Wednesday, January 24, 2007

concerning gender distraction

Last night I stole 22 minutes and 48 seconds to sit down and watch an episode of The Office wired from my iPod to my TV. I chose the episode, “Boys and Girls” from season two. A very funny episode, I must say. While Michael never knows how to be a guy around girls (women), he knows even less about being a guy around guys. The show was an accurate dramatization of what happens when boys and girls are separated.
Driving home from work tonight, I heard a spot for tomorrow’s edition of South Carolina Public Radio’s production, “speaking of schools”. They’ll be talking about single gender education. Now I realize that my experience, though it be extensive, does not make me an expert in speaking to the value or stupidity of a methodological trend, but I have made some observations from having been involved in single gender education. Education is a very “new idea, trend-trying, there’s-always-a-newer-way-to-do-it” venture. (I was once involved in an educators think-tank for advocates of hyper-hyphenation-compound-adjective-creation.) But for the life of me, I can’t figure out how anyone couldn’t see the ridiculousness of single gender education for middle and high school students.
I have racked my brain to figure out where this notion was started. No doubt somewhere in the beginning of the process, someone, realizing that when hormones begin to kick in, humans are distracted by the opposite sex from anything not involving the opposite sex. Education (excepting 8th grade health class) tends not to be about the opposite sex, and thus does not receive proper attention from pubescent would-be scholars. But this realization shouldn’t be enough to lead one to the idea of single-gender ed. Through my extensive experience, I’ve observed that this distraction is precisely what ensures that said scholars behave with some modicum of civility, and thus maintain some minute possibility of inadvertent, indirect learning. (It should also be noted that the removal of the opposite sex from the physical environment in no way removes them from the cerebral environment and therefore does not diminish the distraction in the least. Students of this age have been known frequently to enter an apparent catatonic state to approximate the REM stage and therefore intensify the enjoyment of the distraction. Students will go to great effort to be distracted by the opposite sex, and this effort is, in itself, a distraction.)
Though the behavior of a co-ed middle school classroom may lead an educator to believe that the removal of one or the other gender would improve the behavior of the remaining, a few days of the observation of such an environment proves this notion desperately errant.
Several years ago, I taught separated classes of 7th grade boys and girls as my class met on alternating days with their health class. I have to say that there is one thing worse than students distracted by the opposite sex – students not distracted by the opposite sex.
My co-ed classes contained boys who behaved at least two years older than those of the same age in the segregated classrooms. I also found that the girls in the co-ed classrooms neither belched inordinately loud, nor did they pass gas in any attempt to outdo the girl on the other side of the room. When boys are in the room, in order to make the boys feel immature and inferior, girls tend to talk more about the subject of the class, and less about their changing bodies. With girls in the room, boys tend to talk more quietly in feigned lower pitched voices.
During this experience, I began to realize that without boys, girls become boys, and without girls, boys become animals.
With boys in the room, girls are less apt to hamper their chances with them by disclosing their obsessive crush on the “old guy” teaching the class. How lame would that be? With girls in the room, boys are less apt to disclose their obvious inexperience by discussing something that the girls obviously know is bogus.
I also coached a Girls’ High School Varsity basketball team when I was but 23 years old. From this experience, I can assure you that with boys present, girls are less apt to attempt to embarrass their coach by “pantsing” one another in the middle of the gym floor, feigning a fight in order to remove the practice jersey of another.
Most assuredly, I, as a teacher, am most in favor of co-ed secondary education. I certainly hope that in any in-service of school teachers to discuss this issue, just as they require the girls to watch “my changing body”, they are required to watch The Office, episode fifteen of season two. Let Michael teach them a lesson or two.