Re: Opening Statement - Deborah Brake

SSmith (
Mon, 20 Apr 1998 19:01:53 -0400

There are questions for each of the panelists in this message. The first part
of the message is addressed to everyone.

All of your opening statements have offered much to digest. I confess that I am
very much conflicted about this issue. Of course, I completely support the
creation of a gender-fair multicultural education system and believe that this
can only be achieved through systemic reform. Yet I also understand the concerns
of those who say that long-term reform will take time and these schools are
helping kids now--perhaps in ways not measured by standardized tests--so what's
the harm of this approach as a short-term strategy? This is particularly true,
I think, in those settings where schools have been created for girls and boys of
color. As an African American, I am very uncomfortable with the notion of
"separate but equal," however, even the AAUW report cites the success of
single-sex programs for "disadvantaged groups" which included poor students of
color and lower class white girls. How can you deny those students access to
programs that work, particularly if the pedagogy, curriculum, and all other
aspects of the program incorporate equity principles?

Unfortunately, one of the dynamics that has developed has been schools set up
for girls and boys of color and supported by their communities that have been
challenged by predominantly white women's groups outside the community. (For
example, the Young Women's Leadership School in Harlem and all-male schools in
Detroit.) At least this is my perception, please tell me if I'm wrong. The
argument then becomes why do you have the option of single-sex education for
your sons and daughters in a private setting and we do not have that same
option? Or, how can you protest public financing of single-sex education and
support women's colleges (whose students receive federal financial aid)? This
picture is further complicated by the fact that some of these urban programs
have been supported by conservative organizations that have never supported
equity in education or any other realm of society. I think the growing support
of people of color for school vouchers will add to the clamor for more
single-sex schools. How do we respond in a way that builds coalitions rather
than replays the old "divide and conquer" game?

For Deborah and Jan,

You have established that the law allows public funding of single-sex education
under certain circumstances. What, then, are the outstanding legal issues?
Besides the Young Women's Leadership School in Harlem, are there other cases
pending on this issue?

For Karen,

You mention that the proposals for each of the California academies had to
identify the "unique educational need" the program would address and how it
would do so. Can you share how each of the funded programs defined that need
and how they plan to meet it? Also, what is the racial/ethnic composition of
the students in each of the academies?

You also say that there haven't been any lawsuits filed against any of the
academies. Did you undetake any efforts to build support in these communities
and across the state before the schools opened?

For Ellen,

How would you begin to answer a couple of questions you raised in the AAUW
roundtable discussion: Does a "good" education differ for girls and boys? Do
girls and boys need different things to get a "good" education?

EDEQUITY Moderator

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