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Monday, April 16, 2007

Separate, but Equal

A Wisconsin high school has decided to begin segregating their math classes. Calm down, Rev. Sharpton, it's by gender, not skin color.

They will begin offering the new single-sexed classes alongside traditional coed ones, giving students and parents the option. The focus seems to be on the girls. As one teacher put it

"I've got very, very intelligent young ladies who outperform (other students) in my classroom, but they are not as active in participating in class," said Ann Geier, a math teacher at Everest who will teach a class of up to 30 girls. "I'm always interested in seeing how my girls do, being a woman math teacher."

Amber O-Connell, a student who registered for one of the new classes, says

"Girls act differently. They are afraid to ask questions. They will think the guys will think they are dumb."

I'm really not sure how I feel about this and I don't want to make any predictions. I'm choosing to look at it as an experiment that may or may not have the intended results. I will say this. I think schools should try as much as possible to mirror conditions in the actual world. The worlds of science, business, and academia do not protect girls from boys. They will eventually have to learn how to deal with that fact. I can only imagine how hard it would be for a "smart" girl, especially in the field of mathematics which is so largely dominated by men. I suppose the Wisconsin educators hope that this small buffer will allow the girls to develop their skills and self-esteem for college.

I hope they're right.

1 comment:

Rebecca said...

My family spend a year in England when I was 13. That year (8th grade here) I went to an all-girls school, and I think it was a great experience. A lot of shy but smart girls are intimidated by the loud, obnoxious boys, and I was no exception. That year away from boys helped me find my voice and gain some confidence. So I am not opposed to single-sex schools. I don't know about dividing everybody up for only a single class, though.