As the youngest of five with four older brothers who taught me a lot about the real world and how to live in it, I was skeptical about single-sex education. However, after looking at the data and comparing it to programs that struggle, I suspend my initial judgment. Additionally, brain research shows that boys and girls learn differently. If principals think they can get further instructing boys in specific ways that involve challenging, bodily-kinesthetic and experiential methods, while girls are taught more specifically to how they learn, I am all for it with a few caveats:
1) Both boys and girls need to learn the qualities traditionally associated with each gender. For example, boys need to learn to slow down, ask questions, and be considerate. Girls need to learn to assert themselves, speak up for the ideas and opinions and have the strength to say “No” when needed.
2) Teachers will need to teach to gender strengths while developing gender weaknesses so that being in same sex
classes doesn’t prove to be a long term liability.
3) Outside of school, students need many extra-curricular and social opportunities with the opposite sex. Otherwise, each gender will feel “deprived” and that can cause other obvious problems.
4) Parents need to support the school in these initiatives and be involved in both same sex learning goals and activities where both sexes get to learn, grow and contribute outside of class.
With as many struggling students as our nation has now in K-12, we owe ourselves looking at the same problem in different ways, conducting longitudinal studies through middle school, high school and college.
Michael Napolitano speaks to his fifth-grade class in the Morrisania section of the Bronx like a basketball coach. “You — let me see you trying!” he insisted the other day during a math lesson. “Come on, faster!”
Across the hall, Larita Hudson’s scolding is more like a therapist’s. “This is so sloppy, honey,” she prodded as she reviewed problems in a workbook. “Remember what I spoke to you about? About being the bright shining star that you are?”
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