The Argument for the Separation of Boys and Girls in School

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 The argument for the separation of boys and girls in school has been getting a lot of attention. The United States Supreme Court decision to strike down the all-male admission policy of Virginia Military Institute caused an outrage; this outrage was further heightened by Ann Rubenstein Tisch’s foundation of an all-girls public middle school in East Harlem, a Young Women’s Leadership School in New York City that excluded the admission of male students and was charged with the violation of Title IX prohibition against sex discrimination. This prohibition is referenced as a reason for the resistance against the building of inner-city minority schools for boys. Tisch’s decision to create single-sex public schools sprung from the need to amend the academic gap by providing a comparable educational opportunity for girls of color from low-income families. This is to meet the standard of the single-sex school schools which were predominantly private, primarily white, and springboards to prestigious colleges. She further supports her claim for the foundation of YWLS in New York to overcome problems thought to impede some girls learning by giving a diverse group a voluntary choice of education.

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In trying to determine the legitimacy of segregation of students based on gender, questions on who will benefit or be denied are being raised. Debates on the nature of sex and whether it was appropriate to biologically or culturally segregate boys and girls posed a problem. An opponent of single-sex education, such as the earliest feminists and conservatives believed in equality and argued for identical or equal treatment, and opposed government intervention to accommodate group differences. Their claim is further supported by the Brown V. Board of Education which opposes separate education and sees such separation as a euphemism of inferiority, subordination, and stigmatization. They argued that such separation was not only sexist but also promoted harmful gender stereotyping ideas and that public funding should not be used to support gender segregation in education. Their argument is also based on their notion that separate education does not prepare the students for real-life because the real world is a coed environment. Justice Ruth Badger Ginsburg noted the idea of double standards and thereby highlights the whole essence of feminism which is to achieve gender equality. She claims that: “generalizations about men and women can’t justify denying opportunities to those talent and capacity which places them outside the average description”. Her claim of single-sex schools perpetuating gender stereotypes is supported by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor who gives examples of these gender stereotypes by stating the consequences of the support of a nursing school for women alone or the Virginia Military Institute for men. It will perpetuate the idea that nursing is a career for women alone while men could become soldiers. This whole controversy relates to the critic of assigning gender to toys; where Barbie dolls, and Legos Friend’s kit promotes stereotypic traditional sex roles for women as opposed to Legos’s masculine career-oriented role plays for boys. Critics of single-sex education have further argued that not only does it perpetuate gender stereotypes; it also reaffirms the claim that women indeed need special treatment, a kind of compensation or protection.

However, these claims are countered by supporters of single sex-schools like the liberalist who employs an opposite approach that sometimes equality, in the end, can best be achieved with different treatment based on group characters. They embraced single-sex schools by basing their support on the “free-market theory” that individuals should be free to make their own choices about school and the availability of coed and single-sex schools established choices. They also noted that stereotypes were often in the eye of the beholder. They argued that boys and girls learn better when separated by gender because boys mature much later unlike more thoughtful girls. Its support is further recognized as an expansion of educational options in public schools; this attempt for the amendment of Title IX is demonstrated by female senators who passed the “NO Child Left Behind” bill to highlight that single-sex school is in fact beneficial when assigned to special categories. They claim that research has shown that it can be beneficial to low-income children in urban areas and also increase the performance of boys in secondary school. This is because single-sex schools were patterned like a special academy to respective genders by proving a sort of personalized attention, curriculum, and learning activities; however, critics have called to the attention of the Law of equity and fairness, and Nancy Zirkin, Vice president of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights have backed up his opposing argument to single-sex school raise a question: “Segregation is totally unacceptable in the context of race, why in the world in the context of gender would it be acceptable?”

To lay claim as to why single-sex education should be allowed in a space where coed education may be challenged, I think it is very important to trace the history of the modern struggle for women’s equality. Not only should the history of women be traced, but that of black women and women of color. The earliest exclusion of girls in the space of education had always been rooted in the traditional belief and patriarchy that were based on myths, stereotypes, research, and scholarly discourses on the quality of education to boys and girls. The inclusion of girls wasn’t borne out of equality, but as a preparatory ground for marriage and motherhood. The puritans believed basic literacy for girls in reading the bible and fulfilling their religious duties was the height of education, unlike boys who could further their education. The inclusion of women to teach in classrooms revealed that the reason why only unmarried female teachers were allowed to teach was to train the boys better in school. In addition, Dr. Edward Clarke’s “Sex in Education” reflected how secondary and higher education threatened female reproductive abilities. Analysis of Richard Wright’s Native Son reveals the impact of racial segregation on the black community; it employs the term Bigger Thomas as a character and also as a concept to explain varying ways black men’s lives can be shortened. This is a driving force to today’s support of the Black Lives Matter movement. However, a critical analysis of this Black Lives Movement would seem to revolve around the killings of black men only because that is what the media portrays to us. The killings of black women which are also as high as men received low publicity and this is why Kimberlé Crenshaw, who coined intersectional feminism, advocates for the movement “Say Her Name”. She states that:

“Communications experts tell us that when facts do not fit with the available frames, people have a difficult time incorporating new facts into their way of thinking about a problem. These women’s names have slipped through our consciousness because there are no frames for us to see them, no frames for us to remember them, no frames for us to hold them. As a consequence, reporters don’t lead with them, policymakers don’t think about them, and politicians aren’t encouraged or demanded that they speak to them.” (03:25 TedTalk)

Further extension of her statement poses attention to an issue that affects black people and an issue that affects women, and wouldn’t that necessarily include black people who are women and women who are black people?

