Single-Sex Education: Should Men and Women be Separated?
Are women disadvantaged when they share their classroom with men?
The recent US Supreme Court mandating the admission of women into the Virginia Military Institute and the Citadel has brought this question to the forefront.
Research continues to support the fact that women, even in coeducational settings, do not have equal opportunities. For instance, on coeducational campuses, many women find that they're called on less frequently in class and are harassed physically, sexually and emotionally.
CHS English teacher Maureen George agrees with these studies. "Single sex education [success]," she said, "really depends on the individual. Some it would help a lot, especially those who are easily distracted by boys. It would really help girls in math and the sciences where there usually is favoritism to choose a boy."
Is there a solution to this problem?
People in East Harlem believe they have found the answer by opening the Young Women's Leadership School. It is the first all-girls public school to open in New York in ten years.
What are the benefits with this type of education? Celenia Chevere, principal of the new school, said (as reported in the New York Times), "I see it as a real opportunity for them to come to an environment that is very personal, nurturing, that will support their learning and empower them to take charge of their learning."
One of the students, Cynthia Lopez, claimed that this type of education will allow her to concentrate on her studies and not about dressing up and impressing boys.
Dozens of studies bolster the confidence in one-sex schools for girls. They show that graduates of girls' schools and women's colleges are more self-confident, more successful on the job and more likely to pursue careers in math and science.
One study even found that graduates of women's colleges had higher-status jobs, including greater pay and more responsibility, than graduates of coed schools.
Given all these advantages, why are many people still opposed to the idea of an all-girls public school? Both the New York Chapter of the National Organization for Women and the New York Civil Liberties Union argue that the school's gender-based admissions policy violates federal anti-discrimination laws.
Many students at CHS agree. As Daniel Colleran, a Senior, said, "If it's a public high school, then everyone should have a chance-girls and guys-at a good education." "They should open an all-guys public high school so that they have an equal opportunity," adds fellow Senior Felisha Phillips.
Another disadvantage that people see with a single-sex school is that it is not a "real world" situation. "I do not feel that knowledge is sexually specific," said CHS's Dr. Joseph Shanahan. "[Teaching only one sex] is contrary to the whole Renaissance mind of ideas coming together and people learning to be with each other and accepting each other for who they are."
Shanahan adds, "I suspect it is a way for society to try to control some of the problems that they see as evidence in today's youth. I don't think control is even the way to deal with the problems. I think it has to be approached on a more sophisticated level."
In spite of the ideals espoused by Dr. Shanahan and many others, research on all-boys' schools shows the greatest advantages for the most disadvantaged, namely, black and Hispanic males.
There are schools in cities such as Detroit and Milwaukee that have avoided legal challenges by accepting a few girls in their all-male schools. For advocates of single-sex schools, such efforts may be the only way to get a sympathetic ear.
by Chris Fyda (gr. 12)