Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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May 20, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

SEGREGATED CLASSROOMS....Do boys and girls learn better in sex segregated classrooms? I don't know. But even if they do, I always figured the problem was that no matter how good the intentions were when the classes were set up, they were almost certain to evolve into separate and unequal domains over time — as Dana Goldstein demonstrates here. It's not quite what I would have guessed, and it's hardly the most pressing issue in American education today, but it's still a slippery slope that's probably best avoided.

Kevin Drum 11:55 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (40)

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From the article:

"What's even more disturbing is ... The most advanced math course offered is open only to girls, ... High-achieving boys are not allowed to enroll at all in the highest-level math class."

In earlier times the reverse was determined to be completely acceptable. Why is this now disturbing?


Posted by: optical weenie on May 20, 2008 at 12:10 PM | PERMALINK

Do boys and girls learn better in sex segregated classrooms?

Learn what? Homosexual acts?
.

Posted by: Grand Moff Texan on May 20, 2008 at 12:18 PM | PERMALINK

Optical weenie: Why is this now disturbing?

'Cuz us dudes is like way smart, and we don't need no smart chicks making us feel stupid.

A semi-serious answer would be that when the situation was reversed it was of course wrong, even though at the time the wrong went unrecognized. But discrimination in either direction is always wrong, and should be disturbing.

Posted by: thersites on May 20, 2008 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

The evidence seems to show that girls learn better (ie score better on tests afterward) in classes of all girls. Boys learn better in classes with girls, too. Boys and girls seem to have a stifling effect on each other. For girls, that's bad, but for boys it's good.

I'm inclined to have optional single-sex classrooms within a mixed-sex school, but I like it more for earlier grades than later ones.

Posted by: anandine on May 20, 2008 at 12:22 PM | PERMALINK

Thersites,
I'm trying to pick a fight today. Stop it with the moral explanations, I just want red meat reaction!

Posted by: optical weenie on May 20, 2008 at 12:23 PM | PERMALINK

Weenie,
I ain't gonna fight with you. I tried to go mathematical on you once, and got my ass whooped.

Posted by: thersites on May 20, 2008 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

Perhaps it had more to do with the "private" and "Jesuit" than the "all boys", but the year I spent at St. Louis U. High was the best education I got, by orders of magnitude, over the course of 13 years of mostly co-ed public education.

It seems to me like "doing it badly" is not necessarily the best way to evaluate whether it works or not. After all, isn't that how Republicans have been proving their assertion that government doesn't work?

Posted by: chiggins on May 20, 2008 at 12:29 PM | PERMALINK

If that's not the outcome you expected, perhaps you need to broaden your surfing habits.

Try Glenn Sacks, he's another LA blogger, and for all the hate directed towards him from Amanda, Shakes, and Feministing, you'll find he is a *reality based* progressive.

Posted by: jerry on May 20, 2008 at 12:33 PM | PERMALINK

I've heard the same theory that Anandine discusses -- that girls do better in girls' classrooms, and boys do better in co-ed. And it rings true based on my (highly unscientific) personal experience.

If this does have merit, it brings up a profound dilemma. What do we do if what's best for one sex harms the other? How do we reconcile this conflict?

Like Anandine, I would probably propose a mix of the two. However, I would have benefitted more from gender-segregated classrooms in the upper grades than in the lower.

Posted by: filosofickle on May 20, 2008 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

In earlier times the reverse was determined to be completely acceptable.

No, it wasn't.

Posted by: You are an ahistorical liar on May 20, 2008 at 12:44 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin shows the socialist bias.

The issue is, first, do boys and girls learn better with individual instruction vs classroom instruction. The answer is yes.

Then, after factoring that out, compare girls and boys in an individual instruction system.

Kevin shows his bias because he assumes all education must be classroom based, but that is an artifact of socialists implementing bad socialism, possibly because of (unavoidable?) budgetary constraints.

Posted by: Matt on May 20, 2008 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

While students may - and I stres the word "may" - learn that specific subject better in a single-sex classroom, there are other greater lessons lost. As the graduate of an all-boys HS, I can tell you that it is imperative that boys of that age learn to communicate with girls, and not see them as an object of desire (or only as an object of desire!).

I think we should encourage educational discussion involving both sexes, not discourage it.

Posted by: MeLoseBrain? on May 20, 2008 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

What do we do if what's best for one sex harms the other?

Girl robots in the all-boys classrooms?

Posted by: drjimcooper on May 20, 2008 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

I've reviewed many of the studies and I conclude...

* Some young people learn better in same-sex classrooms and some learn better in coed classrooms.

* Some young people learn better in same-sex classrooms at some certain stage in their educations, then learn better in coed classrooms at some other stage.

The obvious policy recommendation would be to make same-sex education an option.

Which fits into my general conviction that no single educational model fits all students, so we should strive to create a highly flexible educational system that offers all sorts of situations designed to meet all sorts of needs.

