxed utopian," in your own construction. Otherwise, why would you be concerned about protecting people from the fallout of their own dreams?

I'm with you on not wanting to be surrounded by a civilization of Don Quixotes. I just don't think a pre-emptive smackdown at age 16 is what's called for here.
posted by leslita at 12:58 PM on February 9, 2005


Which school should the transgendered students attend?

There is a public school in Manhattan that separates the sexes for math classes. As the parent of a preschool girl, I have to say there is no denying that there are differences between how boys and girls behave together and in segregated groups -- this is long before sexual interest rears its head. Whether these behaviors are taught or innate is rather beside the point. Boys interrupt more, are more boisterous and attention-getting. Girls behave that way among themselves (some of them) but can be rather quiet in mixed groups. Except my kid, who is a holy terror, but that's another story.
posted by Slagman at 12:59 PM on February 9, 2005


I guess what I'm seeing it is that it's like saying, "The world is tough and puts women at a disadvantage - why should high school be any different?"

Nah. It was more a general statement that good education and preparation for life shouldn't be based on utopianism but on realizing that the world is an innately, irreprably fucked up place. And part of that means bumping up against all kinds of people from day 1. I'm not in favor of separatism of any kind.

So at what age is it appropriate to tell your student they'll never be good enough to [fill in the blank], and that they should just take whatever crap job they can get to pay the bills? 14? 17?

Around 12 is when I would've appreciated it. I would've stopped pipedreaming about chimeras like "fulfillment," and "excellence."and gone to electricians school or learned accounting or something. Pumping kids up to expect the world is just asking for trouble.
posted by jonmc at 1:02 PM on February 9, 2005


If it turns out that kids learn better when separated for academics, then how on earth would wanting to implement that be utopian? I guess I don't get it, but perhaps we're arguing different tacks - I'm not even talking about the sexism aspects of regular school keeping kids behind where they could be - I'm talking about the practical educational benefits.

It's possible to be realistic about individual students capacity without damaging their idea of what they could be capable of - I, as well, find that a terribly defeatist worldview.
posted by agregoli at 1:08 PM on February 9, 2005


Just a wee note: I had taught for a number of years at an all-girls college. Guys from a near-bye university (mixed) could take classes at the formerly private college, but few choose to. I must say that the years there with all those lady students was about the nicest time of my life.
posted by Postroad at 1:14 PM on February 9, 2005


I think, as other people have already said in various ways, that gender roles would remain a problem. Not only because classes might focus on things that were considered more feminine or masculine, or they might be taught in a more feminine or masculine way, or there might be all kinds of changes that could be made because people would inflict bizarre stereotypes on a group of children being forced to attend by law.

Consider a male only school run by people who think that male students need rigid discipline and a schedule heavy in physical fitness, or a female only school with similar problems. I'm not saying it's what occurred in that study. I do think it would be silly to say that that would never happen.

Look at this quote:
Girls and boys differ fundamentally in the learning style they feel most comfortable with. Girls tend to look on the teacher as an ally. Given a little encouragement, they will welcome the teacher's help. A girl-friendly classroom is a safe, comfortable, welcoming place. Forget hard plastic chairs: put in a sofa and some comfortable bean bags. Let the girls address their teacher by her (or his) first name. The teacher should never yell or shout at a girl.

I'd prefer that class atmosphere over one with hard plastic chairs, and an enemy teacher that yells at me, and I'm a guy. It really seems like they're saying "girls process information at position (a,b,c) in the brain, while boys process at (h,i,j), therefore, make girls' classes more comfortable and inviting" (and to be totally frank, traditionally feminine, even if they are teaching subjects like Math and Science). I do not understand how they are drawing that line at all. It looks like unrelated scientific jargon used to justify a system that would reward fitting into an even more narrow scope of "normal," and more harshly punish those that do not, than an ordinary school does.

I look at this the same way I look at arguments for raising the driving age. Inexperience is inexperience at 16 and at 18. Now, instead of letting them get over being dung throwers and hair twirlers in high school < betrayal of liberal idealism>where it really doesn't matter< /b.o.l.i.> they get to do it in college, or in their jobs, or in other places where they don't have the adult supervision that stops them from doing anything too dangerously stupid.
posted by SomeOneElse at 1:19 PM on February 9, 2005


It looks like unrelated scientific jargon used to justify a system that would reward fitting into an even more narrow scope of "normal," and more harshly punish those that do not, than an ordinary school does.


I agree that this could be a problem - one thing that makes me hopeful is that new schools that are created to address the problem of better education by segregating sexes are tuned into what works and what doesn't - I'd like to hope their minds are more open to what is "normal."

