Thursday, January 10, 2008

Sex Segregation

A bill making it clear that it is okay for schools to segregate students on the basis of gender has passed a Senate committee, according to the AP. The justification for this? According to Senator Stephen Wise, the Bill's sponsor,

...single-gender classes are currently used in 17 counties around Florida and it has resulted in better test scores among many students.

Wise says the practice is based on a theory advocated by some learning experts who believe boys and girls learn differently, so single-gender classes allow teachers to tailor their instruction more effectively.

Now, I have to admit that I haven't seen the data. However, I'm skeptical. Any time someone tells that there are differences between girls and boys with respect to education, I have a tendency to cringe, since what follows is usually some drivel about how boys are better at math and girls are better at language arts.

Since I don't know what research Wise is referring to, though, I'll suspend judgment. I'm worried, though, about the potential abuses of classrooms segregated on the basis of gender. The hollow sound of "separate but equal" is already ringing in my ears. And I can only imagine what would be taught to the girls in some of the more conservative districts of this country. A good deal of home ec, perhaps? Lots of emphasis on marriage and family?

It's important to keep in mind as well the fact that one of the most important functions of primary education is socialization. How can students be properly socialized if they aren't given the opportunity to interact with members of the opposite sex? Such segregation seems likely, to me at least, to stunt the social development of students.

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