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Teaching Boys and Girls Separately
Mom with a View

Teaching Boys and Girls Separately

Separate education plays to each gender's strength.


Poor Larry Summers. He just spoke too soon. If only he'd waited for the recent article in the New York Times (03/02/2008), "Teaching Boys and Girls Separately" by Elizabeth Weil. Then his claim that there are learning differences between boys and girls wouldn't have seemed so outlandish. It would have seemed…dare I say it…not only true but helpful in determining the most effective educational strategies for each gender. And who doesn't want that?

The article makes no moral arguments for single-sex education, just a practical one -- that boys and girls each thrive in a separate sex educational environment that plays to their unique (yes gender-based) strengths and weaknesses.

Although the author cites some criticism of the theory and its benefits, the fundamental assertion and the derivative ideas seem intuitively obvious -- to anyone who has ever been a parent.

Many of the suggestions are based on the thoughts of Leonard Sax, a former family physician. But that's only because no one asked me.

I also could have told them that boys need to be up and moving, that they have excess energy and need a healthy physical outlet. Anyone who has ever had a teenage son can certainly testify to their obsessive need to turn each and any object into drumsticks, with every surface a drum. A classroom that responds to this instead of labeling it a disorder? It's amazing it's taken us this long.

If they had consulted me I would have confirmed the assertion in the article that "If you try to stop girls from talking to one another, that's not successful." I have the report cards and eye witness testimony to prove it.

What's really shocking is that this is an innovation, that the notion of separating boys and girls and teaching to their strengths should be revolutionary.

We have been doing our children a terrible disservice, especially our sons, who are the victims not only of their impatient teachers' desire for order but also of their female classmates who "don't appreciate their jokes and think boys are too messy." I also know this to be true since it exactly mirrors our daily dinner table conversations. (making my youngest son wish for single-gender meal times!)

I would like to give all children the chance to put their best feet forward and not have their growth and education hampered by false notions of sameness, ideas that hamper their progress -- and not only with no discernible benefit, but with possible harm.

I would think that "self-esteem" advocates would also recognize that boys and girls will feel better about themselves in an atmosphere where their masculine or feminine uniqueness is applauded instead of criticized.

I said I wasn't making a moral argument. I won't even mention the other benefits of keeping boys and girls apart. You know what they are.

I'm glad to see that we are no longer closing our eyes with respect to gender differences. I'm glad because all of our sons and daughters will benefit. I'm glad because, ironically, it is in this separated environment that they will learn and flourish. I'm glad, because without the distraction of members of the opposite sex, they will be able to be themselves and more easily realize their potential. And finally, I'm glad because even though I long suspected it to be true, it helps to discover that it's all girls who talk during class and not just the ones who live in my home.

March 8, 2008

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Visitor Comments: 28

(25) SOHA, April 4, 2013 1:37 PM

i am agree with separate schools

separate schools is good for girl to think freely

(24) Shika, July 4, 2012 3:09 AM

Not True

Boys and girls have all equal rights to be able to be together. It's not right to be separated from sharing each others thoughts. An all boys class theres fights. But with girls there is nothing but drama,fights,and being gay. It is not cool at all. Many children say they can not go to school anymore because of the drama, and they all need to feel safe. My opinion is that children should be equal as one and not put in groups of two.

Anonymous, December 31, 2012 6:37 AM

With all due respect, I can vouch for the side that I find to be applicable to myself. I mean, I'm a 14 year old baal teshuva who spent all of her school years in a co-ed public school. Boys & girls are equal, but they're also different. Boys tend to develop later than girls, and encouraging a high amount of contact between them is the exact reason why we have so many pregnant teenagers. Also, it's proven that when separated, boys and girls learn better and have less behavioral issues...isn't that the precise point of school?

(23) Anonymous, December 8, 2011 5:46 AM

You are grossly over-simplifying girls and boys. You mistakenly claim that most view girls and boys as "the same." That is not true: on average, girls and boys have different strengths and weaknesses. This is biological fact. However, that is on average. What is advocated for is not sameness: it is that every single person is different in their own way, so we shouldn't generalize and put people into one of two groups. For example, you mention that boys need to burn off nervous energy and get up. I am a woman, and I am actually very hands-on. I would love to have activities to do in class. And I enjoyed competing with the boys in the classroom. My boyfriend is extremely language-oriented, and loves to sit and have discussions. Single-sex classes would have overgeneralized both of us and put us into groups that would not have improved our learning experiences, but inhibited them. Also, girls and boys need to learn to work together, as people. How can you separate them in classrooms their whole lives, and then thrust them into a world where they must work together and treat each other with respect and intelligence? I just cannot see any way that single-sex education could work because of these problems.

(22) Peter, September 8, 2010 5:49 PM

not all girls are the same neither are all boys the same

Not all boys turn everything into drum sticks. This is a gross oversimplification. Also some boys might benefit from a 'girls' only environment for the same reason girls might benefit from it making the whole argument moot. In a healthy boy-girl environment both sexes grow from the mutual interaction and grow up to be healthy individuals.

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