As far as It really seems like they're saying "girls process information at position (a,b,c) in the brain, while boys process at (h,i,j), therefore, make girls' classes more comfortable and inviting"

The conclusion you are stating is rather rude and I agree that classes should be comfortable and inviting for both sexes - but from the research I've read, it IS true that boys and girls process information in different ways with different brains - so it makes sense to look at those differences in learning styles and make some adjustments.
posted by agregoli at 1:24 PM on February 9, 2005


Around 12 is when I would've appreciated it.

Yowch! That makes me really, sincerely sad.

agregoli, I think I know what you mean. Taking the touchy-feely, intangible goals of education out of the conversation, it makes practical business and societal sense to want schools to turn out the best educated graduates. That's the basic M.O. of school, right*? So in that light, wanting to study, quantify and implement methods that enhance a student's educational progress is really kind of a "best practices" thing for the education industry. If single-sex schools--or any school, for that matter--is determined to do something that works, it should be implemented.

*I think this is where we got off track, because if you don't believe this premise--if you think school is primarily a "Get Ready for the Disappointments of Adulthood 101"--the rest of the conversation falls apart. I mentioned that I felt my school's positive, nurturing environment helped my education, and I'm willing to bet that most students would respond the same way. But, again, if school is about grooming yourself for "reality," then my school would fail in that respect.

SomeOneElse, in my experience, I just can't see an all-girls school getting bogged down in "girliness." But more than that, I'm kind of miffed that you seem to suggest women who experience single-sex education are somehow lacking in the social skills department when it comes to interacting with men. (Is that what you meant by "inexperience" at 16 versus 18?) Like we go into adulthood with all of these crazy outdated ideas of men, who we've only seen in textbooks, and then run around town with more unleashed sexual freedom than our crazy little heads can manage? That we don't experience being 16 when we're 16, and have to bottle it all up til we break out of the pretty, pretty prison?

Ahem.

(Please correct me if I was off-base in my reading of your post.)
posted by leslita at 1:41 PM on February 9, 2005


jonmc

good education and preparation for life shouldn't be based on utopianism but on realizing that the world is an innately, irreprably fucked up place. And part of that means bumping up against all kinds of people from day 1. I'm not in favor of separatism of any kind.

Isn't this a utopian ideal? To be against separatism no matter the circumstances? I think single-sex education is a pragmatic proposition and not an idealistic one. The world doesn't easily conform to our sensibilities.
posted by effwerd at 1:43 PM on February 9, 2005


Yes it's rude, but I don't think it's just my conclusion. I think their conclusion is pretty rude. The science they are stating is just talking about positions in the brain, theories about what those positions are for, then stating how the classes should be. That quote is from the article, I didn't make it up. All I'm saying is that quote there looks like exactly like traditional feminine gender roles to me. I changed welcoming to inviting but other than that I lifted exact words. (I think the Pope used welcoming as an example of a feminine virtue recently too). And I may have just implied that boys would be the reverse side of the coin which is not explicitly stated, but they are stating trends in those classes that they want to change from the traditional, so it seems like the normal classes would not emphasize those traits.

Also, since in the one example they have of a school that gender segregated but did not receive any other changes, the girls' test scores remained pretty much the same while the boys' went up, I don't see that they're accomplishing much of anything for the girls other than making those classes more comfortable for people who better fit into stereotypical gender roles.

And this:
Boys' schools have a natural advantage, because they can tailor their curriculum to topics that interest boys,

That's from the advantages-for-boys page in there, which manages to say that you could tailor the curriculum to topics that interest boys, and leave them free to do things that don't traditionally interest boys at the same time, which seems a little strange to me.
posted by SomeOneElse at 1:43 PM on February 9, 2005


Yowch! That makes me really, sincerely sad.

I dunno. There's something to be said for realism. When I used to work as a clerk in a bookstore we'd always have parents coming in asking about kid's books. When we'd try to zero in on choices by asking "well, what's he into?" they'd invariably answer, "Well, he's very bright..."

Just once I would've loved to hear "My kids a fuckin' stupe, just get me a book with soft pages so he dosen't hurt himself."

Besides, once you're written off by educators, you're free of expectations and that's a beautiful thing. And deifing intelligence is not much better than deifying attractiveness, or athletic ability as the ultimate human trait, but it's understandable because people tend to value the traits they have in abundance, thus pretty people value looks, athletes value strength and grace and smart people value smarts.
posted by jonmc at 1:48 PM on February 9, 2005


I think that people go through that stage. Men too. I said dung-throwers in reference to the earlier comment about how adolescent males act around females at that age. I do think there would be an adjustment to be made, not in the I-never-seen-a-girl/boy-before sense, but in working in a coed environment all day sense. And I do think you might lessen the impact of that behavioral stage by extending it and putting it off, but I don't think it's worth it.

