View on

Coed Classrooms Under Scrutiny

Does the idea of segregation of boys and girls in today's classroom have you seeing double? Does it seem unfair to one of the sexes ... does it seem antiquated?

Its essay time in my son's fourth grade class. They are to write an expository on favorite kinds of weather. While I was sitting amongst a group of these delightful little creatures, my son was expounding on his favorite type of weather which received hearty agreement from the boys; snowy or sunny ... nothing in-between. A darling little girl sitting next to me said, "I kind of like dreary weather too. I like to curl up with a soft blanket by the fire and watch the rain." At the shocked expressions of incomprehension on the faces of these boys, the girl became embarrassed. I agreed with her and the comfy word picture she had drawn.

It served to me as yet another reminder of really how very different the male and female species are. There was a time in the 1970's when a heated controversy brewed over the "new" idea that the sexes were identical except for reproductive organs. This somewhat politically motivated movement integrated every part of our culture. Remember the word, "unisex?" It was the cool and the now ... or so I'm told.

This concept integrated into our culture until it became a norm. Toy manufacturers all of sudden began producing products that were gender neutral. No longer would one find "blue" areas and "pink" areas of toy stores. This philosophy said that if given equal choices among toys, boys and girls would choose toys that defied gender stereotypes. Unfortunately, when this theory was tested in remote villages in other parts of the world, boys tended to want truck and cars and things that made noise while girls were drawn toward babies and dolls.

This thought prevailed until the late 1980's when medical technology refuted such claims under the microscope of magnetic resonance imaging. This technology proved that the male and female brains are truly hard-wired differently. In short, we react differently when presented with the same stimuli. We think different, we act different, we learn differently. For those of us who raise children ... it doesn't take a medical report to explain what we already know.

Fast-forward to today. Once again we are at a crossroads in our culture. What was once old, is brand new again. It is packaged a little differently, but the concepts remain the same. The theory? Single-sex Public Education.

It's true. Single-sex public education classrooms are seen at the next frontier for public education. This concept has proven successful in dozens of school districts across the country, many of which are in urban areas of New York. Initially, the idea was a response to failing test scores. Now, it is becoming a sought-after alternative approach to meeting the very different needs of boys and girls.

Critics have said these kinds of classrooms will only reinforce gender stereotypes. The National Association for Single-sex Public Education disagrees. They believe that in many cases, coeducational classrooms actually enforce gender stereotypes through social and peer pressure. Their data shows that girls in single-sex environments are more likely to take classes in math and science while boys are more likely to explore art, music, and foreign languages.

In a recent New York Times article, one mother sums up her son's experience, “Before it was all about showing the girls who was toughest, and roughing up and being cool,” said Samell Little, whose son Gavin is in his second school year surrounded only by boys. “Now I never hear a word from teachers about behavior problems, and when he talks about school, he is actually talking about work.”

It is indeed food for thought. I'm not sure where I fall on the issue. I do believe, however, that boys are continually discriminated against in our public schools. I believe that in many cases, they are at a disadvantage in the present organizational structure. There is no allowance made for their gender. Classrooms are essentially torture chambers. The focus it seems is to sit still, don't wiggle, don't become exuberant, don't show your masculinity, be mature, let's sit and be quiet for long periods of time. This goes against their biological nature. And in forcing them to adhere to feminine codes of conduct, we are emasculating them and as a result are erasing the very essence of boyhood from our culture.

Little boys have always been an entity unto themselves. I would imagine that every culture has had trouble confining and understanding these delightful balls of energy. A nursery rhyme we all know did its best when it answered the question of what little boys were made of; "Snips and snails and puppy dog tails," while girls were, "sugar and spice and everything nice."

I, for one, love the difference between male and female and the wonderful balance it brings to our world. For me, it’s not a question of which gender is better, smarter, more efficient, better able to multi-task, more creative … it’s truly about a balance of nature. All creation is a balance and when in harmony with that balance, we find the gratification and contentment we all seek. In essence, we can be the people we were created to be.

You may also like


2007-2016 Stephanie Wilson. Powered by Blogger.