Single-Sex Classrooms and Single-Age Classrooms
Reading this article about an all-girl charter school, I appreciate the parallel Leonard Sax draws between single-sex schooling and single-age schooling (thanks to the Panama City Renaissance School for the link):
Sax understands that single-gender classrooms may not be for everyone, but he believes people should have a choice. He also questions why schools segregate classrooms based on age but not gender.
It’s assumed that students will attend class with others of the same age because it’s gone on for so long. We’re used to it, and almost nobody protests age segregation in schools. But when a few single-sex charters open, or when districts allow single-sex classes, the idea threatens established educational policy and prompts knee-jerk condemnation. For example, the ACLU says it opposes single-sex public schooling “because it deprives both girls and boys of the benefits of co-education,” a statement that means nothing unless you specify what those benefits are and explain why students have a right to them. One could just as well criticize coed classrooms for depriving students of the benefits of single-sex education.
Sax brings up the analogy in order to argue for single-sex education, but it can also be used to justify teaching students of different ages in class together. Grouping students by sex isn’t for everyone; neither is grouping students by age. Like the parents who would choose coed classrooms even when a single-sex option is available, there are parents who would prefer multi-age classrooms if they had a choice.
It would be great if more public schools offered multi-age education. An easy way to do this is by opening charter schools; parents who want multi-age classes could enroll their children in charters with this specialty. Or traditional public schools could start multi-age tracks, the same way that Parkway’s Carmen Trails Elementary offers elective single-sex classes.