There’s a not so new debate over the benefit of single-sex educational settings and oddly enough, I find myself disagreeing with prominent organizations I usually side with. Full disclosure, I’m a product of a women’s college and I’m better for it. As an eager high school senior, my priority was not a college with academic rigor (though I knew I’d end up somewhere challenging), in fact it was to have a positive social experience with other women. From the time I was in middle school, the mean girls were especially mean and I felt a sense of isolation not having that best girl friend. I don’t know why, but at the time, attending a women’s college seemed to be the answer. In the end, I had an unbelievably fulfilling academic experience and I did in fact develop the most positive friendships with other women that make up for the years of mean girls.
What’s fascinating to me about some of the arguments against single-sex education in the elementary and secondary years are the fact that they are based on gender, not sex (I won’t even get in to that here) and they suggest single sex education perpetuates stereotypes. The fact of the matter is that scientific evidence and experiential data shows girls and boys often learn differently and thrive in different settings. In my mind, this is not a bad thing, it just is, but I find many want to ignore this difference in favor of the ever growing movement to erase difference. Obviously it’s important for girls and boys to socialize and learn to interact – that is another reality – but in a country where our students are performing below practically all of our international peers, it might be smart to consider alternative options and structures. The opportunities for learning are vast, as are the opportunities for socialization so educational experiences don’t have to be exclusively single-sex, but perhaps if it was an option for some classes or components, we might see some interesting trends and changes. In other words, to teach to girls or to boys (aka to the stereotype) may actually better meet the needs of students and create environments where students are not forced to fit molds that inherently may not fit. I’m not suggesting all girls and all boys learn exactly the same way, but I think anything that may strengthen our public school systems is worth a try.
If you’re interested in reading more about this debate, check out Single Sex Classes Popular As More Public Schools Split Up Boys And Girls