By separating boys and girls in school, are we doing them a favor…or making them unprepared for the real world?

Two lawmakers from Miami-Dade County have proposed a pilot program for certain districts and schools that would separate elementary school classes into boys-only and girls-only classes in core subject areas. While boys and girls would still share lunch and recess, they would sit through math, reading, and other subjects with only their same-sex peers.

Though Rep. Diaz and Sen. Flores might mean well, their proposal is flawed–if not discriminatory. They believe it will lead to classrooms where students can be given “diverse educational settings” that also help accommodate the ways they “learn differently.”

This leads to a firestorm: So only boys and girls learn differently from one another? What about children who identify with or as the other sex, feel uncomfortable around their same-sex peers, or simply have more friends of the opposite sex? What about bullying between two boys or two girls? What about all the scientific data that shows that kids learn differently simply because each child is unique, not because they are boys or girls?

As someone who went to coeducational schools and found more camaraderie among peers of the opposite sex, these are fundamental questions we must ask about our future generations. While separating the sexes might stop some bullying or help some children who are nervous around the opposite sex, it is not the solution for the myriad of gender problems that plague today’s societies.

Coeducation is a major benefit for children of both sexes. It teaches boys and girls that they can–and should–learn from, respect, and work with one another. Coeducation allows children to recognize and respect the differences between the sexes and how to understand and work with them, which is vital in today’s working world. It also teaches children that they can, and will, succeed with the other gender present. This is vital in a world where girls’ education is a powerful force: we can see it even now, where girls education is transforming the earning potential of families, villages, regions, and even countries.

While I believe that parents have a right to choose to send their kids to all-girls or all-boys schools/classes, I don’t think that should be a part of standard public education. The “public” includes everyone, regardless of his or her biological gender. If the state of Florida chooses to offer charter or special schools based on this model to make such educational options affordable for parents, okay. But don’t offer it in certain districts and not others, and give parents the choice on how their children will be educated.

Separating boys and girls is too reminiscent of racial segregation. It conjures up images of children being raised to be more aware of the differences between the sexes than the commonalities and of privileging certain abilities in males over females and vice versa. What would such segregation due to the strides we’ve made in girls pursuing STEM careers, in equal pay for equal work, or in even our most basic perceptions of one another?

So, my darling home state, take a lesson from history: integration, not segregation, if you want a populace that’s unique, united, accepting, and on the path to understanding, and maybe even appreciating, one another and how our differences make us better learners, do-ers, and leaders.

-Tiffany Piotti
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

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