article on classroom debate

vera klinkowsky (
Tue, 21 Apr 1998 10:59:09 PDT

Classroom debate overlooks boys

By Kathleen Parker

Published in The Orlando Sentinel,
April 1, 1998

Stories over the past two weeks
have alerted us to the news:
Girls don't learn any better in
single-sex classrooms than they
did when boys were around.

Such was the reported finding of an American
Association of University Women study that reviewed
single-sex classrooms created to test the theory that
boys interfere with girls' academic performance. The
study found, alas, that single-sex classrooms improved
performance for some girls, though not all.

In other words, different strokes for different folks

-- a revolutionary concept during a time when sexes, like
races, are lumped together for sweeping generalizations

Critics of the new findings have pointed to problems with the study's
methodology and say that single-sex classes still should be an option. The fact
that all girls didn't improve their test scores, they say, doesn't
mean that single-sex classes aren't a good idea for some. Maybe even for boys.

What? Did somebody say boys?

Missing entirely from the discussion is whether single-sex classes might be
beneficial to boys. Why? Because nobody cares. It's easier to find Waldo's
red-striped shirt in an American flag factory than it is to
find concern for boys in a sampling of news stories about the AAUW study:

``Removing boys from the classroom fails to improve girls' performance in school
even though it leaves them more confident,'' said one report. ``Girls don't
learn any better in all-girl classrooms than they do in school with
boys,'' said another.

You'd think boys were some sort of toxin polluting the air, the elimination of
which would enhance girls' brain function. Toxic is the mistaken assumption that
boys are privileged oppressors of girls; pollution is what we're doing to the
hearts and minds of a generation of boys and girls who are being trained to
consider one another the enemy.

The notion that boys cause girls problems in school evolved from research in
1992 that found teachers call on boys more often than girls in math and science
classes. An entire hand-wringing feminist sub-cult has
been built around this hand-raising controversy. If girls
didn't raise their hands, the thinking went, teachers must
be discriminating against girls. Or boys must be so
intimidating that the weaker sex was afraid to speak up.

Alas, separating boys and girls didn't make the
expected difference. It might have made a difference for
the boys, but the study didn't ask that question. Any suggestion that boys might
need examining these days is summarily dismissed by feminists who believe
attention to males diminishes the strides of females. Girls, after
all, have had only ``a nanosecond in the history of educational reform,'' writes
Gabrielle Lange in the AAUW magazine, Outlook.

My son has occupied only a nanosecond of his own life.
Must he be punished? Is it really fair, as is the case, that
one of his feminist teachers refuses even to use male pronouns, referring to all
students as ``shes'' and all work as ``hers.''

As we've been obsessing over why girls don't score as well as boys on
standardized math exams, we've ignored the latest findings on boys, which
include a suicide rate five times higher than girls. Boys also are
diagnosed with learning disabilities at a rate six times
higher than girls.

Who knows why? Should we study the boys? Nah.

Bet your hacienda on this: Were girls committing suicide
and suffering learning disabilities at the rate boys are,
we'd be throwing money at researchers like rice on newlyweds. As for single-sex
ed, I'd wager boys would do better without girls.

vera klinkowsky

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