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Gender stereotypes

Single-sex classes help some students


Gender stereotypes

Single-sex classes help some students

The American Civil Liberties Union insists that voluntary single-gender classes perpetuate harmful gender stereotypes, and has acted to end such classes in West Virginia.

This feminist effort to prevent educators from using an option that might help girls came to the attention of the people who fought for it in the first place. Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, and Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., responded in the Oct. 16 Wall Street Journal.

Studies show that some students learn better in single-gender classes, they said, but federal regulations once prevented public schools from offering the choice.

In 2001, Sens. Mikulski, Hutchison, Hillary Clinton and Susan Collins authored legislation that allowed public schools to offer single-sex education as long as opportunities are equally available to boys and girls.

"It was an epic bipartisan battle against entrenched bureaucracy, but well worth the fight," they wrote.

"Critics argue that these programs promote harmful gender stereotypes," the senators said. "Ironically, it is exactly these stereotypes that single-sex programs seek to eradicate."

Studies show that boys are more likely to think reading isn't masculine when they are surrounded by girls, and that girls are more willing to ask and answer questions in class when boys aren't around.

Citing educators' belief that the approach reduced distractions and improved achievement, senators wrote:

"To limit or eliminate single-sex education is irresponsible. To take single-sex education away from students who stand to benefit is unforgivable."

The state Board of Education should intervene promptly on this matter. The ACLU should not be allowed to paralyze educators or students.

Given W.Va. test scores, it is wrong not to explore whether single-sex classes would make a difference. 

[Charleston Daily Mail, Monday October 29, 2012]