Patricia Camarda Dr. Jones 11/7/11 Persuasive Paper #1 The Case for Single- Sex Education America’s educational system has been through many changes, in legislation and form, pretty much since the time of its creation. The way in which we educate our youth has been altered in many different ways even since back in colonial times, but the change doesn’t only come in the form of legislations or achievement requirements, but also in whether the classrooms were single-sex or coeducational. At the start of the United States’ educational career the classes were primarily coeducational, mainly because there were so few teachers and students that it didn’t make sense to separate the sexes. As the years went by and schooling became more accessible the schools started to lean to more of a single-sex education. This changed occurred more in the private schools being created and the Universities, which were primarily just for men, with very few allowing women to enroll. Again America took another turn and began to favor coeducational schooling, particularly with the public education, since it was more cost effective. Even now the question of whether single-sex or coeducational schooling is better for the youth of America is still a much debated topic, with both sides arguing vehemently for their cause. When considering what is better for the children overall, academically and socially, single-sex education provides many benefits and assists in those students become well rounded and confident adults. The edge they receive academically alone help them get into better colleges and from there better jobs. Single-sex schooling is also better equipped to accommodate for the brain and learning differences between boys and girls. Socially they receive even more benefits since it makes them more comfortable in the classroom, especially at a young age, and makes the students more ordered and disciplined. Ironically, single-sex education also makes the students feel equal to the opposite sex in later life instead of making the girls feel more inferior in a male dominated world. This is accomplished mostly because of the positive role models in the schools. Many coeducational advocates with bring up the argument that studies of the differences between the two types hardly allow for variables such as prior achievement and therefore the results cannot be correct. That agreement however does have a few holes since not all single-sex classrooms are in the private schools, which are usually more selective in whom they choose to enroll. The debates over single-sex versus coeducational schooling has taken over board meetings, teachers’ discussions, and sometimes even the dinner table talk, all focusing on the overwhelming question of which is better for the kids. The evidence shows that single-sex education is in fact the greatest way to make your child succeed to the best of their ability. One of the main benefits that many focus on when it comes to single-sex education is the advanced academic achievement single-sex students tend to exhibit. What many do not see is that the education, or way of teaching, is not always different or even the deciding factor in what makes singlesex students’ grades better. Studies have actually shown that the coeducational system can be somewhat sexist without even meaning to be. According to Cornelius Riordan, author of “Girls and Boys in School”, studies on the organization of the classroom suggest that girls may be at a disadvantage in the coeducational classes (Riordan). The classrooms tend to be more male dominated and the boys may receive more of the attention, whether for educational help or disciplinary issues, but nevertheless leaves the girls behind (Riordan, 9). The single-sex classes take that issue away since the teachers can really only focus on what gender they have in that class. As Riordan says single-sex classes, “provide unconstrained access to the full range of educational curricula for all students” (Riordan, 53). This quote means that the students no longer have to stick with the subjects usually associated with their gender. Studies have actually shown that girls take full advantage of this new freedom to choose whichever subject they wish, with many turning more to the math and sciences, unfortunately the same change has not occurred with the boys (Harker). An example of this comes from a study done at the University of Missouri in Kansas City, where they had one math course set aside only for women and studied the differences between that class and the mixed sex class. The girls in the single sex class received higher grades and a better completion rate than the women in the coeducational class and 56% of them actually went on to enroll in another math course (Riordan). Another great advantage of single sex education is that they can better accommodate the learning differences between boys and girls. When asked, 82% of teachers will say that girls and boys process information differently and that they have to find ways in which to accommodate that (Spielhagen, 36). There is also scientific proof to back the teachers’ opinion as well to give it more credence. It is said that girls have stronger neural connections and use the cerebral part of their brain more, which makes them have better listening skills, a greater memory, and tend to be more interested in the languages. They also have better attention spans and can make faster transitions