Sunday, August 26, 2007

Boys and Girls

Yesterday, Newsday published an article entitled "Single-Sex School Aren't the Educational Answer" by Caryl Rivers and Rosalind C. Barnett, co-authors of a book on how gender myths are hurting our society. In the article, Rivers and Barnett explore the current media clash between those who think girls are favored in our schools and those who believe that boys are.

There has been a lot said about girls doing better in school thanks to (as New Republic puts it) a "verbally drenched curriculum", designed to encourage girls to succeed. In my experience as a student, only recently (the end of junior year) have boys been able to catch up to girls academically.

However, as Rivers and Barnett point out, data has shown that boys are getting into colleges and getting bachelor's degrees at ever-increasing rates. A recent US News article supports this side of the argument, noting that it is much harder for girls to gain admission to college than it is for boys due to overwhelming competition. When colleges try to maintain gender balance and have a larger female applicant pool, boys have it much easier.

With all of these gender issues some public school systems have been creating single-sex schools, something that Rivers and Barnett are very much against.
The evidence hardly suggests single-sex public schools are the answer. When you account for such factors as parents' income, student motivation, teacher ability and class size, kids in co-ed class and kids in single-sex classes perform about the same. When California set up single-sex schools in the '90s, it failed to improve academic performance. And, says the Ford Foundation, the schools tended to foster gender stereotypes, not helpful to either sex.

As a student, I cannot endorse this view. Sure, single-sex schools are not best for many students, but for some it is a very valuable option. I know that most of pro-single-sex-schools arguments were said a long time ago but for some students they are still true. Students of both genders can find members of the opposite sex distracting or pressure-causing in an academic setting. For them, a single-sex school can be much more relaxing and a better learning environment. Single-sex schools are not for everyone, but until the we have all the answers you need to keep all options open.

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