Interesting article from the NY Times about the federal government backing the establishment of more single-sex classes and schools.
Possibly surprisingly, I'm totally for it. I think non co-ed education is extremely beneficial for students, especially past elementary school age, and especially for girls. I didn't have this luxury (though I'm not complaining at all about my education, I received an excellent one), and I saw and personally experienced the detriment of being in a classroom with both girls and boys.
The truth is, for guys, I actually am not sure if it's beneficial to separate the sexes. From what many teachers have told me, all-male classes tend to be quite a bit rowdier, high-energy and more difficult to control than co-ed classes. Add a girl or two into the class and it magically transforms. Amazing how that works.
But for girls, and I speak from my own experience, I think the co-ed experience can be very harmful. Again, from what I went through, there is an implicit undercurrent that flows that females should not be smarter than males, especially in the math and science arena, but really all of them. And girls, if they care at all about being attractive to guys, don't want to seem too smart, because they quickly learn, all implicitly of course, that brains intimidate men. So they hide their brains. And teach themselves to act like airheads. And don't speak up in class.
I got hit with a double-whammy. I attended an accelerated program for high school. The truth is, there were a lot of very intelligent females there, and many of them were not ashamed to show their intelligence. But they also came off as the snobby intellectuals, and to anyone outside our school, they were viewed in a negative light. So I learned both to not act like an intellectual and to defer my intelligence to whatever male was around. Had the damsel in distress act down pretty well. And the airhead act.
But there was a point at which I realized that the acts were dumb, and not really me. And I realized that any guy who was intimidated by my natural intelligence wasn't the guy for me, that I want a guy who nurtures my intelligence, makes me think, and enjoys the fact that I do, rather than just wanting a girl he can feel superior to. (It's interesting that I realize that this change in my attitude came at a time when, educationally, I was lagging behind. Must have been some kind of compensation.)
Anyway, I digress. I really believe that single-sex education helps women nurture their intelligence and express is freely. I also think that it helps girls and guys focus on what they are learning, rather than the opposite gender, which I'm sure most people will admit is quite the distraction. So I think the establishment of single-sex educational institutions is a great one.