Single-Sex Education

SINGLE-SEX EDUCATION….So: is single-sex education a good thing or a bad thing? Over at Unfogged, Becks says she likes it:

I went to a single-sex high school and believe I got far more out of it than I would have in a coeducational setting….I’d always been outspoken in class but it wasn’t until I was at an all-girls school that I felt my comments were heard and challenged. It’s one thing to speak up in class with an opinion and have it ignored or dismissed and entirely another to be engaged and forced to defend it.

Brad Plumer disagrees. He takes a look at what Louisiana wants to do with single-sex schools and thinks the practical result would be grim:

The Louisiana plan would put boys in “competitive, high-energy teams” while girls would be “encouraged to take their shoes off.” And so on. (Maybe female students can learn math by counting how many shirts they can iron in an hour.)….Sorry, whatever the academic studies might say, I can’t shake the feeling that, in practice, Louisiana officials are pushing this plan in order to steer female students into home economics classes, de-emphasize real learning, and teach girls how to act like “proper” ladies.

As with so many issues in education, my first reaction is that experimentation is a good thing. Give it a try and see how it works. If it turns out as badly as Brad suggests, we can always kill it later.

It turns out, though, that my real fear is just the opposite: what if we try it and Becks turns out to be right? What if it works? Does that mean we just give up on the whole idea of figuring out how to make co-ed education work? I can’t be the only one who thinks that would be a bad idea, can I?

There are all sorts of problems of race, gender, class, religion, and so forth that can seemingly be ameliorated by simple segregation. But that just caves in to the problem, essentially declaring it unsolvable, rather than acknowledging it and continuing to search for solutions. I have a hard time believing that this does anybody any good in the long term.

But….still….there’s the whole experimentation argument. And it’s a strong one. Count me as still on the fence on this one.