Girls Gone Wild Again II

, Spencer Irvine, Leave a comment

The American Enterprise Institute and the Independent Women’s Forum co-sponsored event, “Should Single-Sex Schooling be eliminated?”  discussed the value of continuing to have single-sex classrooms. S.E. Cupp, a new co-host of CNN’s reboot of “Crossfire,” moderated the debate between AEI resident scholar Christina Hoff Sommers and Lise Eliot, a neuroscience professor at the Chicago Medical School of Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science.

Eliot said that she thought that single-sex schooling created a disadvantage culturally and in sociological terms. Although she admitted it was not her area of expertise, Eliot said that segregation by sexes can affect children’s psyches. She was worried about “gender essentialism” and putting one sex ahead of the other, which she said created “gender stereotypes” that could damage their future development. Sommers disagreed strongly with that statement, saying that this can create problems as it negates what makes each gender great and unique. Single-sex schools like Wellesley would be shut down under Eliot’s reasoning, said Sommers. Also, single-sex education cannot be reasonably compared to the Jim Crow segregationist South for good reason, Summers pointed out.

Eliot countered and said her issue is how today’s single-sex schools may not seem selective, but they do have a specific admissions process in selecting students.

She is not against school choice, as some of her discussions and main points may have indicated, but she thinks that “this [school] choice isn’t fair in a diverse society.” Regarding single-sex schools, she said she wouldn’t eliminate excellent schools but could only ask if this is what American society wants going forward: discriminating between sexes in education.

Sommers thought that was a brash statement, and responded that single-sex schooling does not “undermine educational diversity.” By eliminating single-sex schools, critics assume that these schools “reinforce stereotypes” and are sexist in nature, a viewpoint that Sommers said is flawed.

S.E. Cupp brought up the point that feminism has made a comeback in education and asked Eliot and Summers about its influence. Eliot responded that, “ Schools have been captured by a feminist ideology,” adding that “a lot of all-girls schools do have a sort of girl power mentality.”

But, given that statement, Eliot dismissed this as gender politics at work. She said, “I’m not sure if this is really a political issue … I really don’t think it falls into these, you know, left-right lines and I don’t think it’s productive to go there anyway to discuss it.”

When challenged by Sommers about shutting down, not improving single-sex schools, Eliot simply said, “as a biomedical researcher, I wouldn’t want to deal with the quagmire that is a classroom.” But, she still insisted that the data supports the fact that schools must improve and how schools must “stop wasting money on school fads” and curriculum.

Her point is that “our understanding of gender is really broadening and I think that we don’t necessarily need to draw lines between boys and girls.” Sommers countered and gave the example of a Swedish school called Egalia, where gender is a non-issue and is not mentioned among schoolchildren or teachers. But, Sommers said, this is “misguided” because “you’re not allowing the children to be themselves.”

Eliot closed her argument by saying that the “only way to promote respectful positive relationships between different groups of people is through shared experience.” Her main issue is that “Gender equity isn’t about male bashing or female bashing. It’s about getting individual boys and girls to team up in purposeful collaboration.”

Sommers said that opponents of single-sex schools “have persuaded themselves that they are separated – that separating sex is comparable to separating by race. That is what’s driving this campaign. And that idea is spurious.” And, adding to her book, she said that “Boys are seriously behind girls in school. We do a far better job educating our girls than we do our boys.”

 

Spencer Irvine is a staff writer at Accuracy in Academia.
If you would like to comment on this article, e-mail mal.kline@academia.org.

 

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