And my one experience with gender segregated education was when all the girls were taught that sex is bad and they should abstain, then the boys were taught to try to use a condom if you can get past the mindjob we just did on the girls. And I hated it. I hate the psychotic way they made the girls think, and more personally I hated the way they didn't even try to dispel this cultural assumption that men are completely devoid of self control, or that there's something good about a girl waiting for marriage, and there's something bad about a guy doing the exact same thing. And that has made me totally biased to this entire argument so you should probably just ignore my comments. If the science really backs it up, and not just for the standard person who fits the mold, but for everybody, then I don't have a problem with it. But I think it just gives some people more of what they want and others more of what they hate.
posted by SomeOneElse at 1:55 PM on February 9, 2005


effwerd:You are assuming they will be absent all contact from opposite sex peers because of school. This is false.

I think you're erroneously inferring that I'm assuming that reduced contact in school young age will necessarily lead to
reduced contact in adult age, but you stop by stating that my alleged implication is false. I'm not implying that and I
don't know how could you infer that from my statement which is "it is stupid to separate sexes who are very likely to spend some time togheter in life, absent artificial needs of separation" ..as for your statement that absence of contact in school will lead to absence of contact in future, you say it's a false statement...I'll say I don't know if it's either true or false because the word "contact" doesn't convey the complexity of relations between human beings, relations which can start at a young age in school and later progress from relatively simple relations to more mature ones..in a progression that needs (imho) no artificial interruption.

on preview , postroad: I guess that you were the only male or one of the few males that they had routinely access too..therefore all their curiosity for you. That's gratifying and that's normal, I would expect less natural attention (in absolute quantity) from student of the same sex
posted by elpapacito at 1:55 PM on February 9, 2005


dame: One more quick thing: Jon, you'll note he claims that all-boys school liberates men to investigate subject matter that is traditionally female; that is, single-sex education liberates both men & women from the pressure of gender roles.

You know. I'd like to believe that this would be the case if single-sex education was implemented widely. But in contrast, I think we really need to look at existing single-sex extracurricular programs that are in wide adoption, and the history of single-sex education in general. My experience within the Boy Scouts of America is that its all about traditional gender roles. Even things like cooking are framed within a very masculine para-military survivalist context.

My feeling when I read articles about single-sex education is that they are primarily talking about environments with a fairly strong feminist or pro-feminist context. My fear is that single-sex learning environments won't remain progressive and liberatory for long after adoption, once school boards, standards and budget issues get involved. Even now, it seems that some advocates like Michael Gurian have a very deep investment in structuring schools to reinforce traditional gender roles.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:57 PM on February 9, 2005


Agregoli: I'm talking about the practical educational benefits.

They are highly suspect. Anecdotal information: plenty. Actual scientific studies of kids K-12? Weak and inconclusive. Mostly it looks at kids in private schools and the benefits go away when balance for the fact that private schools serve kids from higher average income families, admit children with emotional and psychological "issues,"impediments, and provide smaller classroom setings.

One of the few major studies of single-sex public schools Single Gender Public Schooling As a New Form of School Choice concluded that California's three year experiment in single-gender schooling was a complete mess and actually threatened gender equity.

Again, smaller class sizes would have a more benfit than gender segrragation would. Why are we talking about something that would provide a benefit that is not clear and is challenged by the data when the benefit of smaller class size is clear and unequivocal?
posted by Cassford at 1:59 PM on February 9, 2005


agregoli, this is kind of a late reply to your comment, but I'll throw it in anyway. I attended this "progressive" school but I encountered more politics, conservatism, and dissuasion there than in my public co-ed experience, where I learned to be aggressive on my own. It seemed very frowned upon once I entered the all-girls domain. Call it a personality conflict...I know some of my friends believe they have benefitted greatly from single sex education. Every child learns differently, and for some perhaps segregation of this sort might be a good thing. It's just not "the real world."
posted by ch3ch2oh at 1:59 PM on February 9, 2005


No child should be "written off" by educators. It happens, but that's not what we're talking about - we're talking abuot how to create the exact opposite. People who get nothing out of their school system are nothing to celebrate, jonmc.
posted by agregoli at 2:02 PM on February 9, 2005


I think the fear that women might be unprepared to deal with men in the "real world" is more of a sexist attitude than the idea of single-sex education.

I knew somebody would go there. Yeah. It's sexism. [rolls eyes]

Not directly related but stay with me. I used to teach a women's self-defense course. Commonly the introductory courses were taught by a female instructor and were all female. This intro was mostly to get women (some assault survivors) comfortable in the group and familiar with the proper posture, conditioning, and basic physical techniques. Then in the next phase we introduced the "bee suit" (me) and scenarios with men acting as aggressors.

