Re: article on classroom debate

Pfleming (
Tue, 21 Apr 1998 16:32:57 -0400

It seems that we're moving a bit down a path that might not get us
where we're trying to go. I've only been reading the list for about
five weeks, but I am pretty confident that the vast majority of
participants here believe just as strongly in the importance of
gender-fair education for boys as for girls. We all, I think
recognize that "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,"
and exploring the efficacy and desirability of single-sex ed is part
of our common search for social justice. (Why else would we subscribe
to a list with "equity" in it's title?)

To get back to the topic at hand, my story here is anecdotal rather
than research based, but it raises issues it might be good to discuss.

I moved from a mixed gender elementary school into a single-sex high
school, that I firmly believe was a key to my growth as a strong, critically
thinking, brave girl. I don't think I would have been able
to have the same experience in a mixed classroom, not
because the boys got more attention, or were privileged, but because my growing
interest in them put me at a point where I wanted desperately to be noticed by
them at the same time that I didn't want to be noticed by them at all. Risking
the attention of the right answer was as dangerous as the attention of a wrong
answer whether the attention would have been positive or negative.

My school had the added advantage of an all-women administration right through
to "Janitor-Nun" (as we disrespectfully called her). We saw women solving every
problem that needed to be solved every day. Although there was certainly still
a power hierarchy among the students, it was a relief to be able to focus on the
intellectual challenges without worrying about boys. We were conscious enough
of the relief to have discussed it, so I don't think characterizing the presence
of those bounding hormones as a "distraction" gives the issue enough weight. I
always assumed the boys in our brother school were having much the same positive
experience, but I didn't know any of them. Of course, if this is the strongest
benefit, it doesn't solve the problem for gay, lesbian or bisexual kids.

I worry about assessment being based on things like better math and science
scores. I'm pretty sure my lousy math and science scores wouldn't have been any
less lousy in the "boy-girl" high school, and I can't say for sure that my high
English and history scores would have stayed as high. What I can say without
hesitation, is that my ability to challenge theories presented by male teachers
in college, and male bosses in the adult world definitely has its roots in those
all-girl high school classrooms, my freshman and sophomore year. We seem to see
learning as instantaneous rather than as a life-long process.

A final conundrum: I continued to grow and thrive during my junior and senior
years, but when I got to college boys were like foreign territory. I and my
friends would probably all have been a little better off if we'd gotten back
into mixed gender situations a little sooner. The problem with this of course
is that if girls do better separated at 13 and 14, would developmental
differences mean boys would do better separated at 15 and 16? That would leave
everybody separated from 13 to 16 and is that too much?

I know it would be best of all if girls and boys could learn to be confident
critical thinkers in mixed-gender classrooms; but is that possible?

We'd love to hear other people's experiences in both single and mixed-gender
schools. Write in!

Paula Fleming
Director of Marketing Communications
WEEA Equity Resource Center

______________________________ Reply Separator _________________________________
Subject: article on classroom debate
Author: at Internet
Date: 4/21/98 10:59 AM

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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