October 8 2013

The ACLU's War against Single-Sex Schools

Charlotte Hays

Did you know that the ACLU is waging a war against single-sex education?

The ACLU has launched a campaign entitled “Teach Kids, Not Stereotypes,” which seeks to end the option of single-sex education in public schools and goes so far as to compare single-sex education to racial segregation in the Jim Crow south.

AEI’s Christina Hoff Sommers debunks the ACLU campaign in a must-read article at the Atlantic.  Hoff Sommers writes:

No one is suggesting that any student be forced into a single-sex program. Coeducation is an American tradition, and that will never change. But some parents and students prefer girls' and boys' schools, so why deny them that choice? What could be wrong with a voluntary program that seems to be doing so much good? Plenty, says the ACLU, and it claims to have research to prove it: a 2011 critique of single-sex education published in the prestigious journal Science.

Interestingly, the Science article was the work of eight academics who belong to an advocacy organization aimed at eliminating single-sex education. One of the activist professors is Lise Elliot, whom Hoff Sommers took on in a scintillating evening event sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute and IWF.   

The research on single-sex education is mixed. Some parents want it for their children, while others prefer coeducation. Hoff Sommers cites examples of single-sex schools that have proven undeniably beneficial to the students. But the ACLU seeks to eliminate the choice in public schools (and beyond, no doubt). The racist comparison may seem far-fetched. But I’m afraid the ACLU takes the racism charge seriously:  

Diane Halpern, lead author of the Science article, like the ACLU’s Lenora Lapidus, insists on the connection: “Advocates for single-sex education don't like the parallel with racial segregation, but the parallels are there."  

No, they are not. Race and sex are different, as the Supreme Court has emphasized and as most everyone recognizes. Mandatory racial separatism demeans human beings and forecloses life prospects. Single-sex education is freely chosen and has helped millions of pupils flourish intellectually and socially. It’s preposterous to think of Wellesley College, the Girl Scouts or the Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy as oppressive institutions comparable to segregated schools in the Jim Crow South.

I recently took part in a debate with one of the eight authors of the Science article—Lise Eliot, a neuroscientist at the Chicago Medical School. In the discussion, she said she hoped to see the day when the courts would require Wellesley to accept males. In a subsequent article she talked about how eerie it was to be debating single-sex education on the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. She suggested that if Dr. King were alive today he might say, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by their X or Y chromosomes, but by the content of their character."

The ACLU is pursuing this “dream.” By threatening schools with costly investigations and lawsuits, it has already terminated single-sex programs in several states, including West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maine and Alabama. The ACLU also played a central role in preventing Madison, Wisconsin, from creating schools like the Dallas Irma Rangel and Barack Obama Leadership Academies.  

On its website and in countless brochures and reports, the ACLU mocks the idea that there could even be such a thing as girl or boy-friendly teaching methods.

The article ends with a success story in Rhode Island.

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