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Boys, girls grow when they break free from gender stereotypes

October 2, 2011

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RE “THE single-sex school myth: No scientific basis for teaching boys and girls separately, report says’’ (Op-ed, Sept. 25): If single-sex schools had no value, there would be no market for them. Yet, as Gareth Cook writes, there are more than 500 public schools offering single-sex education, up from “about a dozen’’ in 2002. Private single-sex schools have existed and been sustained by eager parents for centuries, before research on brain differences was even a consideration.

How children learn is a function of nature and nurture, of whatever they bring into this world in conjunction with what they are taught - for example, the proverbial pink and dolls for girl, blue and trucks for boys. Inherent in those toys are messages about expectations of, and assignments to, girls and boys, which evolve into what we call gender stereotypes.

The potential for both genders to be successful across a full range of disciplines is only limited by these familiar stereotypes. Girls tend to do what they think they’re meant to do and be, and boys do likewise, often to the detriment of both. A major value of single-sex schools is freedom from gender stereotypes, not reinforcement of them.

What prepares one for a successful adult life is the opportunity to know oneself apart from the traditional cultural imperatives, and to learn how to use one’s strengths and values to become who one really is. Required single-sex schooling would be a mistake, as would required coed schooling. The choice from a range of educational options is the ideal.

Burch Ford


National Coalition of Girls’ Schools