On a personal note, as a man who attended an all-male college, I worry that students who spend extended periods of time in single-sex situations are likely to develop an unhealthily instrumental view of the opposite sex. By "instrumental," I mean seeing members of the opposite sex chiefly as sexual opportunities. I mean seeing the opposite sex primarily through the lens of their gender rather than primarily through the lens of their individuality.

The answer to "how much are they learning" should not blind us to the question of "what are they learning."

Posted by: William Slattery on May 20, 2008 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

The problem of boys and girls communicating may be exacerbated by the classroom setting.

We simply have to factor out the unrelated problems of putting young kids into packed settings. For all we know, the coed classroom setting may be strongly disturbed by your males constantly trying to show their tiny penis are big enough, a real possible theoretical result.

We just do not know until we get data from different educational settings.


Posted by: Matt on May 20, 2008 at 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

Optical Weenie,
I believe your order of red meat arrived at 12:44.

Posted by: thersites on May 20, 2008 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

Thersites,
The 12:44 comment wasn't meaty enough to respond to. HE needs to work harder!

Posted by: optical weenie on May 20, 2008 at 1:05 PM | PERMALINK

My guess is that if science supports their being a significant improvement, arrangements like these along sex and racial lines may be beneficial to society if instituted for a portion- not necessarily all- of a child's education, so long as we have gotten past the notion of segregation for buttressing sexism or racism, and everyone involved understands the science and that the segregation is being done to improve every child who is being segregated.

So at a minimum, we've got to be passed the sexism/racism, and be sure neither the kids in the program, their parents or teachers are teaching them that it has to do with those things. Ideally, there should always be a class for segregated students that teaches them the history of gender equality and civil rights and explains how their segregated regime fits in the struggle.

Also, it's necessary that segregaed students spend some of their time with the students they are segregated from, so they learn about those people adequately. Boys and girls who are never around each other aren't going to learn to cooperate with each other well, just as certainly as people who never see people of another race are the easiest to fool with racist ideas.

Posted by: Swan on May 20, 2008 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

As a teacher in high school I am against different teaching towards girls and boys. Both should get and deserve the same education. However, I am for separating boys and girls especially in the most hormone prone years during middle school. Having boys and girls together in the classroom during this critical time creates so much disruption that very little learning is achieved. By the boys not having to impress the girls they can focus on the real task at hand which is learning. I have seen this work in South Carolina and I think it is a good idea.

Posted by: Erin on May 20, 2008 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

Weenie: The 12:44 comment wasn't meaty enough to respond to. HE needs to work harder!

Well then, if you're not busy, how about some lunch, babe?

Posted by: thersites on May 20, 2008 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

Erin (1:07), we don't want an actual teacher with actual first-hand experience saying something intelligent. We want a bunch of people screaming about how whatever Kevin posted proves that the Rethuglicans are incarnate evil, and a few trolls deriding the libruls.

Posted by: y81 on May 20, 2008 at 1:34 PM | PERMALINK

Thersites,
How about a grilled cheese you surrender monkey.

Posted by: optical weenie on May 20, 2008 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK

Well, gee whiz. Should classrooms be segregated has been translated to Should SCHOOLS be segregated. I opt for the segregation of sexes within the school building for certain classes where gender hurts: lower level sciences and math for the girls, lower level art and english for the boys (that means these four basic topics should be segregated in the first two years of high school, until kids get their hates and giggles worked out). History, music, shop, home ed, etc. could be coed. Then the boys and girls can mingle during breaks and in some classes.

This would discourage objectification in school, since there would opportunity to both be in segregated classes and non-segregated classes.

On the other hand, if we would simply stop raising children to be obnoxious, it might improve performance for both girls and boys and this would be a moot point.

Posted by: Carol on May 20, 2008 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK

y81: bunch of people screaming ... and a few trolls

Which are you?

Posted by: thersites on May 20, 2008 at 2:08 PM | PERMALINK

I attended an all-girls high school. I, later, taught in one for about six months. Then I transferred to an all-boys high school for two years, where I had the greatest teaching experience of my life. Finally, I taught in a co-ed high school for seven years.

My assessment was that boys were ten times easier to teach than girls. The girls seemed to be obsessed by grades, petty details, and trying to figure out what I wanted to hear. Boys were much more open and direct. Their hand writing might be messier, but they wrote honestly and challenged my ideas. It was much more stimulating.

The biggest negative in a coed classroom is students afraid to speak up, because they don’t want to look foolish in front of the opposite sex.

Posted by: emmarose on May 20, 2008 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

Which fits into my general conviction that no single educational model fits all students, so we should strive to create a highly flexible educational system that offers all sorts of situations designed to meet all sorts of needs.

William, great take. It is so distressing to see all the chest beating (Hi Ms Weenie)in fields like education. "My way or the highway" decision making can be quite unhelpful.

Posted by: keith g on May 20, 2008 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

I don't want grilled cheese. I'll be out on the highway, I guess.

