Monday, October 01, 2007

South Carolina and Single-Sex Education

In a recent story for the Associated Press, reporter Seanna Adcox touted South Carolina as a "leader" in single-sex education, as the first and only state to name a statewide coordinator of efforts to separate boys and girls into separate classrooms.

Thanks to the efforts of that statewide coordinator, David Chadwell, single-sex education in South Carolina is flourishing. About 70 of the 360 programs to go into effect nationwide under the Department of Education's 2006 regulations are in that state.

So what is it that South Carolina's separate classrooms look like? Adcox's article gives us a glimpse:
In one recent boys' class, a group of gangly seventh-graders sprawled on the floor around a giant vinyl chart, using skateboard parts and measuring tape to learn pre-algebra. In a different school a few miles away, middle school girls interviewed each other, then turned their surveys about who's shy and who has dogs into fractions, decimals and percentages. Classical music played softly in the background.
With so many sex stereotypes crammed into these three sentences, it's hard to avoid the conclusion that single-sex education is anything but a self-fulfilling prophecy. Doesn't anyone in S.C. see the inequitable consequences of encouraging boys, but not girls, to "sprawl" -- to take up space and to be in touch with their bodies? Isn't anyone in S.C. concerned about a curriculum that attaches the label of "shy" to some measurable percentage (or fraction, or decimal) of girls --but not boys-- but assumes that boys--but not girls-- might be more interested in a math lesson premised on skateboards and tools? I think policies like these are socially engineering gender differences more than they are responding to them.

5 comments:

Gender Blank said...

But don't boys just naturally take up more space, and aren't girls just naturally shy? Are you advocating that we mess with nature? What are you, some kind of radical feminist?

Oh, right. Sorry. :)

Anonymous said...

Simple probability would indicate that there are going to be a percentage of boys and girls that do much better in a single sex environment. The question should be "what is that percentage" not "how can we stop this". If the percentage is 1%, then single sex is a red herring and will go away on its own. If it is 30%, then it is a valid question deserving of consideration, regardless of any preconceived notions.

Considering that the entire point of Title IX is seperate but equal opportunities, I'm somewhat surprised at your continued opposition to even considering this. Unless the single-sex classrooms are mandated, I don't see the issue.

EBuz said...

Anonymous,
I hear you. You're saying, If single sex education works for some, why not let it be an option?

I agree that it's compelling to think about, say, the girl who learns better in a single-sex classroom because she's shy about raising her hand in front of boys. But I disagree that our response to this problem should be to encourage girls to opt out of coeducation. That's like encouraging disadvantaged kids to use vouchers to opt out of public education -- a policy I also disagree with. Both are short-sighted solutions that leave systemic problems in tact. IMO, the proper response to inadequate public schools isn't allow some to bail on them, but to fix them. Similarly, the proper response to a gender dynamic that silences girls isn't to allow them bail on it, but to fix it. Teach boys and girls together in such a way that encourages girls to raise their hands in front of boys. If you take them to another classroom, not only does it send the message that they are inferior, but it creates an environment where they won't be able to learn that skill. After all, men still control the means of production in this country. The ability to speak up even in their presence is an extremely valuable skill to learn.

PS, also, just want to clarify your characterization of Title IX's "whole point" to create "separate but equal opportunities." The law created a narrow exception for S.B.E. in the context of athletics and sex ed classes, but otherwise, the general rule was, until last fall's regulatory change, one of equal access.

Anonymous said...

With all due respect, half of the reason to try single-sex education is the performance of the boys in the class. You seemed to be focused soley on the girls.

Some of the benefits of single-sex education could probably be achieved if K-12 faculty were more balanced by gender. 88% of my daugter's academic teachers in K-12 were female. A better balance would be good "real world" training for everyone.

As to the "seperate but equal" question - perhaps that was not the design of Title IX. However, the reality is that most Title IX litigation seems to be related to the SBE area of athletics. By way of comparison, few if any cases deal with the other activity areas where boys have been underrepresented for decades.

mike5 said...

It is necessary to learn single-sex education.But it is necessary to learn them in separate class rooms.It is done at South Carolina's.

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mike5

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