Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Single-Sex Education Stereotypes Boys

After reading Professor David Cohen's "No Boy Left Behind: Single-Sex Education and the Myth of Essential Masculinity" I am more convinced than ever that the single-sex education craze prompted by the Department of Education's 2006 policy has already started to entrench harmful rigid stereotypes about gender that are harmful to boys as well as girls.

From the abstract:
The public narrative about the need for single-sex education focused, in substantial part, on boys and an essentialized form of dominant heterosexual masculinity. This article catalogs the important components of this masculinity: heteronormativity, aggression, activity, sports-obsession, competitiveness, emotionlessness, and not being girls. The article then shows that this conception of masculinity is harmful to both girls and boys. Instead of pushing this form of masculinity, the law and schools should make room for multiple and varied masculinities for boys (and girls). By adopting strong interpretations of already-existing jurisprudence about gender stereotyping from both constitutional law and Title IX, the article shows how de-essentializing masculinity is possible and preferable in the law. The article concludes that schools that implement single-sex education must do so for reasons other than promoting an essentialized notion of masculinity and that the law must be vigilant in ensuring that schools' implementation not further reify dominant conceptions of what it means to be a boy.