“The New Gender Gap: why boys are falling behind girls in education” is the cover story of a recent issue of Business Week. With concern for education in the United States, home-schooling has become an increasingly popular alternative. But there is another form of schooling that is supported not only by a growing number of organizations, but by a growing body of research too.
Business Week makes note of the “stunning gender reversal in American education” in which boys are falling behind in school, with the result that a smaller and smaller proportion of them are going on to college. As that article makes clear, the problem is not that the girls are doing better; the real urgency derives from the fact that boys are doing worse, relative to the performance of boys 15 or 20 years ago. A growing percentage of boys are losing interest, giving up, and/or dropping out.
Is it time for more Americans to consider single-sex education? Given that most Americans (including conservatives), have not given very much thought to this educational structure on which Western civilization was built, the answer may be well be yes. Fr C.John McCloskey, a fellow at the Faith and Reason Foundation, wrote that the Catholic Church has consistently championed the value of single-sex education, based primarily on moral grounds. Muslims and Orthodox Jews have also supported the system, alongside America’s historic Protestant schools. And it is not only leaders in the religious community that have assessed the viability of such a model.
The National Association for the Advancement of Single-sex Education documents that “in the past five years, there has been an extraordinary surge of interest in single-sex public education. The new [federal] regulations published on October 25, 2006, which facilitate single-sex education in public schools, have significantly stoked this interest.” Both feminists and Democrats have shown significant suport for single-sex education too. Hillary Clinton said in June 2001: “Our long-term goal has to be to make single-sex education available as an option for all children, not just for children of parents wealthy enough to afford private schools.”
Professor Judith Kleinfeld has been studying gender issues in education for more than two decades and is also the founder and director of the Boys Project, an interdisciplinary, nationwide effort to develop gender-equitable solutions to the “boy problem” as it has been labeled. In June 2006, Professor Kleinfeld, of the University of Alaska at Fairbanks, was a featured speaker at the White House Conference on Helping America’s Youth.
Business Week concluded that a root cause of the decline in boys’ academic performance is that “educators [have] lost sight of the learning style of boys. . . Instead of catering to boys’ learning styles, many schools are force-fitting them into an unnatural mold. . . Educators also haven’t done nearly enough to keep up with the recent findings in brain research about developmental differences.”
“In a culture where political correctness has blurred legitimate differences in the sexes, it is time to reclaim positive masculinity,” the NSSPE argues. We need “to raise a new generation of responsible, upright men. And to achieve that end, we do [sic] bad to neglect exploration of traditional single-sex schooling.”
Garreth Bloor is an intern at Accuracy in Media.