Gender-differentiated education being “rediscovered”

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has a nice article today about the growing popularity of separating boys and girls into different classes to teach them with an eye toward inherent gender differences.  You can read it, too: “Dividing boys, girls grows exponentially” — Currently, it is the cover story on the STLtoday.com website and includes a gallery of photos showing scenes from the boys’ and girls’ separate classrooms.

Given that we have four boys and zero girls here at the Smith Academy for Boys, we are, of necessity, gender-differentiated.  While it is an old idea, it is exciting to see that more schools like Carmen Trails Elementary are giving it a shot.  The fact is that boys and girls are different.  When God said that he made them “male and female” it is because he really did make them differently.  Boys are boys and girls are girls, and trying to cram them into the exact same educational setting seems an absolutely ludicrous idea if you really hope to give them the best.

Having been on both sides of the public education scene, I know how difficult it can be to provide truly individual education to students.  Really, it’s impossible when one considers the inherent “assembly line” nature of the school systems.  As valient, talented, and dedicated as a teacher may be — and I have known many who are valient, talented, and dedicated — given a mob of kiddos one can only “individualize” so much.  (One of the many reasons the Smith family homeschools, by the way.)  Yet, in the differences that naturally show up between boys and girls, it would seem to me that there is a huge difference that can be taken advantage of — that is, by at least recognizing the difference between how boys and girls tend to learn and think, once can get an enormous bang for the buck.  I would suspect, actually, that more potential benefit can come from recognizing this easy to make distinction and actually acting on it than most other steps toward individualizing education an institution might take.

The fruit of these schools’ labors is still being examined, but I anticipate good things.  The idea that there are no real, significant differences between the brains (and minds) of boys and girls — and men and women — is a ship that fills its sails with the most ignorant of winds and that falters against the rocks of both common sense and scientific study.  If it is headed toward the dust bin of history, may its journey be a swift and permanent one.

4 thoughts on “Gender-differentiated education being “rediscovered”

  1. While I entirely agree that boys and girls are different, I cringe at the thought of spending my entire academic career in all-girl classes. I always connected better socially with male friends, and, I would also venture to say, learned more similarly to the boys than the girls. Males and females are different, but I’m not sure you can stereotype learning styles strictly by gender. I have read about learning styles, but have never seen them categorized solely by gender. Even within one given gender, there are many different learning styles, and I’m not sure being all of the same gender would help with the ability to individually tailor teaching styles. I think there is also something to be said for not being surrounded by entirely like-minded people, for expanding your horizons academically as well as socially.

  2. Howdy, Annette —

    Actually, I generally agree with what you are saying, but I think the point I’ve tried to make (however poorly!) still stands. In the effort to make assembly line education more tailored to a student’s needs, I still think making gender distinctions is the easiest way to get the most bang for the buck. Is it a perfect fit? Certainly not — again, one reason that, personally, we’ve chosen homeschool. But all such choices in our current system of things will be a matter of choosing the most pleasing (or least displeasing) set of pros and cons.

    And, in actuality, as you demonstrate by example in your post, even within unigendered classrooms one will encounter a variety of people with different personalities and learning styles, so it wouldn’t be accurate to say that such variety would be lost in such classrooms/schools. And while all learning styles may apply to individuals of each gender, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a tendency for one gender or the other to have concentrations in differing styles — if anything, there is good reason to expect it. The fact that it has long been politically incorrect to discuss this in those halls of academia responsible for policy and textbook creation hasn’t helped. (And the differences go beyond the relatively strict boundaries of what would be called “learning styles” — I would not categorize the “chairs vs. stools” difference, for example, as a difference in learning style so much as I would call it a difference in the most beneficial environment.)

    Thanks for the comment, and have a great Sabbath!

  3. Norbert

    I didn’t know that such an issue, having the promotion of one education system over the other even existed today. So I did what most any web surfer does, wiki it. Interestingly enough from this page, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Single-sex_education, it comes up with:

    “In 2002, because of these studies and bipartisan support, the US law of 1972 that made coeducation in public schools mandatory was revoked and funding was given in support of the single-sex option. There are now associations of parents who are advocating for single-sex education.”

    30 Years without funding will affect any legitimate interest group. And as most things under such strained conditions, the opinions produced would vary. The remainder of the wiki article has it’s share of opinions, the page being flagged for unverifiable information, possible bias here and there. Here’s another interesting article on the subject:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2006/jun/25/schools.gender

    Myself, I can’t say one system is substantially better than the other but I do applaud any efforts to re-establish single-sex schools as a viable option for parents. However with the information available, I’d be highly suspicious with an idea that promotes itself as some sort of “master”, the only true educational system.

  4. I agree, Norbert. Kids differ, and ideally all would be taught individually in the way that is best for them. Thankfully, God teaches each of us in a very one-on-one way — both with group learning (e.g., Sabbath and holy day gatherings and Bible studies) and minutely individualized instruction (e.g., our individual experiences in life). 🙂

    Cookie cutters are great for cookies, but not so good for kiddos. And I have yet to see an educational “system” that could be truly called a “master” system in that it would never have any more successful competitors under certain circumstances — that is, unless it was such a generic “system” that it was of no practical use (i.e., not really a “system” at all).

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