Meg Henson wrote about her work with the Young Women's Leadership
Institute of Harlem, and her distress at NOW's opposition to single-sex
schools. I understand the frustration; I feel it myself--in the short
term, girls do better in single-sex schools when sheltered from the
daily fare of subordination and discrimination in coed schools.
But I do not think that NOW's opposition is misplaced, regardless of what
phrases NOW may have used or misused to explain its policy. I feel
very strongly, with the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of
Education of Topeka, Kansas, that separate is inherently unequal.
I am not, in the current social environment, concerned about the boys getting
equal education; they are already getting permanent affirmative action. I am
very concerned that no loophole should be left for the public schools of America
to allow sex apartheid, and thus further
disadvanatage girls. I feel that the minute we allow single-sex schools
to enter the public school system untroubled by lawsuit and public
outcry (as with the single-sex academies in California), we have allowed
a steady decline of educational opportunity for girls. This outcome is a
natural result of the way all society is stacked against girls.
Furthermore, in the long term, public social policy should aim to
construct a society in which the sexes are indeed equal, and that can
only be done if we fix the school environment, not if we seek to shelter
girls from dealing with boys,and not if we refuse to discipline teachers
and boys who discriminate against girls.
Single-sex schools may look good in the short term; in the long term they are
fatal to real gender democracy.
Title IX Advocates
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