Separating Sexes, Just for Tough Years

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Separating Sexes, Just for Tough Years
The middle school years (grades 7 and 8) are known to be the tough years. These are the years when the uneven pace of girls’ and boys’ physical, cognitive and emotional development is most noticeable. Girls are ahead of boys on all counts, and both suffer. Educators debate whether separating boys and girls during these difficult years might improve students’ academic performance. Separate classes are now prohibited in public schools that receive federal funds, but a change in the federal law that prohibits them is under consideration. Although some parents and educators oppose same-sex classes, there is some evidence that separating boys and girls in middle school yields positive results. Opponents of single-sex education claims that test scores of students in all-girl or all-boy classes are no higher those of students in mixed classes. However, the research is inconclusive. Despite the fact that some research shows no improvement in test scores, other research shows exactly the opposite results. More important, some psychologists believe that test scores are the wrong measuring sticks. They believe that self- confidence and self-esteem are more important that test scores. In same-sex classes, girls report increased self-confidence and improved attitude towards math and science, for example. Boys, too gain confidence when they do not have to compete with girls. Boys at this stage become angry and fight back in middle school because they feel inferior when compared to girls, who literally out-think them. With no girls in the classroom, they are more at ease with themselves and more receptive to learning.

Opponents also maintain that separate classes send the message that males and females cannot work together. They say that when students go into the workforce, they will have to work side-by-side with the opposite side, and attending all-girls and all-boys schools denies them the opportunity to learn how to do so. However,...
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