Monday, June 16, 2008

WaPo on single-sex classrooms

The Washington Post ran a feature on the growing trend of single-sex classrooms in public schools. I am not going to go into all the reasons why we here at the Title IX blog think single-sex education is very problematic--you can click on the tag below to find that out.
I don't have to actually because, in part, the article itself illustrates--if you want to see it--some of the ridiculousness. Simply read the opening paragraphs about a classroom in which girls sit politely and read pretty poetry and another down the hall where boys are sprawled about the classroom reading poetry about being hunters. The language the writers themselves choose to describe the situations they witness says it all. The stereotypes are there--we create them and we reify them.
Why do the girls sit "politely"?--because that's what girls have been taught to do. Why do boys do backbends over their chairs?--because that's what they're allowed to do--because they're boys with allegedly uncontrollable desires to be moving all the time. I liked doing backbends over furniture when I was little too--except I did it at home. If it was acceptable school behavior, I would have done it there too.
These pieces are so frustrating because they spend so much time indulging the stereotypes and so little time engaging with the experts and the studies. And even when doing the former, they fail to acknowledge the inconsistencies. For example, the WaPo article mentions that the boys' classroom has desks that are scattered throughout the room, which gives the boys more room to move around. But the teacher said he moved the desks because they boys were engaging in a "female trait": chitchatting. So chitchatting is bad but crawling around the floor is just fine apparently because the former is something girls do and the latter is something boys. Never mind that both would seem to disturb the classroom, the teacher, and other students.