Previously the entire series had been tried in a female environment. When the previously all female groups - some even LEO - went on to the advanced series with men, they essentially had to start over and the drop out rate was much higher than the group integrated from the start.

The experience of STARTING as soon as possible with men was a better simulation of the actual exercise - for obvious reasons.
posted by tkchrist at 2:04 PM on February 9, 2005


jonmc, I totally (totally) understand getting to the point where you see what a sham education is, reject it, kick it, shake your fist at it, and all that. And you're so right--it is immensely freeing to liberate yourself from all of the judgement and faux-meritocracy of it. Eventually, some (or at least the people worth hanging out with) decide they just can't be the monkey in the cage anymore and they're breaking the fuck out. And typically it's the people like me--and like you, it appears--who once invested a whole lot of energy and enthusiasm in it.

But--and I think this is where we differ--I don't think we should deprive kids of experiencing that let-down, and the ensuing head check, themselves. It's one thing to be the wise aunt or uncle who says, "Hey, Chip, let me tell you how it really is"...but to inject that into the educational process itself? Yipes!
posted by leslita at 2:08 PM on February 9, 2005


Totally somewhat different idea now:
Being written off by educators isn't good, but I really agree w/ what jonmc said about deifying intelligence. It does seem like the education system does that and it isn't good. Education isn't the silver bullet, or the best thing we can do as a society for our children, (this opinion was the betrayal of liberal values I was talking about earlier). I don't know if a really good education is even all that important. It might be to people who are interested in it but that's not any reason to make it more valuable than any other activity people show interest in. Let's all go back to taking apprenticeships in careers that interest us.
posted by SomeOneElse at 2:11 PM on February 9, 2005


Now THAT would have been my favorite ideal - I can't see it happening though. At the very least, I wish that people would back off from college - college, college, college! It's all a high school student hears. True enough, so many places require college these days, but many people I know (me included!) could have used some time to think about careers and try out some internships, etc. before getting college educated and thrown into a job. And I know many that think the entire thing was a waste of time and money, as they cannot get a job now with their o so special "college degree."

I hope that when I have kids I can help guide them towards paths they want to take, even if they aren't the traditional ones.
posted by agregoli at 2:20 PM on February 9, 2005


Education is more valuable than many other activities because it is more applicable, SomeOneElse. A good education is about knowing how to live and how to be critical. It is about understanding the basic reference points of a culture and how to build on them. At best, an education teaches you how to learn forever. Also, I have to say I really really hate it when people who didn't like school decide that means school is useless. The U.S. uses schools to do many extraeducational things very poorly, but that doesn't mean a real education is worthless.

And you know, I think it's great that schools deify intelligence. All day long for your whole life beauty & grace get praised. Let the unpretty and asocial unathletic little ones get to be the best at something and be appreciated for it.
posted by dame at 2:23 PM on February 9, 2005


No, elpacito, you have misunderstood my actual inference that you are saying single-sex schooling would mean a complete lack of mixing with the opposite sex while in school and this might lead to a lack of a particular set of social skills because of it. I think that is false. I think kids can have enough opportunity to encounter the opposite sex in daily life regardless of their school environment. And I think this is likely more than adequate for whatever measure you might have for some kind of Best Practice Sex Socialization.

Thanks Cassford for the link. Right off the bat, the major findings of the study point to implementation and expectation problems. Not one of the major findings mentions any difference in performance. I'll keep reading though.
posted by effwerd at 2:27 PM on February 9, 2005


I have a daughter. From day one people have been trying to tell us what is "ladylike" and what interests a girl should have. This "advice" overwhleming comes from other women and girls.

I cannot see how segregating my daughter with other females is going to make her more likely to break out of these social norms that are continually reinforced by others of her same gender.

And, as I say, there are more straightforward and less controversial solutions to what ails the public schools. We just want the easy solution.
posted by Cassford at 2:28 PM on February 9, 2005


And the study of the California experiement I linked to support my fears about what segrartion would do. Read on, effwerd.
posted by Cassford at 2:30 PM on February 9, 2005


I loved school. Well, the part where we learned stuff anyway. And while I think I'm incredibly attractive, I'll admit I'm biased and I've never cared much for activities of an extremely physical nature. I just don't like deifying intelligence, and it wasn't until I got out that I started feeling bad for being such an obnoxious prick while I was in school. And it is not more applicable in any way I can see. Having something that you do that you care about doing is important, but I don't see how one general public education is a necessary part of that, except maybe to make sure everybody can communicate in a language we all understand.
posted by SomeOneElse at 2:33 PM on February 9, 2005


I cannot see how segregating my daughter with other females is going to make her more likely to break out of these social norms that are continually reinforced by others of her same gender.

