Gender Segregation in Education Essay
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Gender Segregation in Education
Many people think only of African Americans when the phrase segregation in education is spoken, but how often do we think of women? Women have gone through tremendous struggles to receive the same rights as men to an equal education. The following pages will explain many aspects of the history of the women’s struggles for desegregation, accomplishes made for desegregation, and the affects of sex or gender segregation still present in today’s educational system.
In the early colonial times, women’s roles were very defined. Men and society expected women to have children, raise those children proper, and be the best homemaker of all time. In the beginning, women were educated for the sake of…show more content…
There have been many. Today’s educational system still has hundreds of public and private single sex institutions. At most of these institutions, the student’s parents choose this options, but is this the best solution for our children?
There are advantages and disadvantages to single gender classes and schools. Eliminating classroom distractions from the opposite sex benefited certain students academically, particularly girls; single-gender classes were sometimes more comfortable places to learn. (Schroeder 2001) There was some evidence single-gender classes exacerbated teasing and disruptive behavior in boys, cattiness in girls.
Could the separation of gender in today’s school actually help females rather than harm? According to popular feminist wisdom, coed schools are detrimental to the self-esteem of girl; they discourage rather than inspire girls’ achievement, particularly in math and science. (Kaminer 1998)
What about boys are they segregated in education? If girls fair better in gender segregated schools, than why wouldn’t the boys. Boys school graduates show a more humanistic and sensitive approach to the world around them. (Hawley 1996)
I think many of the issues I read about were common knowledge to me. Being an education major,
The New York Times reports that the practice of separating public school students into classrooms based on traditional definitions of sex has increased in recent years. The article leads with describing decorations in two classrooms -- pink and cheetah print for the girls' classroom, racecars and footballs for the boys'. In case anybody was fooled that sex-segregation would give male and female students the same opportunities, the decorations in themselves show a clear reinforcement of gender stereotypes that plague the American workforce and create sex-based inequality. Sex-segregation in public schools is not only an archaic policy, it also threatens the safety of trans students and institutionalizes patriarchal definitions of gender that harm our entire society.
Though policies allowing sex-segregated classrooms claim participation must be voluntary -- the pressure trans children feel to assimilate and conform to external expectations about male or female behavior is incredibly strong. The policy is such that if a student was able to identify themselves as trans and and have the courage to articulate their identity to school officials, they would hypothetically be placed in a classroom that reflects their identity. There are blatant problems with these assumptions.
Trans students already feel isolated by a social structure crafted around genital-based segregation. Bathrooms, even for small children, are segregated by sex and clothing, starting in infancy, is separated based on perceived sexual identity. Though the Department of Education confirms that schools must respect students' gender identities in single-sex classrooms, the reality is that young children do not often know they are trans and should not be put in a situation where they have to decide their sexual identity and articulate why they may not feel comfortable in their bodies or traditional sex-based roles to authority figures. Policies that separate children based on their genitalia isolate trans children and create an environment where children who already feel discomfort with their sexual or gender identity are asked to forfeit their opportunity to learn and develop next to peers of varying sexual identities.
As an elementary school student, I did not have the emotional capacity or language to identify my discomfort with my body as a part of being trans and would never have been able to articulate this to school officials. If presented with sex-segregated classrooms, I likely would have gone along with it, burying my discomfort with existing feelings of disassociation with my peers. I can only imagine how limited my experience would have been in a female-only classroom and the increased pressure I would have felt to conform to female expectations.
Trans students, however, are certainly not the only population disadvantaged by sex-segregated classrooms. Sex-segregation in itself is a product of an oppressive sexual binary that limits sexual identity to "male" and "female" silos. Male individuals -- rather those people our culture defines as "male" -- have historically dominated society physically and hierarchically. One response to male domination is to separate female-identified individuals and create female-exclusive spaces, like female-only classrooms. Some might mistake this as a brand of feminism. But feminism without intersectionality isn't feminism, and separating children with vaginas from children with penises (and completely ignoring intersex children) isn't empowering.
Rather than separating students and teaching children to relate to peers based on similarities or differences in their sex, we should confront rampant inequality, misogyny and sex-based oppression across American society and beyond head on. Laws that regulate what people can do with their reproductive organs, legislation that denies health care for trans bodies and general acceptance of widespread sex-based violence are the forces in our society that create the inequality and misogyny that trickles into our school systems. If we want our female children to have the same opportunity as male children, separation and isolation are not the answer. Honest discussion about what sexual identity is, how it defines our cultural norms and how traditional sex and gender roles limit our collective development will offer real opportunities for creating safe and non-discriminatory public schools.
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