by Frances Edstrom
The U.S. Department of Education has proposed that public elementary and secondary schools be allowed (not mandated, mind you) to teach boys and girls separately, something that has nearly been forbidden since the 1975 passage of Title IX legislation.
To some of the opponents of single-sex public schools, or even classes, it seems that political ideology is more important than the education of children. Others I have heard rail against the proposal to lighten up on prohibitions against single-sex schooling have said outright that they object to the idea because it came from the Bush administration.
It's interesting that the National Organization for Women is against the proposal, since the legislation was written by four women as part of the No Child Left Behind program "” Republicans Susan Collins and Kay Bailey Hutchison, Democrats Hillary Clinton and Barbara Mikulski.
As a product of both coed and single-sex schooling, I am very much in favor of single-sex education, especially so today.
In single-sex institutions, women, at least, are much more aggressive and assertive than in a coed setting. There is no holding back for fear of appearing unattractive to the opposite sex. Women are encouraged to form and express their opinions boldly, be leaders, be world-beaters. In a girls' school, all of the important people in the school are girls. Girls hold all of the offices, from class president to secretary of the chorus. Girls' sporting events are not offered on off-nights or while the fans are tailgating in preparation to go to the boys' game, or as half-time entertainment. They ARE the sporting events. Women's college graduates are educated to be forceful, accomplished adults.
As our children become more worldly at an ever earlier age "” sixth-grade girls wearing midriff-bearing shirts and skintight pants to school, preteen boys having access to graphic pornography on the Internet, and both sexes having easy access to mood-altering drugs "” it is important to allow boys and girls to be educated away from the stimuli that distract them from their studies.
Opponents say that single-sex schools don't prepare men and women for the integrated world of employment and social interaction. But what really prevents men and women from integrating smoothly and having mutual respect, whether in the home or in the workplace, is lack of a good education.
If boys and girls can be empowered through single-sex education, as schools are reporting even in very disadvantaged neighborhoods, I say the archaic and moribund political philosophy of Title IX (which has not done much more than make the cost of high school sports out of line with public resources and interest) should give way to better ideas.
After all, it has never escaped the notice of the most wealthy and powerful in our nation that single-sex education prepares one for success. Is it an accident that George Bush and John Kerry both went to single-sex schools?