Sunday, August 20, 2006

Here We Go Again

Go and read Happy Feminist on single sex education. This bit, especially, is worth repeating:

I do not necessarily have a problem with single-sex education in and of itself. I myself experienced a single sex educational environment for four years when I attended Mount Holyoke College. The difference there is that the educators at Mount Holyoke and similar women's colleges, both historically and today, used single-sex education as an opportunity to free students from damaging gender stereotypes. For example, as far back as 1837, Mary Lyon the founder of Mount Holyoke believed there was no limit to what women students could master in the fields of math and science (or any other field). As a result, Mount Holyoke has a tradition that carries on to this day of undergraduates performing very high level work in the sciences, especially chemistry and physics.

It appears that in the case of the Louisiana school district, however, single sex education will further entrench students of both sexes in damaging stereotypes. Note that the "anomolous males" who don't conform to supposed "gender norms" will be forced to toughen up whereas females will be spared from such toughening regardless of their proclivities. This sounds like a definite case of "separate and unequal" and I am sure the reality of it will be even worse than the theory.

As Amanda notes, on discussing Happy Feminist's post:

But even though I firmly believe that the last people you want to trust on the subject of education, particularly girls' education, is a bunch of right wingers who want to overturn Title IX, even I was surprised to read at Happy Feminist at how boldly anti-female the sex segregation proposals are. In the plantiff's complaint against the sex segregation in Louisiana, it's clear that the proposals are aimed at teaching girls to be subservient women and to dissuade them from having careers. The proposals actively state that boys should be taught to excel and compete, whereas girls should be discouraged from competing. It's also stated that boys should be encouraged to roughhouse but that girls need to be raised to be gentle baby-tenders.

44. Mr. Murphy briefly outlined the differences in instruction that would be given to girls and to boys.

45. For instance, girls would receive character education and be subject to high expectations both academically and socially. Girls would be taught math through "hands-on" approaches. Field trips, physical movement, and multisensory strategies would be incorporated into girls' classes. Girls would act as mentors for elementary school girls.

46. On the other hand, boys' teachers would teach and discuss "heroic" behavior and ideas "that show adolescents what it means to truly 'be a man.' Boys' classes would include consistently applied discipline systems and offer tension release strategies. Boys' classes would also feature more group assignments.

47. Mr. Murphy explained that the approaches the Southside Junior High School would utilize were based on the work of Leonard Sax and Michael Gurian, two popular writers on gender differences.

. . .53. Dr. Sax is a medical doctor with a Ph.D in psychology who has styled himself an expert on and advocate for single-sex education. He does not perform scientific research and he does not have training in education.

. . . 54. In Why Gender Matters, Dr. Sax states that because of biological differences in the brain, boys need to practice pursuing and killing prey, while girls need to practice taking care of babies. As a result, boys should be permitted to roughhouse during recess and play contact sports, to learn the rules of aggression. Such play is more dangerous for girls, because girls are less biologically able to manage aggression.

. . . 57. In Why Gender Matters, Dr. Sax urges that boys be taught in competitive, high-energy teams. In contrast, teachers should assure that girls are relaxed in class. For instance, girls should be encouraged to take their shoes off. Also, girls should never be given strict time limits to complete tasks. Stress makes boys perform better and girls perform worse, according to Dr. Sax.

As Happy notes, the guidelines are so ludicriously opposed to actually educating girls that they suggest that junior high school girls "learn" math by counting petals on flowers, while boys are being taught actual algebra. The reason given for this is basically that girls are stupid.

58. In Why Gender Matters, Dr. Sax explains that because of sex differences in the brain, girls need real world applications to understand math, while boys naturally understand math theory. For instance, girls understand number theory better when they can count flower petals or segments of artichokes to make the theory concrete.

If Michael Gurian can be an expert in gender and education, so can I. So let me just remind all of this little fact: Iran has a sex-segregated education through all levels until university, and what is the percentage of women among university entrants? Sixty.

Which suggests that single sex education is not the answer to the so-called boy crisis. But it's a handy thing to have if you intend to bring back full-fledged patriarchy one day, because it's necessary for inculcating different values to girls than boys. We are beginning to see how it will be done.