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Across the Divide: Segregation Techniques That Improve Education


In the Brown v. Board of Education case in 1954, the United States of America Supreme Court ruled that separate but equal facilities were unconstitutional, providing the first federal anti-segregation law in America. Since then, all public facilities must be equally accessible to people of all genders, races, religions, or any other societal division. However, some private universities are defying this historical ruling by becoming single-sex or single-race campuses. Now, public institutions are attempting to discover if gender segregation improves the education environment and test results.

Despite being separated by a chromosome, single-sex schools are segregating classrooms by splitting males and females, in order to enhance the learning atmosphere. According to Karen Houppert in a 2010 article, “Nationally, there are three primary models: the ‘dual academy,’… where boys and girls are in the same building but are separated all day, except for special occasions; single-sex classes, which separate the genders only for select courses; and single-sex schools, in which the entire school is either all boys or all girls” (p.3). Because of their biological and mental differences, girls and boys learn differently; this can make coed education difficult for some teachers, especially with students of younger ages. In Houppert’s article, a psychologist reports that “students do better when the classroom and instruction are tailored to the distinct ways in which boys and girls learn” (2010, p. 3). Since boys are fidgety and rambunctious, girls, who learn better in more calm and more focused environments, can be easily distracted by them. By separating the genders by classroom, the teaching and rule-enforcement techniques can be specialized towards each gender’s specific needs. “The gender gap was as large as 10 percentage points in some states, though nowhere near as significant as the race and income disparities that researchers note,” implying that gender differences may not be the first obstacle to tackle, regarding education gaps (Houppert, 2010, p.3). Clearly, other obstacles should be tackled first to gain educational equality at a faster rate. In a 2009 study by the Pew Hispanic Center,
“The biggest reason for the gap between the high value Latinos place on education and their more modest aspirations to finish college appears to come from financial pressure to support a family he biggest reason for the gap between the high value Latinos place on education and their more modest aspirations to finish college appears to come from financial pressure to support a family” (Lopez, p.1).
Socio-economic differences between students have been proven to lead the widening learning gaps across the United States. However, regardless of the statistically small difference this new gender-segregation method of learning may make, to each student, the difference may be life changing.

The possible side effects of gender segregation cannot be discounted, however. Students must learn to cooperate and learn with students of the opposite gender in order to hope for future success. In the workforce, employees of opposite genders must collaborate and cooperate in order to accomplish their final goal; many of these inter-gender skills are learned in school, from first grade through senior year. In a study of education trends for high school females, the results showed that “the females’ interaction content and problem-solving processes were more sensitive to partner gender than were those for males” (Ding, 2006, p.331). Clearly, females and males use separate learning techniques, but without learning how to cooperate with the opposite gender, future collaborations could become failures.

Although collaboration of the two genders is crucial to future employment and problem-solving opportunities, it is clear that male and female students learn more effectively in separate environments. Since both of these problems must be addressed by education governing boards across America, a hybrid answer might yield the results of greatest success. During the youngest learning stages, separating students by gender for certain subjects, and then rejoining them for other classes, might help build strong foundations in both the gender interactions and educational areas. In middle school and high school, classrooms can become completely co-ed, allowing for both learning and cooperation to fuse. Without breaking federal law, “separate but equal” can be blended with with modern education techniques to provide the best education, and therefore the best future, to students of all ages, races, and genders.











Reference Sheet
Ding, N., & Harskamp, E. (2006). How Partner Gender Influences Female Students’ Problem Solving in Physics Education. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 15(5), 331-343.
Houppert, Karen. (2010, August 8). Separate but equal: More schools are dividing classes by gender. The Washington Post Online. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/
Lopez, Mark Hugo. (2009, October 7). Latinos and Education: Explaining the Attainment Gap. Pew Research Center Publications. Retrieve from http://www.pewresearch.org/



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