Single-sex education in American public schools has been essentially outlawed since the 1972 passage of Title IX, the federal statute that prohibits publicly funded single-sex education. At the time Title IX was passed, most "experts" thought that there were no educationally meaningful differences between the sexes, and therefore no justification for educating boys and girls in separate environments.
Guess what. The experts were wrong. In the 29 years that have passed since Title IX became law, brain scientists as well as educational psychologists have learned just how wrong they were. Recent studies using MRI scans show clearly that the average boy's brain develops much more slowly than the average girl's. Some studies show that the brain of a 17-year-old boy looks like the brain of a 13-year-old girl. The men don't catch up with the women until about age 30.
Given that the girl's brain develops more rapidly than the boy's, it should come as no surprise that girls, on average, acquire language skills more rapidly and proficiently than boys do. As soon as children begin to speak, girls articulate better than boys do. Girls' sentences are also longer and more complex. Girls' superior verbal abilities appear to be independent of culture and race. One South African study found that girls outperformed boys in all verbal tasks studied, and that the size of the sex difference was roughly the same in blacks, whites and Indians (Stellmach, 2003).
Another study compared Japanese high schoolers with Americans in Miami. Once again, the girls outperformed the boys by a large margin: and the margin in Japan was nearly identical to that in Miami. Girls get better grades than boys do, on average, in every subject in school, including math and science. Last year, the U.S. Department of Education reported that 11th-grade boys write, on average, at the same level as 8th-grade girls.
Additionally, the learning styles of boys and girls differ in ways that are now fairly well understood (and which were not as well recognized in 1972). Girls thrive in noncompetitive, collaborative learning situations; boys are motivated more effectively by competitive environments with clearly defined winners and losers. Girls are more likely to keep records, set goals and consult adults for help in schoolwork; boys are less likely to employ any of these strategies. Girls prefer short stories and novels; boys are more likely to choose illustrated descriptions of the way things work (snakes, spaceships, volcanoes).
There is good reason to believe that these differences in educational style are biologically programmed, reflecting innate neuroanatomical differences between the sexes.
Suppose that the principal of an elementary school wanted to capitalize on these differences. Suppose the principal wanted to take boys who are having problems learning to read, and put them in an all-boys class with books on snakes, spaceships and volcanoes. Such an approach might be successful for boys for whom other approaches have failed. But in this country, it would be illegal to create such a class in a public school. The implementing regulation for Title IX (34 CFR (4)106.34) states that no school receiving any federal funds shall "provide any course or otherwise carry out any of its education program or activity separately on the basis of sex." (Women's Sports Foundation)
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, now known as the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act in honor of its principal author, but more commonly known simply as Title IX, is a 37-word United States law enacted on June 23, 1972 that states: "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of gender, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance." Although the most prominent...