Thursday, June 29, 2006

Sugar and slugs and snails and spice

You'll have read all about it by now, about how single-sex education is supposed to be far superior to mixed classes, and if we only split the boys and girls up, then the boys will do better in school, and more girls will do physics. Yawn yawn. I read all about this several years ago, and only now is it big news.
See, the idea is this, boys are supposed to do better when they sit in rows and are asked questions, and learn facts by rote. Girls on the other hand should sit at tables and collaberate in course work. In this way teachers can make best use of boys' and girls' ways of learning. That's it. Boy lessons for boys : Girl lessons for girls. Two sizes fit all.
This is stereotyping of the worst kind. What happens to the girls who would actually benefit and thrive being taught the boys' way? And likewise, what about those boys who would benefit from collaberative working? How would you decide which was better for each child before you put them into a class? Is there some kind of test they could take?
Now imagine the dilemma facing a boy who has been told he would benefit from being in the girls' class. He's got to make the trade-off of getting good grades, against the humiliation of being seen as a sissy by the other boys. This would be institutional cruelty, a social engineering experiment victimising children who do not conform to rigid gender roles.
Let's keep schools co-educational and minimise the tinkering. Boys and girls will have to work together when they join the workforce, so the sooner they start, the better.

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