between lessons (McBride). Boys on the other hand use the more primitive areas of the brain so they will tend to focus more on movement and have shorter attention spans. They also have less blood flow to the brain so boys tend to compartmentalize learning and not be able to make transitions between lessons quickly (McBride). Because of these differences, teaching the sexes separately can be beneficial since then the teachers can base their lesson plans on how each gender learns. This way neither gender is likely to fall greatly behind or fell that they are going too slow. There are many different strategies for each sex the teacher can use to make the student better understand what is going on, and thus getting better grades than their coeducational counterparts. For instance, to better accommodate for the boys need for movement teachers can make lessons more kinesthetic and experimental so it gets them to focus more on what they are learning (McBride). Lessons that focus around the needs of girls or boys with get them to concentrate more and have them better understand the content material. One of the other main talking points with this debate is the social benefits that go along with single-sex education. According to Riordan, student interaction makes up 29% of the students experience in the school, so it seems obvious that the social environment plays a big role in how the child develops (Riordan, 56). In coeducational classes males are usually the dominate group and as sad as it is to say, because of this girls may not even try to reach their full potential. By taking away that variable in the classroom, girls have a better of being their best and not be afraid to participate in class. As Karen Zittleman says, “[single sex schools are] a place to free voices too often silenced in coeducational schools” (Sadker, 253). This quote exemplifies the fact that girls tend to not participate in classroom discussions for fear of being teased, especially during the middle school years, which can deter their growing achievement. In Frances R. Spielhagen’s book, “Debating Single-Sex Education”, she gives many first hand examples of how middle school aged girls feel after they switched to single-sex classrooms. One 6th grader, by the name of Becky, said that she was always worried about the boys teasing her because she was smarter and now that she’s in single sex classes she feels safer to show how smart she is. Nancy, a 7th grader, feels the same way as Becky saying, “You wouldn’t be nervous to ask a question and be wrong and then the boys might laugh at you”. Nancy also feels that being in a single sex classroom has actually made her grades improve saying, “We get higher grades [now] because we pay attention more and do not get distracted.”(Spielhagen, 38-39). The social benefits to girls speak for themselves since they tend to have higher self-esteem while in school. Not only do the benefits of single sex schooling show during their education but also during their adulthood. Studies have shown that women who have gone to single-sex schools usually have higher occupational achievement, self-esteem and self-control as well as more happiness in their marriage (Riordan, 147). Students that went through single-sex education also tend to view themselves as equal to the other gender, instead of viewing one sex as dominate over the other which often happens in coeducational systems. A study done by Lockheed and Hall shows the truthfulness of this statement when they observed coed students working on group assignments, group one being students who have always been in a coeducational system and the other, group two, with girls who were once in a single-sex environment. In the first group the study showed that the men were more inclined to dominate and lead the discussion. However group two exhibited the females feeling of equality since they did not let the men dominate and in a way forced the boys to see them as equals (Riordan, 56). This study shows how single-sex schools actually create a feeling of equality among its students toward the opposite sex, instead of making the girls feel more inferior or the boys feel more domineering, as many coed advocated are wont to say. The social benefits also include the increased sense of order and discipline among the students who attend single-sex schools. Boys are, by nature, usually the troublemakers in a classroom, regardless of what kind of schooling they receive. The amount of times that they do get in trouble though significantly drops once they are in a single-sex environment (Riordan, 58). Studies have shown that 13.9% of boys in single-sex classes get in trouble opposed to the 20.9% in the coeducational system that got in trouble (Riordan, 59). Studies have also shown that when schools go from a mixed sex to singlesex setting the infractions decrease and overwhelming 22%. Much of the decrease came from fewer infractions in things that influenced the student’s achievement such as tardiness, unpreparedness, or incomplete homework (Spielhagen, 74). So by decreasing the infractions in those areas the child with actually become a better student and their grades with improve. Single-sex schools also have many positive role models, for both girls and boys, which contribute to their success and positive self-image. Each school present very successful role models for their own sex, which make them want to become more like the men or women