Posted by: thersites on May 20, 2008 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with Carol. I don't understand why "segregated classes" implies segregated schools. Also, I am not sure why people think that kids in a segregated class would never have the opportunity to meet with people of a different sex in say, a different class.

Posted by: jerry on May 20, 2008 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK

Proposals for sex-segregated classes offer a short-sighted solution to addressing the different experiences of boys and girls in classroom environments, particularly in domains such as mathematics where there are gender stereotypes. Proponents ignore or are unaware of a growing body of research showing means for effectively reducing sex differences in performance within co-ed classrooms. See www.reducingstereotypethreat.org

Posted by: publ on May 20, 2008 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with Carol.

I don't want grilled cheese. I'll be out on the highway, I guess.

Posted by: thersites on May 20, 2008 at 2:23 PM

Going for road kill today Thersites? I suggest you try the skunk.

Posted by: optical weenie on May 20, 2008 at 2:30 PM | PERMALINK

OW: I suggest you try the skunk.

Cool. Just call me when the chest beating is going to start. I don't want to miss that.

Posted by: thersites on May 20, 2008 at 2:41 PM | PERMALINK

On the merits of the lawsuit, my understanding is that it is a high-acheiving girl in the all-girls advanced class suing for access to a hypothetical advanced math class that is coeducational, not a discriminated-against boy suing for access to the actual all-girls advanced math class for which he is qualified. In other words, no one here has been arbitrarily denied access to an actual educational benefit; the girl here is receiving the best education possible and suing for the choice to be in a diverse classroom in spite of that. If this case is successful, then single-sex education is impossible because anyone can always claim they want students of the other sex in the classroom, regardless of the quality of the education they or others receive. This lawsuit is simply about using Title IX to destroy sex-role differentiation in public education, even if it promotes learning, the harmonious integration of the sexes, and benefits both sexes more than any reasonable alternative, and even if there is no clear proof that sex-role differentiation would be promoted by the single-sex program. Moreover, because there is no proof of injury to any party, the complaint is styled as a declaratory judgment. What stigna flows from being a high-acheiving girl in the most advanced math class, which is full of high-acheiving girls? The lacerating stigma of high self-esteem? In essence, the ACLU is asking for an advisory opinion, which federal courts aren't supposed to give. I doubt it will be thrown out, though, as it technically dots all the i's and crosses all the t's.

Posted by: On the merits on May 20, 2008 at 2:46 PM | PERMALINK

There's research out there that suggests that girls learn best in a cooperative setting and boys learn best in a competitve setting. In a mixed class, girls are less likely to volunteer an answer so there are less "competitors" for the boys thus more chances for the boys to succeed.

I taught junior high in the late nineties and I gave the kids the 'Who Wants to be a Millionaire?' options when asking for a verbal response--they could 'phone' a friend or ask the 'audience' or go for the 50/50. It leveled the playground and let each student learn his or her own way, sort of.

Posted by: arksnark on May 20, 2008 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK

Boys continue to do better than girls in math, and girls continue to do better in reading.

I just wonder how long this will persist before people give up on trying to unnaturally boost the number of female scientists/engineers compared to their male counterparts.

I can't figure out why many liberals think it is such a good thing for society to strive to equal out the gender balance in various careers. Isn't it obvious by now that male and female brains have some real differences. This is not ignorant thinking, its just following where the evidence leads.

We will need our best scientists irrespective of gender to forge a brighter future. As a nation, we should quit trying to use social engineering to bring about some imagined equality, and allow each member of society to contribute where they do the best. This is better than trying to achieve some "gender balance" due to the unfounded assumptions of some people in power over the education establishment.

Posted by: John Hansen on May 20, 2008 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK

John Hansen, are you sure your real name isn't Lawrence H. Summers?

Thersites, that's my new form of chest beating.

Posted by: optical weenie on May 20, 2008 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

Don't you the way the education establishment treated Summers was reprehensible. He merely stated a truth and was run out on a rail.. Liberal Fascism on display.

Posted by: John Hansen on May 20, 2008 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK

I teach in a smaller private school and I'd prefer a mixed school with gender segregated classrooms.

There is lots of data both for and against ( like nearly any idea about education) but my experience says I can differentiate more effectively in a situation like that.

Posted by: gray on May 20, 2008 at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK

The old gag about needing to go to high school together to see the opposite sex as something other than the object of desire ls threadbare. I've never noticed that Catholics who attended single-sex high schools had any trouble dating, getting married, raising families, etc. Who are these people who became so baffled by the mysterious "others" that they withdrew into moody shells for the rest of their lives?

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on May 20, 2008 at 9:43 PM | PERMALINK

"Handed down on May 17, 1954, the Warren Court's unanimous (9-0) decision stated that "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal."

Two, four, six, eight,
We don't wanna integrate.

Posted by: Luther on May 21, 2008 at 1:27 AM | PERMALINK

And black people did better under segregation, too. :)

Posted by: Nanc Irving on May 21, 2008 at 4:55 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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