Is Sex-Segregated Education Against the Law?
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has requested records from public school districts in several states – including California, New Jersey, Texas and Wisconsin – stating that their policy of segregating students by sex is breaking the state laws. They said that these schools are “violate[ing] federal and state law by forcing students into a single-sex environment, relying on harmful gender stereotypes and depriving students of equal educational opportunities merely because of their sex.”
The idea of separating students based on sex is not a new one, and has been gaining some traction, thanks to the National Association for Single Sex Public Education who has been pushing the idea that girls and boys have fundamentally different brain chemistry and, therefore, should be separated when they are learning. The association says that this not only makes learning easier for the students, but it makes teaching easier for the teachers because they only have to reach one kind of kid.
However, lumping students together based on their sex and saying that all girls are the same and all boys are the same seems as asinine as lumping students together by any other identifiable marker. As a teacher, I was trained to think of each student as an individual, not to lump them into categories. I might have a girl who is a hands-on learner – a typical male trait – and I might have a boy who is interested in crafts and storytelling – typical female traits. The fact is that these students are individuals. The ACLU agrees; this is not the first time they have spoken out against single-sex education. From their website:
Social scientists have found that separating students by sex simply makes the contrast between the sexes more salient. And, when you look at what the proponents of single-sex classrooms are preaching, it’s easy to see the world segregated classrooms can create. Take Dr. Leonard Sax, who suggests that a boy who likes to read, does not enjoy contact sports, and does not have a lot of close male friends has a problem, even if he thinks he is happy, and that such a boy should be firmly disciplined, required to spend time with “normal males,” and made to play sports.
New research supports the idea that single-sex classrooms are not any better than co-ed classrooms, as well. In South Korea, students are randomly assigned to either single-sex or co-ed classrooms, making it the perfect place to study the effects of both. The findings are that there are no differences in science or math performance when students are in single-sex or co-ed classrooms.
People are agreeing with these findings in droves. The journal, “Science,” for example, published an article entitled “The Pseudoscience of Single-Sex Schooling” saying: ”Sex-segregated education is deeply misguided, and often justified by weak, cherry-picked, or misconstrued scientific claims rather than by valid scientific evidence. There is no well-designed research showing that single-sex education improves students’ academic performance, but there is evidence that sex segregation increases gender stereotyping and legitimizes institutional sexism.” They’re not the only ones; many researchers and authors are agreeing that segregation based on sex just perpetuates stereotypes that further push the feminist hope of gender equality to the background.
Keep this in mind as your children gear up for school this fall. If your child is forced into a sex-segregated classroom against your will, the school is probably breaking the law, no matter how much fancy research they try to throw at you.
Photo Credit: Archives New Zealand