Monday, March 3, 2008

Gender-based Education

Sara Mead responds to this very strange article in the New York Times Sunday Magazine, the first half of which, as Sara said, reads like a puff piece for Dr. Leonard Sax's approach to gender-based education which includes using different light levels to help educate young boys and girls. I'll let Sara's own words make the argument:

In the NYT magazine piece, author Elizabeth Weil profiles Dr. Leonard Sax, a family doctor from Washington, D.C.'s Maryland suburbs and a leading advocate of gender-based schooling. She also describes 3 different public schools implementing single-sex education--an all-male and an all-female New York City charter school, as well as a coed district school in Alabama teaching children in sex seggregated classrooms. And she does a decent job in laying out some of the key critiques of Sax's work. Sax and Gurian exaggerate the neuroscience and get some of it flat-out wrong. Much of the science they do cite is primarily descriptive--it's not adequate to serve as a guide to making decisions about teaching or policy. And they ignore the fact that variation among both males and females often far exceeds average differences between the genders.

But, since the critiques don't appear until roughly halfway through a very long article--the first part of which reads like a puff piece on Dr. Sax--many readers may miss them. Moreover, while Weil's airing of critiques gives the article an appearance of balance, she glosses over a bigger issue: There wouldn't be a "controversy" over gender-based public education at all if Sax and Gurian weren't aggressively marketing their idiosyncratic--and flawed--notion of gender-based education.

I thought a less sophisticated version of this as I read the article. There's no problem with noticing that boys and girls do things differently, but the trouble comes in when you start pretending that that's the only variable in education and making broad generalizations about how all girls or all boys are alike. What's next, girls learn better in pink classrooms and boys learn better in blue ones?


1 comment:

Blogs t r e t c h said...

"There's a public school in Alabama where little girls and boys are separated. The girls' classroom walls are yellow, the boys' blue."

And you thought you were kidding.

[Via ]

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...