One way is that there are no boys to take the traditionally male leadership roles or science-superstar roles or what-have-you. You find yourself or other girls filling those roles. So even if there is pressure in one direction, there is certain counter-pressure in examples.
posted by dame at 2:34 PM on February 9, 2005


I'm neutral on the subject, but, in respect to jonmc's post:

It seems like you're more of an idealist than the people promoting segregated education. Not a utopian, but certainly not as much of a pragmatist. The folks supporting segregated education are arguing on the basis of actual results (which may be debatable, depending on how the studies are conducted. Nevertheless, the arguments come from some sort of statistical, measurable basis), and you're arguing from the basis of how things "should" be, and what would be holistically best.

Not saying either side is wrong or right, it's just interesting that you're somewhat painting the segregationists as being idealists, when their position is actually more pragmatic than yours.

On preview:

Elpapacito: don't know how could you infer that from my statement which is "it is stupid to separate sexes who are very likely to spend some time togheter in life, absent artificial needs of separation"

Personally, given the statements about how we're not talking about boarding schools but conventional, segregated schools, it seems like even the segregationists would agree that it's stupid to separate sexes who are likely to spend some time together in life, assuming that you mean "in the future". However, in this case, we're talking about segregating sexes during certain hours of the day while they spend some time after class together.
posted by Bugbread at 2:35 PM on February 9, 2005


leslita: agregoli, I think I know what you mean. Taking the touchy-feely, intangible goals of education out of the conversation, it makes practical business and societal sense to want schools to turn out the best educated graduates. That's the basic M.O. of school, right*? So in that light, wanting to study, quantify and implement methods that enhance a student's educational progress is really kind of a "best practices" thing for the education industry. If single-sex schools--or any school, for that matter--is determined to do something that works, it should be implemented.

Ahh, but the devil's in the details. I can't count the number of teachers I know who really want to provide the best educational opportunity for their students but are hamstrung by local, state, and federal politics that punish innovation and student inquiry.

Which is why I have fears about how single-sex education will actually be implemented. I can easily see how a segregated school system can start using economics to justify decisions that reinforce gender roles in the curriculum and to cut optional programs. Where do the 5 boys who want to take home economics go? Where do the 5 girls who want to take wood shop go? Do you split the orchestra class with 20 students, have it co-ed, or use the problems splitting it as an excuse to drop it?
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:44 PM on February 9, 2005


Now #11 in the Executive Summary of the report Cassford cited is interesting. I was just going to reply with the fact that choice can still be maintained so if you don't want your kid in this kind of environment, you don't have to. But #11 states that the program had a negative effect on the remaining coed classes. That's not good. But I don't think it entirely discounts the idea. Certainly something to consider and look to solve if possible. And given all the major findings dealing with bureaucratic problems and gender issues (which I don't think is an education issue), I think this just might count as bad evidence. Though I'm arguing a lot ;), I'm not a staunch advocate. I've just been trying to argue against offhand dismissal of the idea.

I just think the status quo ain't working. And I'm not averse to potential solutions because they might appear impolite. If they are capable of delivering a better overall service it's worth a look. Which is why I'm glad for the California report. It's always good to know what doesn't work.

I think the education system is in need of change, and not just for change's sake. And I'm not for any sweeping overnight universal projects. Like the one suggestion of limited same-sex education within an overall coed environment, I think there's room for at least more case studies.
posted by effwerd at 2:53 PM on February 9, 2005


KirkJobSluder, I hear you on all points. Scary stuff, particularly in this political climate. Now I feel a bit caught in the middle--on the one hand, my experience was SO non-gender-role-oppressive and positive, that it hurts to think that only kids whose parents who can afford private or parochial schools would have the opportunity I did. On the other hand, you're right: there's definitely the fear that broadly implementing single-sex stuff might pervert that positive impact. I mean, it's hard enough for a school district to pick a curriculum as it is. I'd hate to be at the school board meeting where they debate the difference between sex and gender.

Ugh.

Since we can't wait until the country catches up to, I don't know, The History of Sexuality, what the hell do we do in the meantime? Nothing? That doesn't seem fair. Can't stuff like orchestra, home ec and shop be shared resources? (My school didn't have any of those, incidentally.) And if what we're fearing is implementation, are we getting a little ahead of ourselves?

It's kind of mind-boggling to think that my Catholic school would come out wa-a-a-y on the progressive, feminist side of this argument compared to a potential state-sanctioned all-girls school would. Wow.
posted by leslita at 3:01 PM on February 9, 2005


Cassford's link validates many of my fears. Cut and pasted from the Executive Summary:
Instead of seeing the single gender academies as primarily an opportunity to address
gender inequities for girls or boys (as one might predict), most educators saw the
$500,000 state grant as a way to help address the more pressing educational and social
problems of low achieving students.