they emulate. For boys seeing other male students achieve and get high grades also make them want to be good students (Riordan, 49). Having positive role models is especially helpful to having girls become more confident. A writer by the name of Mary Conroy, who had gone to a single-sex school, said, “Almost by osmosis we learned one assumption: that girls could achieve … everywhere we looked we saw girls as star athletes, class officers and editors…We also saw role models among the faculty… After four years… it never occurred to us that women couldn’t lead” (Sadker, 254). Since all the top students or athletics and student leaders will all be female, the other students feel as if success is within their grasp and that they can achieve anything they want (Riordan, 49). Seeing such success around them has an encouraging influence and makes them work harder, which then contributes to their higher achievement. While the advantages of single-sex education are so clearly seen, many coed advocates are still quick to bring up their one strong argument, being that the studies that convey the higher single-sex test scores do not contain the variables such as prior achievement before they got to that school or the selectivity of that school. When you don’t account for those variables the differences between test scores seem vast, but the results can be seen as not correct. Since one of the main arguments for single-sex education is the higher academic achievement having erroneous studies can put a bad light on the case made by single-sex advocates. Herbert W. Marsh said in his article about Single-sex and Coeducational schools, “Single-sex schools are more likely to be private selective schools, their students more typically brighter, come from socioeconomic backgrounds, maybe more highly motivated.” (Marsh). Most high status or private schools tend to be single-sex schools and since they are very selective in who they enroll those schools have the students who have the highest achievement levels and the motivation to continue the hard work. So of course when studies are made to display the differences in achievement between the two types of schools the single-sex sides triumph. When studies do take into account of those variables, the results show that there is in fact no immense difference in achievement (Harker). Unfortunately for the coed advocates this argument does not always ring true. There have been many cases in which studies have in fact accounted for those variables and found the results to still be in the single-sex educations favor. For example, one study found that even after all the variables, such as prior achievement, were considered girls in the single-sex school still score a .5 grade equivalent higher than there coeducational counterparts (Riordan, 94). Also single-sex schools are not just in the private sector but also available in a public setting, which takes away the argument of selectivity. The schools in New Zealand, for example, has many single sex schools in the public sector making them available to anyone that wishes to receive that type of education. The scores still show that the single-sex schools are still achieving at a higher level (Harker). The question over whether single-sex education is better than coeducational schooling has been a much debated topic for many years, possibly ever since America started its public education system. The coeducational side makes very avid arguments, but the benefits single-sex education provides to the students are perhaps too good to look over. The academic advantages are the most obvious of these benefits since the test scores show the high achievement level and success afforded to those students. The single-sex schools are also better able to accommodate the learning and brain differences between boys and girls, which helps them, learn more efficiently, contributing to that high achievement. The social benefits are also very great since it helps build their self-esteem and create a sense of equality that will stay with the students past their graduation and later into adulthood. The presence of positive role models for each sex also shows the students that they can be a success too and do not have to be held back because of their gender. The obvious benefits of single-sex education make it seem as if the debate should be an open and shut case. Single-sex education can make a kid turn into a confident, successful adult, making it the best choice for an educational system. Works Cited Harker, Richard. “ Achievement, Gender, and the Single-Sex/Coed Debate” British Journal of Sociology of Education Jun. 2000: 203-218. Taylor & Francis. Web. 10 Oct. 2011. Marsh, Herbert W. “Public, Catholic Single-Sex, and Catholic Coeducational High Schools: Their Effects on Achievement, Affect, and Behaviors.” American Journal of Education May 1991: 320-356. Chicago Journals. Web. 10 Oct. 2011. McBride, Bill. Teaching to Gender Differences. Web. 5 November 2011. Riordan, Cornelius. Girls and Boys in School: Together or Separate? New York: Teachers College Press, 1990. Print. Sadker, David, Sadker, Myra and Zittleman, Karen, R. Still Failing at Fairness: How Gender Bias Cheats Girls and Boys in School and What We Can Do About It. New York: Simon and Schuster, Inc., 2009. Print. Spielhagen, Frances R. Debating Single- Sex Education: Separate and Equal? Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield,2008. Print.