Split ‘Em Up

It seems that more and more schools are turning to single-sex classrooms to increase academic performance and cut down in disciplinary problems:

In math, science, social studies and English, students are segregated into all-boy and all-girl groups. Though the latest testing data aren’t back, teachers and students alike say the system has helped them do better work.

It’s a welcome change from years past, Jim O’Donnell said, when students were more focused on social studies of a different kind — interaction with the opposite sex.

“In my mixed classes the boys really dominated the conversation,” he said. “Now all the students are really eager to speak. We have fewer classroom problems with more focus on academic performance.”

Hey, I’m all for it. When I was in middle/high school, I was always distracted in the classroom. A shapely leg, a budding breast…that’s all it took to keep my mind off my schoolwork.

This is different, mind you, from single-sex schools, where kidsonly interact with their own kind. That’s overkill, because it deprives both sexes of needed social exposure (recess, lunchtime, etc.) to one another.

Of course there are drawbacks. For example, the kids may focus better in a single-sex environment, but what about their teachers? Will “Mr. Mader,” the math/science teacher, hold the girls to a lower standard or teach them less because he doesn’t believe they can grasp advanced concepts like the boys can?

One could forsee a “separate and unequal” argument arising from this, but if so, chances are Mr. Mader is already doing that now. The way to prevent teachers’ biases from shortchanging students is to require standardized testing for both classes.

And such an experiment isn’t even feasible in overcrowded inner-city schools, where class size is already a huge issue. What are they going to do, double the number of classes? If this works, it will be yet another advantage that grows the gap between wealthy school districts and poor ones.

One other thought: This really doesn’t help the gay and lesbian kids, does it? Of course, there’s ample precedent for conveniently ignoring them: locker room, anyone?

On the whole, though, I think it’s a good idea. If separating the sexes encourages girls to participate more, and lets the boys concentrate on their schoolwork, then it’s worth it. And with any luck, schools will reinstate school uniforms, too.

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