Politics & Policy

Single-Sex Hysteria

Feminists have found a new way to fight against school choice.

Who is right? They both are: Some kids will do better in a single-sex environment and others will thrive in coeducation. The good news is that we don’t have to agree about the superiority of one educational method over another. Parents, who presumably know their children best, can make that determination based on their children’s specific needs.

Single-sex educational options have always existed. Private schools often cater exclusively to one sex or offer “brother” and “sister” schools that intermingle the sexes for some activities, but not for others. But sending kids to private school — and paying private-school tuitions — is not a choice that every family can afford to make.

That’s why some states and localities are allowing public-school systems to offer single-sex options. Increasingly, policymakers and the public believe that all parents deserve to have more control and options for where their children are taught.

Michigan recently moved in the direction of allowing single-sex education. In late June, the Michigan House of Representatives and Senate passed bills that would permit single-sex programs in public schools. No child would be required to attend a single-sex classroom, but Michigan parents may have new options to consider.

One might assume that women’s organizations, like the National Organization for Women (NOW), would cheer for the mothers in Michigan who stand to gain more control over their children’s education. After all, these groups work closely with prestigious women’s colleges, like Smith and Wellesley, so surely they recognize how single-sex educational environments can benefit some students.

That assumption would be wrong. NOW’s reaction to Michigan’s legislation reveals the absurd lengths to which the feminist gender warriors will go to paint women as victims and preemptively cry discrimination. NOW president Kim Gandy warned of the dire consequences of allowing single-sex options to exist:

We strongly oppose these bills because the separation of boys and girls, and the underlying (and false) assumption that girls and boys are so different that they shouldn’t even be educated together, introduces harmful gender stereotypes into public education. This could lead to, among other possible outcomes, emphasizing math and science for boys, and for girls, less rigorous course work.

Can Gandy seriously believe that Michigan public-school systems are going to develop male-only advanced math and science courses while shuffling girls into woman-only home-ec classes? There has been significant coverage recently of how girls are outperforming boys at all levels of education. Many high-school honors classes are already practically single-sex: They are overwhelmingly female.

Gandy also willfully ignores the voluntary nature of this program. She dramatically proclaims: “It is inconceivable today that we must fight for our daughters — including my own daughters — to be able to sit next to, and be educated alongside boys.” Of course, Gandy doesn’t have to fight for her daughters to be educated alongside boys. She is fighting to keep me and all other parents from having single-sex options available in public schools.

So much for supporting choice. When it comes to education, the feminist movement consistently opposes empowering parents. They have firm beliefs about how and what should be taught in schools, from the content of sex-education classes to the gender makeup of classrooms. And they want to force their preferences on everyone else.

Luckily, the tide is turning against these gender warriors and the others who support one-size-fits-all, government-run schools. Support for school choice is growing among Republican and Democratic policymakers alike as well as the public. It makes sense: Parents might not agree on how it is best to raise their kids, but they can agree that everyone deserves to make their own choices.

Carrie Lukas is the vice president for policy and economics at the Independent Women’s Forum and author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Women, Sex, and Feminism.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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