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
  • Christina Hoff Sommers, a former philosophy professor who taught ethics, is probably best known for her critique of late-twentieth-century feminism. She is also known for her extensive writings, among them Who Stole Feminism? (Touchstone Books, 1995), The War Against Boys (Touchstone Books, 2001), One Nation Under Therapy (St. Martin's Press, 2005), and The Science on Women and Science (AEI Press, 2009). Her textbook, Vice and Virtue in Everyday Life, a bestseller in college ethics, is currently in its ninth edition. Her new book Freedom Feminism—Its Surprising History and Why it Matters Today will be published in spring 2013 by AEI Press. A new and revised version of The War Against Boys: How Misguided Policies Are Harming our Young Men will be out in August 2013 (Simon and Schuster).


    Follow Christina Hoff Sommers on Twitter.
  • Phone: 2028627180
    Email: sommers22@gmail.com
  • Assistant Info

    Name: Caroline Kitchens
    Phone: 2028625820
    Email: Caroline.Kitchens@aei.org

What's new on AEI

image Getting it right: US national security policy and al Qaeda since 2011
image Net neutrality rundown: What the NPRM means for you
image The Schuette decision
image Snatching failure from victory in Afghanistan
AEI on Facebook
Events Calendar
  • 21
    MON
  • 22
    TUE
  • 23
    WED
  • 24
    THU
  • 25
    FRI
Wednesday, April 23, 2014 | 12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Graduation day: How dads’ involvement impacts higher education success

Join a diverse group of panelists — including sociologists, education experts, and students — for a discussion of how public policy and culture can help families lay a firmer foundation for their children’s educational success, and of how the effects of paternal involvement vary by socioeconomic background.

Thursday, April 24, 2014 | 12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Getting it right: A better strategy to defeat al Qaeda

This event will coincide with the release of a new report by AEI’s Mary Habeck, which analyzes why current national security policy is failing to stop the advancement of al Qaeda and its affiliates and what the US can do to develop a successful strategy to defeat this enemy.

Event Registration is Closed
Friday, April 25, 2014 | 9:15 a.m. – 1:15 p.m.
Obamacare’s rocky start and uncertain future

During this event, experts with many different views on the ACA will offer their predictions for the future.   

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