Study Assails Merits of Single-Sex Education

Friday, September 23, 2011

There is no scientific evidence to support single-sex education, which may actually increase gender stereotyping, according to a strongly-worded report to be published Friday.

The report, ?The Pseudoscience of Single Sex Schooling,? to be published in Science magazine by eight social scientists who are founders of the nonprofit American Council for CoEducational Schooling, is likely to ignite a new round of debate and legal wrangling about the effects of single-sex education. It asserts that ?sex-segregated education is deeply misguided and often justified by weak, cherry-picked or misconstrued scientific claims rather than by valid scientific evidence.?

But the strongest argument against single-sex education, the article said, is that it reduces boys? and girls? opportunities to work together, and reinforces sex stereotypes. ?Boys who spend more time with other boys become increasingly aggressive,? the article said. ?Similarly, girls who spend more time with other girls become more sex-typed.?

The lead author, Diane F. Halpern, is a past president of the American Psychological Association who holds a named chair in psychology at Claremont McKenna College; she is an expert witness in litigation in which the American Civil Liberties Union is challenging single-sex classes ? which have been suspended ? at a school in Vermilion Parish, La.

The article calls on the Education Department to rescind its 2006 regulations weakening Title IX prohibition against sex discrimination in education. Under those rules, single-sex schooling was permitted as long as it was voluntary, students were provided a substantially equal coeducational option and the separation of the sexes substantially furthered an important governmental objective.

The article comes at a time when single-sex education is on the rise. There were only two single-sex public schools in the nation in the mid-1990s; today, there are more than 500 public schools in 40 states that are either entirely for one sex, or offer some single-sex academic classes.

Many of them began separating the sexes because of a belief that boys and girls should be taught differently that grew out of popular books, speeches and workshops by Michael Gurian, the author of ?The Minds of Boys? and ?Boys and Girls Learn Differently,? and Leonard Sax, who wrote ?Why Gender Matters.?

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