A/N: Hello again! I just wanted to put something out there so no one forgets I'm alive - this time, it's some persuasive arguement paper I had to write for AP English on a topic of our choice. I was actually kind of proud of it, and my teacher seemed to like it as well, given the fact that I got a 50/50.. ;) But I'd really like to hear what other people think.
The Reality of Single-Sex Schools
While reading several articles describing the various pros and cons of single-sex education, I was reminded of an instance in elementary school with a group of rowdy nine-year-old boys. Seemingly unable to pay attention to the teacher's instructions, they were pushing pencils through the holes of their plastic rulers and spinning those rulers around the tip of their pencils, causing many of our classmates to giggle behind their hands. Finally, our teacher, having already told the boys several times to stop and fed up with the distracting behavior, demanded that they leave the room to "think about what they had done." Then, turning back to us, she said, with a teasing smile on her face, "It's a wonder you girls can hear or learn anything in here, what with all of that racket you boys can make."
As a child who thought boys brought on a terrible case of cooties, I could not have agreed more. Boys were always throwing things at each other and could never seem to stay quiet for more than a few minutes; thus, we well-behaved girls were, without a doubt, much better off without them at school. Maybe they were better off without us. However, now that I am older and have been through many years of school with that drastically different species of humankind, I have reconsidered my childish opinion that attending school with the opposite sex is detrimental to a student's ability to learn.
The self-esteem of children seems to be a driving factor behind the push for single-sex schooling. When kids reach the age of adolescence and hormones are soaring, supporters of single-sex schools say, they become so much more concerned with looking good for each other that the purpose of school – to learn – is lost amidst the need to conform. Braverman states that students should be allowed to learn in an environment free of peer pressures, particularly those from the opposite sex, going so far as to say that "high school interactions between girls and boys frequently have long term consequences" (2). While the subject of boy-girl interaction does happen to be an issue, what will happen when students graduate from their same-sex high school – or even same-sex college – where they are carefully shielded from the influence of a different gender, and find themselves thrust into adulthood, where the presence of the opposite sex is often inescapable? What is the purpose of taking away distractions in school, one of the most important givers of life experience, if only to force them back on the unprepared young men and woman as they reach adulthood? Ward insists that "good single-sex schools and classes for males and females allow young people to release themselves temporarily…from the undue burden of the hyper-sexualized society in which they live" (1), but how can parents expect their young men and women to thrive in a co-ed working environment when they grew up having minimal interaction with each another?
Gender stereotypes are also behind the drive for an increase in same-sex education. Boys are seen as obnoxious, fidgety, and boastful while girls are expected to be polite, shy, and modest. One opinion is that, as a result, they require different methods of teaching in order to be successful as a student. In fact, some people say that girls learn math better and have more fun doing so when problems are in "story format", more infamously known as word problems. Gandy disagrees, saying, "when I was in school we called them 'word problems' and they were universally hated by girls and boys alike" (1). While it is a fact that girls and boys have relatively different behaviors, it is nothing more than a generalization. There are many cases of mischievous girls who can never stop talking and very creative boys who rarely speak a word in class. Single-sex education for these children would be very ineffective.
Is there any evidence that single-sex schools are really as effective as some people claim they are? Braverman would say so, claiming "the studies show that girls perform much better without the pressure of looking good for the boys" (1). However, Kaminer's argument counters that statement. "'Studies show' is the usual lead-in to any defense of single-sex education. In fact studies do not show that girls fare better in single-sex schools" (Kaminer, 5). According to her research, "a mere 1.3 percent of all women awarded B.A. degrees graduate from single-sex colleges" (Kaminer, 1). It is evident that colleges that allow its students to mingle with the opposite sex produce a greater amount of successful women; co-ed schools give their students the valuable life experiences they need to succeed in adulthood.
Regardless of your beliefs, the truth remains that the human race is comprised of both males and females. Children may find fewer distractions in a single-sex school, but what will happen when they enter the real world and struggle to adapt to an environment that includes members of the opposite sex? Every parent wants to raise their children to be able to face reality; if anything, co-ed schools, unlike single-sex schools, force them to do just that.
Braverman, Emuna. "Same-Sex Education." Mom with a View. October 27, 2005. October 28, 2008.
Gandy, Kim. "Looking at Education through Father Knows Best-Glasses." Below the Belt: a Bi-weekly Column. September 19, 2007. October 28, 2008.
Kaminer, Wendy. "The Trouble with Single Sex Schools." The Atlantic Online. April 1998. October 8, 2008.
Ward, Lorraine Garnett. "The Wonders of a Single-Sex Education." The Boston Globe. October 20, 2006. October 28, 2008.