March 15, 2018 • Sarah Jean Gosney
Should schools be gender segregated? It’s the question on everyone’s mind.
Well, not really, but it’s on mine and it should be on yours.
With each passing day it seems like I hear of more cases of boys being diagnosed and subsequently medicated for ADHD. Are all our boys really sick, or is it their environment that is sick?
Some people propose that having more male teachers would solve the problem. But I propose we go a step further and gender segregate schools entirely.
How hard would it be? We artificially segregate based on age, so why couldn’t you extend that to gender? Infrastructure issues aside, let’s explore the idea.
Anyone who has attended or taught in a public school in the past decade (perhaps longer) knows that schools are often little more than daycare facilities that teach conformity and obedience. And the students often treat them as little more than a social environment.
This is not meant to insult teachers, for you work very hard and do, indeed educate children. But I think your job would be much more effective if we cut out half of the complicating social dynamics of schools.
When the children are young, issues arise mostly in energy levels and learning styles. It’s well established that girls thrive in cooperative learning environments, while boys excel in competitive environments. Boys have a greater need for rough-and-tumble play outside, while girls are often contented to sit inside doing arts and crafts.
In a mixed-sex classroom, it can be hard to strike a balance. We all know that as it is children get precious little outside time, not nearly enough for either sex, but it’s particularly harmful to boys who end up squirming in their seats or playing with their school supplies. This, in turn, distracts other students and frustrates the teacher, who then recommends to the child’s parents that he see a psychiatrist who will then put the boy on stimulants, suppressing his desire to play.
Great solution, right?
As of late, classrooms have grown ever more cooperative. Even in schools where there is a balance between cooperative and competitive style learning, how beneficial is it for only half of the classroom to be thriving at any given time?
Fast forward to middle school. Puberty is beginning to hit pretty hard, and suddenly, the classmates who were once an annoyance are becoming the most enticing creatures on the face of the planet. Boys and girls alike become obsessed with one another. Keeping the students’ attention is hard enough as it is, but when the girls are dreaming of a high romance with Prince Charming and the boys are fantasizing about the girl a table over’s breasts, this is an even more difficult prospect.
This isn’t an issue of attention either. Both sexes behave very differently around one another. Boys act like clowns to impress girls, and both boys and girls act defiant toward the teacher to impress the opposite sex. This makes classroom management particularly challenging, because the children care far more about seeming cool in each other’s eyes than they do cooperative in the eyes of the teacher.
Imagine how much easier it would be to manage a classroom if the students weren’t hell-bent on peacocking for one another. Sure, there is still some degree of trying to impress their peers that teens will go to when only around their gender, but it is not nearly as pronounced.
So when should the segregation start? I could see an argument for keeping mixed classrooms through elementary school, but by the time the boys and girls set down their physical path to adulthood, it’s time to make the divide. That said, I think it would be beneficial to start as soon as school begins.
So what are the drawbacks of this? Well, apart from triggering the gnashing of teeth of feminists and gender-equalists, the only issue I could see is the removal of socialization of the children around the opposite sex.
But in that vein, we must ask ourselves, is education the priority? Or are we really content with running a 12-year daycare all so that little Johnny and Susie are comfortable talking to one another? There are plenty of opportunities for kids to socialize outside of school.
Girls are out-graduating boys at the high school and the college level. This is an issue that needs to be addressed, but which largely goes unnoticed in the public consciousness. A lack of male teachers surely plays a role in this problem, and having a tailored curriculum and male staff would likely improve matters.
But what precedent is there? Well, look to the private schools. Many of the schools that parents pay tens of thousands of dollars a year for their children to attend are single-sex. Why? Because the administrators of these schools understand that children get a more pure, higher quality educational experience when they are around their own sex alone.
So what do we care about more–our children’s education, or the school dance?
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