Monday, September 22, 2008

School in Virginia practices gender segregation  

This is one of the most ridiculous things I have ever heard. A middle school in Virginia has decided to follow the sexist ideology of author Leonard Sax, who wrote the book "Why Gender Matters," and teach boys and girls separately and differently. His philosophy? We are trying too hard to "feminize" boys and "masculinize" girls, and we should just accept the fact that males and females have different brains. It should be noted that very little solid scientific evidence exists to support this claim - and even if some evidence does exist, it is liable to change within the next few years, as it has been for the past several decades. For years, scientists have been falsely identifying certain characteristics of "male" and "female" brains, and attributing the more dominant and positive characteristics to men. I don't think this is any different.

According to a report done by CNN, "Boys don't have to sit in desks, reviews have become relay races" and "Girls work more in groups, in less stressful non-competitive settings." In the video, you can see young boys running around outside to learn vocabulary words, while the girls sit inside, doing math problems. Which setting would I have liked better as a 12 year-old? My money is on the fun outdoor activities. What child wouldn't better like to get out of the classroom and run around, regardless of their gender? But according to Sax, boys "suffer" in a traditional classroom setting.

This is completely outrageous. You cannot generalize an entire sex - there are undoubtedly some boys who do not enjoy sports and would rather work in a classroom setting, and there are inarguably some girls who would much rather run around outdoors than sit in a desk all day. I absolutely refuse to believe that all girls work better sitting inside and all boys work better being active outside. Just observe what CNN says the Department of Education's take is on this new teaching style:

"The Department of Education says this can provide some benefits to some students under certain circumstances."

Some benefits! Some students! Certain circumstances! Oh GEE, sounds to me like all boys and all girls aren't exactly the same! I appreciate the insight into our education system, and the suggestion of new and innovative teaching styles, but this guy is just going about it all wrong. There are indeed many students who despise classroom settings and have trouble paying attention while sitting in desks - but they are both male and female! Let's put our rigid gender norms aside for a moment and consider keeping classes integrated, but making them smaller. One girl who participated in the experiment claimed, "I liked it more because I could concentrate." I don't believe that was because all boys were removed, I think it was because she was in a smaller group of children, so she was better able to concentrate and was given more attention by the teacher. Additionally, instead of keeping kids in the classroom all day, teachers could try a combination of both - a few hours in the classroom, and then some time outside participating in relay races to learn vocabulary. Or, the relay races could be optional, allowing those who don't wish to participate to stay inside and continue working. Everyone wins, and we don't impose nasty and misguided sexist beliefs on young and impressionable children. We don't teach them that boys and girls are inherently different, thereby feeding into our exclusive Barbie-vs-GI Joe culture, and we don't encourage the fact that males are meant to be active and females are meant to be calm and "non-competitive."

I can't believe that this school would even consider such a terrible teaching style. I just hope they haven't done irrevocable damage on these poor kids.

(Thanks to Jamie for the link!)

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