...

Parents rarely mentioned that they chose to attend
the single-gender academies because of their interest in empowerment or gender equity
for their young boys and girls, except for some parents of white girls in a suburban
district.


...

Educators were careful to comply with the state legislation and Title IX, which both
required equal access to educational opportunity for boys and girls. Most educators
presumed that providing these same resources to boys and girls would lead to equal
outcomes. However, most educators did not adequately reflect upon the hidden or overt
gender biases (to the disadvantage of both boys and girls) that often existed in their
organizational, pedagogical, and curricular practices.
The California legislation did not
provide any guidance in this respect, nor did it provide for state-level professional
development in these areas.


...

Finding #6: Traditional gender stereotypes were often reinforced in the single
gender academies. Boys tended to be taught in more regimented, traditional, and
individualistic fashion, and girls in more nurturing, cooperative and open
environments.


...

While girls were taught they had broad choices in life, they were also applauded for
being feminine and for being concerned about their appearance. Boys were told they
should be able to cry but conversely, they were told that they should learn to be strong
men and take care of their wives. In most cases, traditional gender role stereotypes were
reinforced and gender was portrayed in an essentialist manner.


...

Finally, experiments with single-gender public schooling need to be driven by a strong
theory of equitable education. Educators need to have a strong sense of why they are
implementing single-sex schooling, both for girls and for boys.
Teachers need access to
relevant training and administrative support in order to become aware of and to address
critical issues facing students’ lives, including gender and racial bias, harassment,
sexuality, and homophobia. Single-gender settings offer the potential to advance gender
equity but the organizational arrangement alone does not ensure it.

effword: And given all the major findings dealing with bureaucratic problems and gender issues (which I don't think is an education issue),

In what ways are these not education issues. If there is one thing I've learned about schools its that you can't just change teachers. And if this California study is any indication, changing the structure of the school without changing teachers is also a bad idea.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 3:08 PM on February 9, 2005


leslita: IMO, quite a few miracles can happen if you work outside of the clusterfuck that is education politics. Extracurricular groups can do a heck of a lot.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 3:13 PM on February 9, 2005


I think gender issues are private matters for the family. I think the school should focus on education. It's free to explore gender issues in the curricula but it's neither the source nor cultivator of gender identity. Or at least it shouldn't be.

I agree the teachers are a major component to the problem. I hate the fact that I have no sympathy for this labor union in a public institution I think essential but critically flawed. But this to me is a separate issue from same-sex education.
posted by effwerd at 3:42 PM on February 9, 2005


effwerd: I think gender issues are private matters for the family. I think the school should focus on education. It's free to explore gender issues in the curricula but it's neither the source nor cultivator of gender identity. Or at least it shouldn't be.

I guess I don't see how gender issues can be private matters for the family.

Kids don't become genderless manequins when they walk through the doors of the school, and the teachers don't treat them like genderless manequins. The time and frequency of attention they get from teachers, the advice they get on career prospects, the teacher's opinion of their relative abilities in subjects, are all going to be influenced by gender.

And you know an even more shocking result? Even teachers who are aware of these forms of bias, and who watch for these forms of bias, are still frequently caught at it.

And I'm wondering, how the heck do you define education in such a way that ignores inculturation (including gender identity?) Like it or not, just about every choice you make in a school curriculum will have some impacts and issues in regards to gender identity. Do you teach Romeo and Juliet or Beloved or both? Do you pick a biology textbook that lists Rosalynd Franklin as co-discoverer of DNS structure, or go with Watson's view?
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:02 PM on February 9, 2005


Blugh! DNA, not DNS.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:44 PM on February 9, 2005


I guess I don't see how gender issues can be private matters for the family.

I don't see how you can't. *shrugs*

Kids don't become genderless manequins when they walk through the doors of the school, and the teachers don't treat them like genderless manequins.

I didn't think I implied that they did or they should. I already mentioned that gender disparities in school need addressing. The choices you mention should be done on the merits of the work and free of gender bias, or if there is to be gender bias make it a part of the examination of the work.

The same with enculturation, though obviously so broad a category will overlap the mandate upon public education on certain aspects, I just don't think it should regarding gender identity except as it might be treated as an academic subject. And what enculturation does also fall under the purview of public education still shouldn't imply that school is the only source of it, or be solely responsible for it.

