The December 2011 Monitor, a journal of the American Psychological Association (Vol 42, #11, page 11), reported and expanded on an article originally published in the September
issue of the journal Science. The article concludes that “contrary to many people’s beliefs, single-sex schooling is not supported by serious scientific research and may actually be harmful to children’s social development”. The paper was written by eight social scientists and cited several large reviews published over the past few years, all reporting little difference between single and mixed sex academic outcomes. Dr. Lise Elliott, a neuroscience professor at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science in Chicago says that the perception of the superiority of single-sex education comes from “an historical accident” namely that the best and most expensive private schools in the US and Europe were traditionally single sex. But studies now show the benefits of single-sex education disappear when researchers control for demographics and school quality.
Interestingly, the paper also says that single-sex education may increase gender-stereotypical behavior.
I have always appreciated the benefits of mixed sex (or co-ed) schooling but my respect was elevated after witnessing the wonderful ways in which the teens relate to one another at The Family Foundation School. I recently overheard one of our male students describe his experience to a prospective student and his description centered around the freedom he experienced being able to “just” be friends with girls without the demands and pressures of a sexual relationship. Furthermore, he beautifully described the girls in his “family” at the school as his sisters – and thus has gotten to know them, and value them as people, as young women rather than the ways teenage boys typically see and relate to girls. This is quite different than his perspectiveand behavior at home.
So, it’s good to see that the professional and scientific research says that our young men and women are not compromised academically by attending school together, but I know there are even more benefits of a co-ed environment that can’t be measured so easily
– but, when teenage boys learn to respect and value teenage girls because they
are people first, the outcome as they develop into young men is priceless.