In last week’s NY Times Magazine, Elizabeth Weil offered an exhaustive look at the debate over the growing move toward single-sex education in the younger grades. Weil’s position is that science now appears to be backing up what teachers have long claimed: children develop in different ways and at different rates according to gender. The article sites two different approaches to single-sex education: the “essential difference” view, that boys and girls are biologically entirely different species that need to be taught in different ways, and the “social difference” view, that says that boys and girls are treated differently in a classroom in ways that effect their outcomes in life.
These differences, moreover, make the job of a teacher that much more difficult. If you have to speak in two different languages, at two different volume levels, you’re bound to miss things, burn out, and be less efficient.
I think there’s a very sound policy argument that we should have more experimentation with pedagogical techniques and I have no problem with the idea that experimentation with single-sex education should be part of that. But this guy Leonard Sax just sounds like a quack. I mean, here’s a guy who’s not a neurologist and has no policy experience, but he’s decided to draw sweeping policy conclusions based on controversial neurological research? I have my doubts.