By Mariah Bourne
There has been an ongoing dispute over the benefits and drawbacks of having single-sex classrooms in public schools. Those in favor of this practice argue that same-sex classes get rid of inhibitions and stereotypes that girls and boys face in coed classes. Proponents also argue that kids should be separated by sex because boys and girls are motivated differently and they are allowed to reach their full potential in academics without distraction (http://www.thedailybeast.com). On the other hand, those who disapprove assert that single-sex classrooms do nothing but force students into stereotyped behavior while limiting interaction between males and females (http://www.everydaylife.globalpost.com). Although it has been proved that separating the sexes in education is ineffective (http://www.thedailybeast.com), same-sex classrooms could be very beneficial if used in a practical way.
Instead of having same-sex classrooms as the only option in schools, it would be more plausible to use single-sex classrooms to teach certain classes such as health, where sex actually makes a difference. Separating girls and boys for some classes but not others would reduce the lack of interaction between sexes that is argued by opponents as well as empower students. Community psychology competencies such as mentoring and empowerment should be used by teachers in order to assist boys and girls in finding their own voices and personal strengths without being discouraged by the presence of the other sex.
Although classes like these would be extremely beneficial to both sexes, I think they are a necessity for young women. Women are highly underrepresented in every aspect of the government and continue to be paid 79% of what men are paid (http://www.aauw.org/). This is a huge issue that has been overlooked for centuries and will continue to be ignored if women are not taught at a young age where they really stand in this country and steps that can be taken to change this lopsidedness. Same-sex classes could aid in increasing the amount of female leaders in the country by educating young women about topics that are important because of the sole fact that they are women living in a sexist society.
Some essential topics that could be covered are feminism, negotiating salaries, society and beauty (body image, self-esteem), and sexual education (teen pregnancy). These topics are for the most part female-centered so it makes sense that they would be taught in an all female class. Same-sex classes would be helpful for effectively teaching these topics and getting through to young women because there would be no distractions from young men who would most likely not be very interested in the topics listed. In addition, these classes would also promote strong ties among young females which is useful in the goal to have women join together and fight for, rather than against each other.
Same-sex classes would be equally as beneficial for young men. Having a class that focuses on topics centered toward each sex would allow for kids to express their true feelings and opinions on topics that directly effect them because of their sex.
Mariah Bourne is a graduate student in Community Social Psychology Deaprtment at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.
Scott, V.C. & Wolfe, S.M. (2015). Community Psychology: Foundations for Practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.