Boys are not stupid, contrary to recent studies showing boys lagging behind girls in academics.
It is not to say that girls are not performing better, but girls’ achievement can be greatly contributed to the feminist movement. For example, in 1972, a federal law entitled Title IX banned sex-discrimination in schools and stated that schools must provide equal opportunities for girls within the classroom.
Prominent feminist, Gloria Steinem once said, “We need to raise boys like we raise girls.”
Right. Try telling that to the American teenage boy. Some curriculum in schools asks boys to emotionally involve themselves with the lesson plan, with questions on worksheets asking, “How did that make you feel?” But is this system of teaching really benefiting boys? Girls outperform boys in classes like English and history and are more likely to take AP honor classes. More girls are graduating from high school than boys at an alarming rate as well; in 2003, 73 percent of girls graduated from high school, while only 65 percent of boys earned their high school diplomas.
Anatomy proves boys and girls are different genetically and psychologically, so it seems inconsistent that schools would teach both sexes in the same setting in the same style of teaching. In Seattle, Washington, at an elementary school, Principle Ben Wright began seeing behavioral problems of boys within the classroom; so he decided sex-segregated classes would be beneficial:
“The boys had to learn how to be boys…” and they could not do it in a classroom integrated with girls. Boys and girls require a different environment and style of teaching. With scary statistics like the fact that boys are six times more likely to be diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder than girls, twice as likely to be diagnosed as learning disabled, and with four times as many boys drop out of school, is obvious that the needs of boys and girls in the classroom are different.
Single-sex education not only benefits boys, it also benefits girls. Deirdre McCann, 15, says, “When we used to have boys, we’d feel more intimidated…Now it feels more comfortable with just girls…Also I think it gives you a little more chance to speak up because the guys at my old school used to dominate."
Single-sex education eliminates the common distractions in a class, like flirting, boys acting silly to get a girl’s attention, and note passing. "You can actually pay attention in class. There's no flirting," said Michel Souza, who is a student at a public school in Orlando, Florida that just began teaching in the single-sex education setting. Sex-segregated classes provide a more structured environment for boys and girls to learn and give equal opportunity to both sexes to perform to their best ability.
Critics of single-sex education feel that it goes against the tide of fighting sex-discrimination. On October 23, 2006, the United States Department of Education, “published rules that will make it easier for public educators to offer girls-only and boys-only schools or classes without running afoul of Title IX."
Senator Edward Kennedy, someone who attended an all-boys private school, stated this would inadvertently become a “setback for civil-rights protection”; however, critics cannot provide substantial backing of the claim of how this would discriminate against either sex, especially women.
If anything, it is promoting civil rights because if children are given the option of being taught in a single-sex class or in a co-ed class, the opportunity to decide for oneself which classroom setting is best for he or she remains. If the issue is equality, then there should be educational options.
When the average 11th grade boy reads and writes at an 8th grade level the surface of the problem is not necessarily because they are unmotivated or lazy; it is because they may feel as though it is hard to respond or interact. I saw this everyday when I walked into my classes at Jenks High School, especially when it came to writing assignments. Girls jumped at the opportunity to write a paper that asked them about a personal struggle or to write about how they felt. Boys squirmed in their seats, uneasy about the fact that they may have to write about personal experiences or personal feelings to their teacher, so they either ended up not completing the assignment or wrote it the morning of right before the paper was due in class.
The push for single-sex classes is not only for the benefit of boys, but also the benefit of girls. It is not discriminatory to admit that boys and girls have different needs and schools should do something to meet those needs.
In San Francisco, California, Marina Middle Schools created single-sex classes for boys and girls in the seventh grade. Boys and girls responded well to the program, with more than half saying they would participate in the program again in a survey conducted at the end of the year. In the survey, the boys said they were able to concentrate better and felt less nervous about getting something wrong. The girls stated that “they enjoyed not having to compete with boys for attention and not worrying about how they looked or sounded to boys."
Not all feminists oppose the idea of single-sex schools. Professor Myra Sadker, at the American University in Washington D.C., and author of Failing at Fairness: How America's Schools Cheat Girls, contends that “girls have more self-esteem in single-sex schools and classrooms because of the often unconscious gender bias in co-ed schools."
Another study conducted in 1992 by the American Association of University Women also found biased behavior shown towards boys in classrooms, claiming that “that teachers give more attention to boys, and that boys call out in class eight times as often as girls." They concluded that single-sex classes would benefit girls and would help them perform to the best of their ability. Recent studies are not the only studies conducted in favor of single-sex classes or single-sex schools.
In 1973, educational researcher, M. Elizabeth Tidball, released a study the showed girls who went to all female colleges were more likely to be successful. As one can see, the debate over single-sex education classes has been going on for long a time.
Many great leaders and successful people in America have been the product of single-sex schools or classes. Journalist, Diane Sawyer, attended an all-girls school Wellesley College. Senator, John Kerry, attended Fessenden School in Newton, Massachusetts. Porter Goss, the first director of the Central Intelligence Agency, also attended Fessenden School. Environmentalist and author of Silent Spring, Rachel Carson, attended an all-girls school, Chatham College, and prominent feminist and women’s rights advocate, Gloria Steinem, attended an all-girls school at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts.
However, this is, of course, not to say that children that attend co-ed schools or take classes with the opposite sex will not be successful.
Betty Friedan, author of the groundbreaking feminist book, The Feminine Mystique, published in 1963, believed that women were equal beings to men. She fought for women’s rights and wanted the same opportunities for women; however, she felt women should not try to become like men. Boys are not girls and girls are not boys. Each sex has different educational needs that have to be attended to.
The issue is not boys versus girls; instead the focus should be on demanding excellence from both sexes and giving them the opportunity to perform as well as they can. Regardless of political beliefs, it needs to be understood that providing single-sex education in core subjects like Math, Science, English could make a difference is the confidence level our students, and subsequently, help them secure employment when they venture into the real world.
The stereotype needs to be broken that, “Boys go to Jupiter to get more stupider. Girls go to college to get more knowledge."
twoday magazine wants to know: Do you think single-sex education is the way to fix our broken educational system or do these issues run much deeper? Share with us your thoughts on our Facebook page.
Follow @anyaalvarez on Twitter to keep up with her very exciting life!
Like this article? Check out some other great commentaries by our weekly contributor, Anya Alvarez: