Not A Battle Of The Sexes, But A Battle For Improvement: Separate Classes For Boys And Girls

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The inadequate decisions of man regarding the attempt to conduct society has undeniably fixated a sense of distrust within the human race; however, their consistent flaws and inability to govern humanity in an immaculate and equitable manner inspired the many reforms that occurred throughout history. The recognition of imperfection led to the arrangement of Black Lives Matter, Women’s Rights Movement, Labor Movement, and other such revolutions, which ultimately produced an improved system of civilization. Similarly, on a smaller scale, this attitude of rectification allowed the revision of America’s education system, which disclosed the shortcomings of its institution’s products, producers, and methods. The majority of the educational establishments in the United States of America implement coed classrooms, platforms which integrate both genders in a unified setting, as their primary method of conducting classes. The environment offered in academic surroundings: “the combined intellectual, social, emotional, and physical environments in which students learn” often determines the level of engagement and motivation a child is able to maintain. The consequence of a poor framework that does not cater towards the individualized needs of a student specific to their experience and cognitive function within classrooms is the demoralization of disciples and the development of their indifferent approach towards education (Students Lack Interest). Recent research suggests that such a repercussion has begun to dominate among today’s students. In addition, “behavior issues that interfere with teaching and learning have notably worsened” as confirmed by “68% of elementary teachers, 64% of middle school teachers and 53% of high school teachers” (Scholastic and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, 49). The aforementioned findings indicate a complication within the current design and execution of institutes in America and demonstrate a need for change. A potential element identified are coed classrooms, which contribute greatly to the lack of motivation, efficiency, and participation of students due to the setting’s inability to cater towards the distinct needs of the two sexes. A probable solution that has presented itself is that of a single sex setting that allows educators to modify teaching styles and the environment according to the psychological and social differences presented between the two genders. Furthermore, teachers should be thoroughly prepared and aware of the variation between boys and girls in order to appropriately address the distinctive qualities and utilize them to the student’s advantage in a mixed environment. Such resolutions provide appealing and prosperous surroundings that are engineered with the students’ best interest in mind and produce favorable results.

Acknowledging the contrasting characteristics that exist between the two sexes is an essential measure that initiates progress of instruction within primary and secondary level classrooms. A study titled, Different, Not Better: Gender Differences in Mathematics Learning Achievement, concludes “in many classrooms, the classroom climate, learning style, instructional style, and experiences offered to boys and girls may not address the needs of either gender. This tunnel-vision view that all students learn in the same way regardless of gender, may be doing a disservice to our students” (King et al, 43). According to research, there are two types of chief disparities apparent among male and female students: 1) cognitive and 2) behavioral. The differences in cerebral advancement between the two sexes are observed as early as 2 months of age. Leonard Sax, a renowned psychologist and family physician, reports of a study conducted at Virginia Tech, which “used sophisticated electrophysiologic imaging of the brain to examine brain development in 508 normal children ranging in age from 2 months to 16 years.” The findings presented that the evolution of spatial judgement and the ability to calculate based on figures and images is a skill, which the brain is responsible for, that develops 4 years later in girls than in boys. In contrast, the accomplishment of writing and understanding language is achieved 4 years earlier by females than their male counterparts. Due to this observation, it becomes clear that “a curriculum that teaches the same subjects in the same sequence to girls and boys runs the risk of giving rise to 12-year-old girls who think they can’t do geometry—and that they will never be any good at geometry—and 12-year-old boys who don’t like to read or write” (34).

Moreover, through experiments and studies, neurologists have discovered conclusions that communicate large differences in the capacity of hearing between boys and girls. Females, from birth, are far more responsive to sound and human voices than boys. “By the age of 12, the average girl has a sense of hearing at least 7 times more sensitive than the average boy.” It has also been discovered that “girls are distracted by sound levels 10 times lower than those that distract boys” (Sax, 34). Although, on the surface, such facts can seem trivial, this simple difference between the hearing of boys and girls determine the conditions in which they learn best. For example, the presenter should make an effort to raise their voice and avoid the formation of groups when attempting to teach boys due to their lack of especially perceptive hearing. On the other hand, girls require the exact opposite factors in order to create a proficient environment: a classroom clear of audible distractions coupled with useful, collaborative discussions (Taylor, Para. 2).

In terms of behavior, often the hyperactive tendencies of boys, which are chemically explained, become distractive for their female peers in a learning environment. The lack of serotonin, a chemical which, in part, is responsible for the regulation of social behavior, and the abundance of testosterone, a hormone which oversees the level of aggression, in young males explain the restlessness and energy frequently projected by boys (Jantz, 4). Leonard Sax notices “in a coed class, the boys have to sit, because boys jumping up and down will unfairly distract the girls. But in an all-boys class, the other boys seem unbothered by the boys who are jumping and twirling” (35). Our Kids, the organization, released an article exposing the faulty nature of coed classroom settings that reprimand boys for habits that are rightfully in sync with their nature: “Boys aren’t programmed to sit quietly for long periods and focus on one task. They’re easily distracted, they’re loud and, especially in early adolescence” (Coed Schools, Para.23). While female students benefit from the current setup of classrooms, the restrictions cause many unnecessary admonitions and disciplinary referrals to be written out for male students which result in an overall demotivating and distractive environment for students of both sexes.

Denying the divergence between boys and girls encourages willful ignorance among administrators, teachers, and parents that only results in ramifications which effect not only students and schools, but a society’s entire social and economic make-up in the long run, for today’s learners are most definitely tomorrow’s leaders. Although the consequences of inappropriate conduction of education and unsuitable environments have become apparent within America’s education system, a reasonable solution that reverses such effects is that of widely introducing the option of public, single-sex classrooms, which have been proven to improve the learning experience of students through breaking down stereotypes and assisting in achieving higher test grades.

As much as society prefers to believe the age of gender biases and stereotypes relating to the sex of an individual has passed and such notions have evaporated, that is not the case. The expectations placed upon genders relating to their careers and the areas in which they excel at, unfortunately, still exist. Whether this pressure is sourced from the society at large, immediate family, or even the culture at school, it enforces boys and girls to refrain from exploring subjects which may be considered atypical in respective to their genders. Thus, naturally, single-sex schools encourage the opposite: to break the stereotypes and provide the psychological freedom and opportunity of exploration without the stigma of “rebellion”. An article published by Our Kids studies the effects of single-sex schooling in reference to institution and students, which notes the positive impacts of gender segregated school in regard to academic selection. The result of surveying and comparing several schools, coed and single-sex, reveals that gender segregation grants a safe space for students to practice and be educated in an environment free of pre-conceived beliefs and assumptions that may prevent students from reaching their maximum potential. In segregated schools, boys “have a longer time to be boys and to explore various interests, for example, in the arts, without getting straitjacketed into some stereotypical gender role” while for girls “much of the benefit lies in developing their personhood in an environment free of persistent traditional gender stereotypes that can hold women back” (Coed Schools). As far as statistics, a university in Virginia put forth a study in 2003 that found “boys who attended single-sex schools were more than twice as likely to pursue interests in subjects such as art, music, drama, and foreign languages, compared to boys of comparable ability who attended coed schools” (James, 2003). Similarly, the National Association for Choice in Education (NACE) presents that “ Girls in single-sex educational settings are more likely to take classes in math, science, and information technology” (NACE, Para.1). In this manner, institutions which value the segregation of sex within classrooms not only produced well-experienced individuals, but also well-rounded individuals that have had the opportunity to investigate and suffice their curiosities without feeling the scrutiny of society.