I don't see school as so all-encompassing. Maybe the expectation of it being such a definitive force in shaping identity is a part of the problem. Maybe it should focus on cultivating a love for learning and the skills to pursue college, career, or business. ANd give kids the tools to shape their own identity but let them supply the inspiration.
posted by effwerd at 5:31 PM on February 9, 2005


Interesting thread. I've mentioned before that I live in China, and it's made me a firm believer in how much more important cultural and parental influence are than education. The Chinese government isn't very sexist at all, schools are mostly coed, and official dogma is that women can contribute just as well to the revolution as men. In theory, it's a socially liberal, atheistic, scientifically designed paradise. They give lip service to every value we claim to care about in this thread. But lots of women are all VERY proper, domestic, and demure, or else they act like malcontented recovering Mormons. A lot of men seem to be either sexless nerds (the bad kind) or crap-flinging, head-gaming, alcoholic apes. All walking stereotypes of a socialization chock-full of rotten, archaic gender roles, and they get it from their parents.

I guess what I take away from my experiences here are that first, it doesn't matter what kind of values you try to impose from the top down if there's a more powerful cultural trend in the opposite direction. Reversing that trend is going to take generations, and if we're talking about educational politics, the institutional will to really push something like that probably isn't there. The teachers, culture, parents, actual materials studied, funding, class background, and opportunities outside of class are what really shape students. If we're trying to ensure that men and women can interact when they're adults, interaction alone ain't gonna solve it.

I don't trust single-shot, easy solutions like school uniforms or single-sex education. Like everyone else here seems to be saying or not refuting, socialization is way more than your school's gender policies. It depends primarily on who is doing the socializing and their values. So segregated education deserves some test cases and further study, definitely, but it doesn't deserve to be touted for any more than its ability to raise test scores. It's a pretty dehumanized approach to education.

Another thing you have to think about is that most of the anecdotal evidence in this thread about good experiences in all-girls' schools comes from women who say their schools had very forward-looking, enabling philosophies. When you reduce the chances of coed interaction, you leave the job of teaching kids to step out of gender roles to benevolent, enlightened instructors who make it their mission to disprove gender roles. The reason human society has such dislikable traditional roles for men and women is an obvious lack of such people. That's why we think of the ones who stop being Men and Women on their own as exceptional. Coed public education, whatever else it is, is non-conservative in its approach to gender roles. It puts boys and girls together and says they should learn to get along, which, given the human predisposition to intellectual hugginess and love for blankies and teething toys and other formative things, is probably a major factor in keeping the ideal of gender equality relevant and interesting. Single-sex education is conservative, and chances are in the places where the wonderful, exceptional men and women are who want to break gender stereotypes aren't teachers, you're going to find a big fat paeon to housewifery and machismo. Out of sight, out of mind. That will be most schools. At least that's what I think.
posted by saysthis at 5:56 PM on February 9, 2005


Saysthis: Huh? How do these square?

Another thing you have to think about is that most of the anecdotal evidence in this thread about good experiences in all-girls' schools comes from women who say their schools had very forward-looking, enabling philosophies.

..........

Single-sex education is conservative

Doesn't it seem to say something to you that at least two of the people here went to single-sex Catholic schools that turned out to be more progressive than the public schools? Did I just read you incorrectly?
posted by dame at 6:14 PM on February 9, 2005


People who get nothing out of their school system are nothing to celebrate, jonmc.

Bull. I celebrate myself on a daily basis. And the main things I learned from school were this: authority figures are not to be trusted and always find out what the minnimum amount of effort needed to get by is. And to avoid gratuitous displays of prowess, it makes people expect shit.
posted by jonmc at 6:27 PM on February 9, 2005


Instead of seeing the single gender academies as primarily an opportunity to address gender inequities for girls or boys (as one might predict), most educators saw the $500,000 state grant as a way to help address the more pressing educational and social problems of low achieving students.

This finding from the study is particularly illuminating. While only a few parents of "some white girls in a suburban district" are mainly concerned about "empowerment or gender equity" (quotes from the study), teachers who are actually knee deep in this are mostly concerned about less glamorous issues like underperforming students and, if I can extrapolate from the experiences of my teaching friends (both public and private schools): poor salaries, overburdened class size, income disparity among students, parental non-involvement, undersocialized/disruptive children, and curriculum/staff issues (not necessarily in that order of importance). Since single-sex schools are (currently) almost entirely private and a large-scale study has shown many problems when this single-sex educational model is implemented in a public setting, is it still fair to attribute having had "nurturing" and "gender-positive" experiences at single-sex schools because one's instutitutions were gender-restricted, or is it more fair to credit more mundane traits such as their smaller classes with attentive, well-compensated instructors, plenty of institutional funding and academic freedom for students who actually wanted to be there?
posted by DaShiv at 6:34 PM on February 9, 2005


bugbread: it's the whole concept of necessity of segregation of sexes (or necessity of LACK of segregation of sexes) that are alien to me. In other words no matter what time, occassion or circumstances I fail to see the need to use sex as an excuse not to have two people meet
and do whatever the hell they please, including not doing anything or everything.

