Single-sex schools: separate but equal?
A new study debunks the benefits of segregation by sex in the classroom, and says the practice does more harm than good. Should it be illegal?

Article Highlights

  • Single-sex schools: separate but equal?

    Tweet This

  • A new study debunks the benefits of segregation by sex in the classroom

    Tweet This

  • Single-sex schooling is not for everyone. But it can help some students to become more focused and well-rounded

    Tweet This

Single-sex programs in the public schools are legal. The 1972 Title IX equity law explicitly protects single-sex academies, and Title IX regulations permit single-sex programs in coed schools that are voluntary and provided equally. Moreover, the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act endorses innovative single-sex classes and academies. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, who introduced the provision with Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, explained: "We know that single-sex schools and classes can help young people, boys and girls, improve their achievement."

Critics of single-sex education cannot reasonably claim that it is illegal--but they can and do argue that it should be. For them, girls and boys schools are like racial segregation. But race and sex are different, as the Supreme Court has emphasized and as most everyone recognizes. Mandatory racial separatism demeans human beings and forecloses life prospects. Single-sex education is freely chosen and has helped millions of pupils flourish intellectually and socially. Boys and girls, taken as groups, have much in common but also have different interests, propensities and needs. No sensible person thinks of the Camp Fire Girls or Boy Scouts as gender apartheid.

"Single-sex schooling is not for everyone, but it is legal and cannot be compared to racial segregation." --Christina Hoff SommersSingle-sex schooling is not for everyone. But it can help some students to become more focused and well-rounded. Girls cannot leave it to boys to dissect the frog, and boys cannot leave it to girls to edit the school newspaper. When a 2007 British study compared life outcomes for thousands of middle-aged graduates of single-sex and coed schools, it found that "gender stereotypes" were "exacerbated" in coed schools and "moderated" in single-sex schools. In single-sex schools, males were more likely to focus on language and literature, and females on math and science. And for girls, "single-sex schooling was linked to higher wages."

The research on single-sex education is far from conclusive. But the option has produced many heartening successes in the public system--especially in poorer districts where parents lack the resources to send their children to private single-sex schools. American education today needs more options, not fewer.

Christina Hoff Sommers is a resident scholar at AEI.

Also Visit
AEIdeas Blog The American Magazine
About the Author

 

Christina Hoff
Sommers

What's new on AEI

Rebuilding American defense: A speech by Governor Bobby Jindal
image Smelling liberal, thinking conservative
image Stopping Ebola before it turns into a pandemic
image All too many reasons for pessimism about Europe
AEI on Facebook
Events Calendar
  • 20
    MON
  • 21
    TUE
  • 22
    WED
  • 23
    THU
  • 24
    FRI
Monday, October 20, 2014 | 2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Warfare beneath the waves: The undersea domain in Asia

We welcome you to join us for a panel discussion of the undersea military competition occurring in Asia and what it means for the United States and its allies.

Event Registration is Closed
Tuesday, October 21, 2014 | 8:30 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.
AEI Election Watch 2014: What will happen and why it matters

AEI’s Election Watch is back! Please join us for two sessions of the longest-running election program in Washington, DC. 

Event Registration is Closed
Wednesday, October 22, 2014 | 1:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.
What now for the Common Core?

We welcome you to join us at AEI for a discussion of what’s next for the Common Core.

Thursday, October 23, 2014 | 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.
Brazil’s presidential election: Real challenges, real choices

Please join AEI for a discussion examining each candidate’s platform and prospects for victory and the impact that a possible shift toward free-market policies in Brazil might have on South America as a whole.

No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.