The Gender Role & The Gender Brain in Education

The Gender Role & The Gender Brain in Education by Sean Kullman (This article first appeared in the commission newsletter, The Proposal.)
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) does important work on civil rights, and the single-sex school debate continues to be an important social issue for them.  More often, the ACLU believes single sex schools encourage gender stereotypes that only alienate girls and boys and lead to discrimination and a violation of Title IX. The ACLU has filed lawsuits against districts to prevent single-sex school options.  “The adoption of single-sex education programs based on sex stereotypes has become widespread across the state of Florida, and should not be permitted to continue,’ said Galen Sherwin, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Women’s Rights Project.’” Referring to some of the gender science as “junk science,” the ACLU sees the single-sex classroom as a potentially discriminatory place.

Other nations have run public single-sex schools for decades, while single-sex public education in the United States is a recent phenomenon.  New Zealand provides co-educational as well as single-sex options for low and medium income families unable to afford private single-sex schools.  New Zealand’s system may provide some of the pros and cons of co-educational and single-sex education because of the sheer number of students and accessibility to data.

Experts cite that boys are struggling in our modern educational institutions and attending and graduating college at significantly lower rates.  (Today 57% of college attendees are women and 43% are male).  Other experts worry girls are not getting into science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) at comparable rates as boys. Federal data supports these concerns in math, technology, and engineering.

Dr. Joseph Cox, former Director of the International Boys School Coalition and father of a daughter who is an engineer, argues that “women who are the product of single-sex education are significantly more likely to study math and science, and in all-boys schools, young men tend to be less self-conscious about studying music, art or acting, and they are more open to sharing their feelings.”

Parents and educators are looking for solutions and new approaches. Gender and learning has its promoters and detractors, but the research around single-sex education has gathered promising data for new ways to educate, helping boys and girls succeed.  The ACLU worries this data could be misused and lead to discriminatory practices.

Sean Kullman is an educator and writer. He sits on the steering committee for the Coalition for a White House Council on Boys and Men

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The Single Sex Classrooms Debate

The Single Sex Classrooms Debate by Michael Gurian (This article first appeared in the commission newsletter, The Proposal.)
When I began to develop nature-based theory more than 25 years ago, I did not know it would be used in all of the ways it has been.  I am proud of its application in our nation’s schools.  Our teachers are our heroes and they need all the tools they can get, especially to help struggling students.

Among my initial findings were the struggles both boys and girls experienced in schools and communities because the staff and parents were only learning about gender roles (which is indeed a very important topic) but not gender.  Gender, not gender roles, impacts every student’s learning curve.  My nature-based gender theory starts with gender brain science (the nature part of the human equation), then moves to nurture and culture; it gives teachers, parents and others a holistic way to create healthy social systems for both boys and girls.
Of course not everyone agrees with the gender lens.  The ACLU’s attack on single gender classrooms and schools is an example.  Utilizing “research” from a very small cadre of social thinkers that do not represent the ideas of most people in the field, they argue that differences between males and females are minimal, (i.e. the gender lens is unnecessary), and that allowing schools and parents to choose educational options is dangerous. These folks make their points by attacking schools, misquoting and misconstruing my work and the work of others in the field, and saying that they represent the gender science and the families of our era.
In an interesting twist to this ongoing debate, a recent New York Times story on single gender education included a number of schools the Gurian Institute has worked with. However, the paper chose not to report any of the information from the scientists I asked them to talk with, nor print any of the responses I and others gave them to the superficial and cherry-picked theory in ACLU lawsuits. They basically published the few people and superficial ideas that fit the ACLU ideology.
In order to understand this debate fully, I hope you’ll go deeper.  Please study the schools that are innovating with a gender lens, whether they are coed, single gender, Montessori, or other, and raise your voices in support of them.
We will leave a legacy of choice and educational excellence for all students no matter their zip code if we come together in support of options in education.
Michael Gurian is an internationally recognized author, family therapist, and child advocate. gurianinstitute.com
 
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