An additional benefit of school which operate with gender segregation is improved performance of students measured by score reports. The National Association in Choice for Education initiated a research surveying various studies conducted across Korea, North America, and England to further examine the influence of single-sex schools on student achievement levels. Conductors from the University of Pennsylvania journeyed to Seoul, a city in South Korea, to witness the educational experiment happening in the vicinity: students were separated at random to either be placed in a coed classroom or a segregated setting. Every effort was taken to execute differences in exterior variables and “the researchers found no differences between the single-gender and the coed schools in terms of teacher quality or in teacher training. Class sizes in the boys’ schools were no different than in the typical coed school… there were no differences in socioeconomic background or prior academic achievement between students attending single-gender schools and those attending coed schools” (NACE, para.3). The researchers concluded with the outcome that “Attending all-boys schools or all-girls schools, rather than attending coeducational schools, is significantly associated with higher average scores on Korean and English test scores.” (NACE, para.5). In an alternate study, investigators from Stetson University studied a similar project at Woodward Avenue Elementary School, located in Florida, which also randomly divided their students into classrooms that were either segregated or mixed. After confirming there were limited differences in the demographics of the students, class logistics, and that the teachers were placed in identical training, the results were measured through the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FACT). “37% of boys in coed classroom scored proficient while 86% of boys in single-sex classes score proficient. 59% of girls scored proficient in coed classrooms while 75% of girls scored proficient in single-sex classrooms” (NAPE, para.9). Similar results were noted in Fairhurst Highschool, located in Essex, England, whose principal decided to segregate the two genders within the same school; this meant students would be receiving instruction from the same instructors, in the same environment among the same classmates with one difference: gender segregation. “Three years after making the change, the proportion of…boys achieving high scores on standardized tests had risen by 26%. The girls’ performance improved only slightly less, by 22%…” (NACE, para.28). These results are not solely unique to the aforementioned experiments; rather there are numerous studies conducted which show similar outcomes, indicating the favorable influence that gender segregated classrooms have on students.

Through research presented in this paper and additional studies, it is suggested that the implementation of an environment that specifically caters to the differences apparent between the two genders has both, long-term and immediate, benefits. Thus, the government and state departments of education should carefully consider the addition of single-sex charter schools within each district to enhance the quality of education offered in America. The foundations of a successful single-sex classroom rely on thoroughly educated parents and teachers, cooperation from state departments, and the motivation to change. As Leonard Sax says, “Simply putting girls in one room, and boys in another, is no guarantee of anything good happening…If teachers have appropriate training and professional development, then great things can happen, and often do happen” (NACE, para.8). It is also recognized that learning is not one size fits all, and although investigations may prove the invaluable benefits that single-sex education provokes, some children may do better in mixed environments, which is the reason an additional solution is needed: teachers should be required to complete vigorous education on the differences between the learning styles and perceptiveness of both genders in order to incorporate techniques within their instruction that allow both genders to thrive in a healthy and productive setting. Recognizing and admitting the evident differences that exist between boys and girls is a society’s step forward in improvement and it is not a miscalculated move nor is it participating in a battle of the sexes; rather it is a unified battle for improvement; for investing in today’s students can only promise a better, and eulogized future.

Works Cited

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Carnegie Mellon University. “Explore Strategies – Eberly Center – Carnegie Mellon University.” Culture and Environment, Eberly Centre, www.cmu.edu/teaching/solveproblem/strat-lackmotivation/lackmotivation-04.html.

James, Abigail Norfleet, and Herbert C Richards. “Escaping Stereotypes: Educational Attitudes of Male Alumni of Single-Sex and Coed Schools.” Psychology of Men and Masculinity.

Jantz, Gregory. “Brain Differences Between Genders.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 27 Feb. 2014, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/hope-relationships/201402/brain-differences-between-genders.

King, Margaret, and Eugene A Geist. “Different, Not Better: Gender Differences in Mathematics Learning and Achievement.” Journal of Instructional Psychology, George Uhlig, Mar. 2008, www.questia.com/read/1G1-178218787/different-not-better-gender-differences-in-mathematics.

“NACE: Research > Single-Sex vs. Coed: The Evidence.” NACE: Home > Introduction, www.singlesexschools.org/research-singlesexvscoed.htm.

Our Kids. “Co-Ed Classrooms versus Single-Sex Classrooms.” Coed Education versus Single Sex Schools, Stanstead College, www.ourkids.net/school/together-or-apart.

Sax, Leonard. “The Promise and Peril of Single-Sex Public Education.” Education Week, Editorial Project in Education, 13 July 2018, www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2005/03/02/25sax.h24.html.

Scholastic, and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. “Primary Sources: 2012 America’s Teachers on the Teaching Profession.” Https://Www.scholastic.com/Primarysources/Pdfs/Gates2012_full.Pdf, 2012.

Taylor, Arlene R. “Gender Hearing Differences.” Realizations Inc, arlenetaylor.org/sensory-preference-pas/7444-gender-hearing-differences.

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