Separating the Sexes, Just for the 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, emotional, and cognitive 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. 2.
Opponents of single-sex education claim that test scores of students in all-girl or all-boys classes are no higher than those of students in mixed classes (“Study”). However, the research is inconclusive. Despite the fact that some research shows no improvement in test scores, other research shows exactly opposite result (Blum). More important, many psychologists believe that test scores are the wrong measuring sticks. They believe that self confidence and self-esteem issues are more important than test scores. In same-sex classes, girls report increased confidence and improved attitudes toward math and science, for example (“Study”). These are results that cannot be calculated by a test but that will help adolescents become successful adults long after the difficult years of middle school are past. New York University professor Carol Gilligan is certain that girls are more likely to be “creative thinkers and risk-takers as adults if educated apart from boys in middle school” (Gross). Boys, too, gain confidence when they do not have to compete with girls. Boys at this age become angry and fight back in middle school because they feel inferior when competed to girls, who literally “out think” them. With no girls in the...
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