To create a relationship between her idea and the legitimacy of gender segregation in schools, I find the use of frame interesting because, without frames, we aren’t able to establish a problem, when a problem isn’t established, we can recognize it, and there’s no room to solve it. This draws me closer to the creation of an educational framework that recognizes the impact of racial segregation on the black community; however tries to create a frame around black women to recognize that not only have girls been short-changed in schools, but rather various systems are contributing to the relapse in the education of black women who are likely to drop out because of a lot of reasons like teenage pregnancy. The need to create this frame to cater to women of color is essential and this is why the foundation of the single-sex school, Young Women Leadership School in New York is of particular interest to me because it provides a redirection and a mentorship map for young girls. Watching “Step” a documentary directed by Amanda Lipitz gives a vivid portrayal of a frame that captures and identifies the systems of “ism” around the lives of senior year high school step girls of inner-city Baltimore. It documents how they strive against giving up due to family and social unrest and their zeal to try to become the first in their families to attend college. Imagination as being powerful is portrayed in the “2012(Em)Power Breakfast: Letters to Our Daughters” documentary which gives an outstanding portrayal of how special attention is paid to young girls of color by teaching them to create their reality.

The enrolment into single-sex schools should be voluntary for parents and kids. The idea of separating education because of gender is considered discriminating, and critics argue that such separation can only be based on sex education and limited physical education classes. They argue that it reaffirms the traditional segregation of boys and girls when girls were made to learn homemaking and wood making for boys etc. However, what single-sex school tries to do is to create a balance where there’s no gender assigned subject. A perfect example is how girls would be left with no option of learning maths and science subjects, construction of the technical project and even the bisecting of a frog, activities which girls have originally shunned whereas, in the case of boys, they are made to improve their literacy skills by contributing to the school’s magazines and press club, one which has been left for girls. The founder of National Association for single-sex schools has rejected the assumptions of critics who believe that single-sex schools shouldn’t be allowed because it doesn’t demonstrate the real world. The real world is believed to be co-ed in nature, and he rejects this notion by highlighting the personalized form of single-sex schools where teachers can better communicate and cater to the academic needs of the students. This academic provision details their challenging academic program, orderly learning environment, synergy, and emotional security among many others. A review of the technique and style of teaching and what boys and girls need in single-sex classrooms about the Single-Sex Schools YouTube video reveals how girls in the Young Women’s Leadership in Seattle and Eagle Academy are encouraged to talk about what they love, and the need to talk in groups to have a productive classroom in contrast to the approach of boys who are identified to need a lot of interaction and action; however, some critics have rejected this notion that there haven’t been enough research and evidence to support the claim that single-sex schools are better. Researching single-sex schools have become pronounced; however, scholars have argued that its methodology is challenging. Another overview of the never-ending controversy over all girls’ education depicts the testimonies of students who emphasized how it valued who they were rather than what they looked like. Interest in single-sex opportunities is growing ranging from separate classes for physical education. Single education has been championed for grooming boys and reducing the high rate of dropout among minority boys. A good example of one is Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy in Dallas, a publicly funded school that opened in 2011 that was borne from the research of a Principal in trying to understand what makes single-sex schools beneficial. Its advantages are highlighted in learning in an environment in which girls are encouraged to participate more in classes and not overshadowed by boys. They are arguably more willing to avidly pursue subjects such as advanced math and science that they might have considered masculine, and this closes a gap in STEM programs for girls. Single-sex education is seen as an advantage by some scholars because it tries to fill the disparities between boys and girls whereby boys are believed to be stronger in maths while girls in literacy, and by creating a single-sex environment will girls improve better in maths and foster the improvement of boys in literacy.

With the emergence of new gender fluidity identities, the question of safe spaces comes into place. The question of how coed schools and single-sex schools have dealt with gender disparities becomes questioned. How have single-sex schools accommodated transgender kids or an already enrolled student who had just undergone transition? Some Transgender students in Wesley College have argued that sisterhood was a reason for their enrolment, and this women’s college allows them to break gender binary barriers. Timothy Boatwright becomes a subject in Ruth Padawer’s “When Women Become Men at Wellesley” to depict Timothy’s challenge of gender disparities by being brought up as a female, checking as female, but identifying as a “masculine-of-center genderqueer” with male pronouns. The gives evidence to the accommodation of gender fluidity in and safe spaces in single-sex schools.

Although some critics have dismissed single-sex schools as not being academically competitive because they employ high academic standards resulting in the dropout of less competitive students, I feel that it has indeed shaped a lot of lives by catering for the minorities and addressing the short-changing girls in classrooms which takes place in coed schools. It is also important for public funds to be used to cater to these kids in single-sex schools because it improves their approach to achieve better results of creating new methodologies of how to better meet the needs of students. After all, what matters is the result, achievements, and later contributions of these kids to the country.

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