Allow me to explain : while I think that kids should progressively come from strict adult supervision to legal freedom, I don't see why parents should impose their opinion about sex segregation of kids themselves, as much as I don't see why parents should impose their religion
on kids by having religious education imposed on them.

Indeed if my memory servers, one of the most outspoken kids in my class pubicly declared during a "religion hour" that she was not baptized because her parents decided that she was to choose for herselve and they wouldn't impose their religion on her.

I remember that declaration as a point of enlightement for me..and later as and adult I evaluated the harsh criticizing by pastors and mothers on the kid parents (anything false and demeaning was said about them including that the kid was going to be "damned") as bigotry...or more generally as contempt and even hatred for the different, total lack of tolerance as the difference was seen as a menace to status quo.

The same applies to sexual discrimination, in the sense that separation of segregation of sexes seems to me as coming from the same mentality which has a strong yet cleverly hidden bias toward sexuality , identifying any manifestation of sexual difference as "source of problem" rather then yet another aspect of human nature (and a rather important one).
posted by elpapacito at 7:02 PM on February 9, 2005


Indeed if my memory servers,

Do you pick a biology textbook that lists Rosalynd Franklin as co-discoverer of DNS structure

you two need to get away from your computers...:>
posted by jonmc at 7:05 PM on February 9, 2005


Dame: I think you read me right. I think you guys probably had good teachers. In a single-sex school, good teachers are more likely to be able to reach you because the distraction of trying to get along with members of the opposite sex in the room isn't there. All that gender baggage disappears, leaving lots more room for learning and looking at people who (this so should be a word) genderally resemble you. It's good a bunch of reasons. But since "most of the anecdotal evidence in this thread about good experiences in all-girls' schools comes from women who say their schools had very forward-looking, enabling philosophies," you've got to think about the ones that didn't have forward-looking, enabling philosophies. Don't underestimate cultural inertia. It's where traditional gender roles come from. When you put girls and boys together and force them to interact as equals, that's cultural friction. When you grease the bearings by keeping men and women seperate, you maintain the traditional status quo, which by way of general apathy pushes in a conservative direction. I think.

Like I said before, school is hardly everything. But it is something, and I guess it comes down to what you want to have your kids experience, which is why we have options. I was homeschooled, so I'm stupid about this stuff. You have to at least answer that stuff before you suggest we switch over to single-sex schools (I don't think you were doing that, I mean generally). There's not enough research and more needs to be done.
posted by saysthis at 7:55 PM on February 9, 2005


And that's the problem. How many forward thinking women teachers are out there? And how do you quantify that into a study? If you just throw a below the median teacher who doesn't buy into the program, they're not going to tailor the class and do all the necessary things to make it work. While this should certainly be an option (at a charter school or magnet school level), it's a little premature to be jumping at anything.
posted by calwatch at 11:28 PM on February 9, 2005


LOL, jonmc - yes, we know you celebrate yourself.

But do you honestly think that after 12 years of education, it's no big deal, and in fact laudable that a child got NOTHING out of their schooling? Let's not send them at all, then.
posted by agregoli at 7:29 AM on February 10, 2005


But do you honestly think that after 12 years of education, it's no big deal, and in fact laudable that a child got NOTHING out of their schooling?

I'm sure some people do get a lot out of organized education. But there's lots and lots of us who don't, for a variety of reasons that no quick fix is gonna change.
posted by jonmc at 8:07 AM on February 10, 2005


Nope, which is why we're talking about long reaching changes, right?

You kind of ducked the question, but okay.
posted by agregoli at 10:09 AM on February 10, 2005


If you went to a single sex school, you probably understand and agree with nearly everything this article has to say.

Segregation in the CLASSROOM is what the article discusses, NOT segregation in every aspect of teenage life. Just education. It's the same concept as having seperate boys and girls sports teams which nobody seems to object to. As an alum of a single sex all boys prep school, I can tell you that many of these ideas are true. I hate to say this, but you only know if you experienced a single sex education. You simply can not understand if you have no experience with single sex education.
posted by cpchester at 6:29 PM on February 10, 2005


I never understand when people tell other people they'll never understand - probably not completely, no but we're trying to explore your experiences - either help us understand or not, but claiming insider status and not sharing anything doesn't exactly shed light on anything.
posted by agregoli at 7:14 AM on February 11, 2005


cpchester, if you went to a mixed-gender public high school, you'd probably understand and disagree with nearly everything this article has to say.

Unless you actually cared about the issue, in which case you would probe your own subjective experience in light of the more objective scientific data available. And that data suggests that your positive outcome may have had more to do with it being a private prep school rather than it having been populated by boys.
posted by Cassford at 8:03 AM on February 11, 2005


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