Single sex schools were once the norm for students, in more recent years it has been confined to private schools (Protheroe). 2006 opened a door of opportunity after the U.S. Department of Education ratified Title IX which allowed for greater flexibility where more schools could allow for single sex classrooms. Gender stereotypes exist in not only U.S. schools but schools world-wide. By placing students in single gendered classroom, education is breeding sexism. Placing students in a single gendered classroom, reinforces stereotypes, damages social skills and overlooks diversity.
Those in favor for single-sex classes argue that they provide an environment where boys and girls are free to learn without the distraction of the opposite sex. They also argue that single sex classrooms remove the pressure of unfair stereotypes. Single sex schools base their curricula around the stereotypical assumptions of how children learn best depending on their gender. Feministing.com describes the scenes of a single-sex classroom as a “gender essentialist nightmare.” Boys’ classrooms are well lit and cool, students are allowed to move around, and their desks do not face one another. Boys get to read adventure books such as Huckleberry Finn.
The scenes they describe are right out of a gender essentialist nightmare: the boys’ classroom “is brightly lit and cool, and the students are allowed to run around to blow off steam. They can sit in beanbag chairs if they wish and their desks are moveable and do not face each other.” On the other hand, the girls’ classrooms “are warm and dimly lit, and students are expected to remain in their seats and face each other while they work, even if they find that distracting.
Girls are supposed to discuss their feelings about novels while boys are supposed to discuss the action in the books.” How very 1800’s, and ll paid for by your tax dollars- scary!
Teachers socialize girls towards a feminine ideal. Girls are praised for being neat, quiet, and calm, whereas boys are encouraged to think independently, be active and speak up. Girls are socialized in schools to recognize popularity as being important, and learn that educational performance and ability are not as important. “Girls in grades six and seven rate being popular and well-liked as more important than being perceived as competent or independent. Boys, on the other hand, are more likely to rank independence and competence as more important.” (Bailey, 1992)
Those in favor for single sex education argue that teachers make children’s sex important through segregation, which exaggerates sex-typed behaviors and attitudes while disputing that single-sex classrooms can break down gender stereotypes. Administrators and educators are increasingly constructing single-sex classes and curricula based on the debatable theory that boys and girls are “hard-wired” to learn differently (ACLU: Dividing classes by sex Promotes Harmful Stereotypes). Neuroscience has made the argument more debatable by proving that boys’ brains are larger, but girls’ brains grow faster (Gross).
Use it or lose it” is a common refrain when it comes to the brain — that is, if areas of the brain are not used, they wither, just like an unused muscle. If a math teacher has lower expectations for the girls in the class, he may not challenge them the same way he does his male students. Or if a parent doesn’t expect a son to be empathic, she may send him messages that it’s acceptable to be selfish.
The socialization of gender within our schools assures that girls are made aware that they are unequal to boys. Every time students are seated or lined up by gender, teachers are affirming that girls and boys should be treated differently. When an administrator ignores an act of sexual harassment, he or she is allowing the degradation of girls. When different behaviors are tolerated for boys than for girls because ‘boys will be boys’, schools are perpetuating the oppression of females. There is some evidence that girls are becoming more academically successful than boys, however examination of the classroom shows that girls and boys continue to be socialized in ways that work against gender equity.
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