December 18, 2005

"Why Gender Matters"

My Claremont Review of Books essay on Why Gender Matters by Leonard Sax is now online:

As founder of the national association for Single-Sex Public Education, Sax's favorite and perhaps most valuable theory is that co-educational schooling is frequently a mistake. He makes a strong case, especially concerning the years immediately following puberty. He cites the experience of two psychologists studying self-esteem in girls. They went to Belfast, where children can be assigned fairly randomly to coed or single-sex schools:

They found that at coed schools, you don't need to ask a dozen questions to predict the girl's self-esteem. You have to ask only one question: "Do you think you're pretty?"

Similarly, the Coleman Report found, four decades ago, that boys put more emphasis on sports and social success in coed schools, and less on intellectual development. Sax argues:

Here's the paradox: coed schools tend to reinforce gender stereotypes.… There is now very strong evidence that girls are more likely to take courses such as computer science and physics in girls-only schools…. Boys in single-sex schools are more than twice as likely to study art, music, foreign languages, and literature as boys of equal ability attending comparable coed schools.

Noting that the Department of Education projects that by 2011 there will be 140 women college graduates for every 100 men, he asks, "I'm all in favor of women's colleges, but…why are nominally coed schools looking more and more like all-women's colleges?" So far, the decline of male academic achievement in the U.S. is mostly among blacks and Hispanics, but the catastrophic downturn into "laddism" of young white males in England in recent years, and their consequent decline in test scores, shows that no race is permanently immune to the prejudice that school is for girls.

Of course, American schools have long been taught largely by women, and boys and schoolmarms have not always seen eye-to-eye. But the rise of feminism has encouraged female teachers to view their male students as overprivileged potential oppressors. Further, feminism justifies teachers' self-absorption with female feelings. Thus, a remarkable fraction of the novels my older son has been assigned to read in high school are about girls getting raped. I hope it hasn't permanently soured him on fiction. [More]

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

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