Editorial by John Ziegler

Separate But Equal? How Soon We Forget!

7/28/2002

Separate But Equal? How Soon We Forget

I tend to agree with the National Organization for Women about as often as Tiger Woods blows a lead in the final round of a golf tournament. However, if only by accident, I do concur with their current stance against the federal funding of single-sex public schools.

The issue has gained national prominence recently when the Bush Administration announced that it was 'reinterpreting' (rewriting?) the section of Title XI law that, for the past thirty years, has been understood as a ban on public schools that allow only one gender.

The topic has taken on local significance because Philadelphia High School for Girls is the largest single-sex school in the nation, and now FitzSimons Middle School in North Philadelphia has made it known that they will become one of only about a dozen such schools in the country when it creates entirely different schools for boys and girls.

While there is little doubt that the intentions of those who support single-sex education are good, there is much uncertainty regarding both the philosophical and practical ramifications of such a change in policy.

First of all, we should all be insulted by the concept that a law can be illogically interpreted, contradictorily imposed, indiscriminately rewritten, and arbitrarily funded with almost no oversight from the legislative branch. In case you think that I am simply whining about a procedural matter, think for a moment about what Title XI says and how it is currently being imposed in other areas of education.

Section 106.34 the Title XI regulations clearly states, 'no school receiving any federal funds shall provide any course or otherwise carry out any of its education activity separately on the basis of sex.' Can it be any more apparent that entire public schools that ban one sex or the other are prohibited by this law'

But it is not just that the law is being conveniently ignored. I can certainly see the merit in simply choosing not to enforce a bad law (like 55 mph highway speed limits) rather than going through the often arduous and inevitably expensive task of getting a new one passed. However, it is the manner in which the very same section of Title XI is being strictly implemented in other areas that provide the true injustice.

Somehow, Title XI is also currently being interpreted (misinterpreted according to at least one of its authors) as a strict quota system that makes sure that the percentage of female athletes at a college is equal to the percentage of women in the student body. How can we possibly explain to the thousands of male college athletes who are rapidly having their sports and their scholarships dropped because of Title XI's insanity that the letter of the law is so very important only in their case?

Somehow, the Bush Administration (of which I am normally a strong supporter) is literally saying exactly that. In a stunning display of hypocrisy, when it comes to single sex schools they are ruling that Title XI doesn't really mean what it says, and at the very same moment are also declaring that they will actively fight lawsuits by male athletes claiming discrimination under Title XI. And here I thought the Clinton Administration had perfected the art of having it both ways!

Single-sex public schools also create important functional issues.

As a product of an all-boys catholic high school (Holy Ghost Prep), I believe that my social growth was severely stunted by not being exposed (literally or figuratively) to girls during a critical period of physical and emotional development. As a man, I now realize that I will probably never fully figure out women, but would have at least like to have had a fighting chance when I went to college instead of being blindsided by the impact of estrogen.

Those in favor of single-sex education claim that the environment is far more conducive to learning because there are fewer distractions. While this seems to make some sense, there are no definitive studies that back up that theory when it comes to grades or test scores, and a recent twelve-school experiment in California failed miserably. Meanwhile, there are studies which suggest that gender stereotypes and distrust are actually fostered by same-sex schools.

Of course, the proponents of single-sex education correctly point out that no one will be forced to go to such a school and that they are only favoring 'choice.' However, I find it amazing that such large and disparate groups could so quickly and profoundly forget the utter impossibility of 'separate, but equal,' which the civil rights discredited such a relatively short time ago.

While then it was blacks who received very unequal treatment when kept away from the rest, in today's pro-feminist, male-bashing society, I fear that it might be the boys who will suffer under this new trend.

Of course, please don't tell NOW this. That prospect might change their mind.

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