Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Are all-boys schools a radical idea?

This brief piece by William Kilpatrick ran in the hard copy edition of Issues & Views, Spring 1994. It is excerpted from his book, Why Johnny Can't Tell Right From Wrong: Moral Illiteracy and the Case for Character Education. As we learn of current efforts to create schools for boys, and as we settle into a new consciousness of what constitutes a "family," should Kilpatrick be considered a purveyor of old, passé ideas?

Boys Should Be Taught by Men
by William Kilpatrick

The idea of all-male schools makes sense. The lives of inner-city youth are so much at risk that radical measures are in order. And the principle behind this particular measure is a sound one. In fact, it is not especially radical. The idea that boys should be taught by men is an ancient and honorable one, practiced for centuries across a wide variety of cultures and settings, ranging from primitive tribes to English boarding schools.

This idea also has a substantial basis in psychology, sociology, cultural anthropology, and criminology. It has long been known in these fields that boys have a more difficult time than girls in the formation of sex identity. The fewer strong male models in a boy's life, the more trouble he has. In the absence of an involved and committed male, boys tend to form simplified and stereotyped notions of maleness. Surrounded by women, desperately anxious to establish their maleness, they often compensate for their insecure sense of identity by adoptint a hypermasculine aggressive pose.

As is now well known, boys without fathers are substantially more involved in delinquency and violence than boys with fathers at home. When they go to scfhool, they bring this aggressiveness with them. The answer to masculine overcompensation is not to surround boys with more women at school and expect them to adopt a "let's-be-nice-to-each-other" attitude. They need to do something with their aggressiveness. Either it has to be channeled by adults who are strong enough to channel it, or it erupts in ways that are destructive both to the individual and to society.
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No gender separation allowed

Here is another item from the Spring 1994 edition of Issues & Views. It is by the intrepid Washington Post columnist William Raspberry, who was a black voice crying in the wilderness of political correctness and Title IX insanity. This was a period when the feminists' influence was riding high, as they challenged and terminated several attempts by educators to create single-gender public schools.

When Disembodied "Rights" Come Before Children
by William Raspberry

Thank heaven it's not a public school, or St. Stephen's and St. Agnes would be in trouble. No, the private Episcopal school in Alexandria, Virginia, is not overcharging kids, or abusing them, or oppressing them. It's educating them very well indeed.

But it is doing so by (among other things) operating single-sex classrooms for math and science in 6th, 7th, and 8th grades. The rationale for this gender separation is the well-documented fact that, in math and science, girls tend not to do as well as boys of equal intelligence. Whether the difference is the result of nature or merely of socialization, of male-oriented teaching styles or of lowered self-esteem for girls, the result often is that girls have their subsequent academic and career choices curtailed.

I've heard all manner of explanations. One is that girls prefer cooperative learning, while boys turn learning—and everything else—into a competition. Some of the explanations may not be true. This is true: if the St. Stephen's and St. Agnes experiment were taking place in a public school, somebody would be out to stop it.

They just stopped one in Philadelphia, where John Coats, a teacher at Stanton Elementary School had initiated a model five-year program for a group of 20 first-grade boys who had had learning problems in kindergarten. The program was working—indeed was the subject of a documentary, "I Am a Promise," that reportedly is up for an Oscar. Nine of these erstwhile slow-learning boys made the honor roll. But the program is dead now. The American Civil Liberties Union threatened to file a lawsuit against it on the ground that boys-only classes are unconstitutional, and the school district folded.

Detroit's attempt to establish all-male academies as a way of rescuing boys at risk of becoming dropouts (and worse) ran into similar legal opposition, as did an earlier effort in Miami in which I, quite indirectly, had a hand.

My limited involvement was a column I had written on Spencer Holland, then with the D.C. school system and now at Morgan State University in Baltimore. Holland, an educational psychologist, had told me of his dream to establish all-male kindergarten and primary classes headed by male teachers. Particularly in the inner cities, where young boys may go for days at a time without directly encountering a literate adult male, he thought it might make an important difference.

Willie Wright, a Miami elementary school principal, saw the column, and asked me to help him get in touch with Holland. In the fall of 1987, the two men implemented Holland's idea. As Wright told me later, "It was a total success, academically and socially. There were no fights, no kids sent out for discipline. They not only improved academically, they became their brothers' keepers, something not generally found in low socioeconomic schools. Not a single parent complained. In fact, virtually all of the parents of boys wanted their sons in the classes."

But, after two years of unquestioned success, the Department of Education's regional office killed the experiment—said it was a violation of Title IX (of the federal Civil Rights Act) guarantees against gender discrimination.

Where do they get these people who are so solicitous of disembodied "rights" that they are willing to do demonstrable damage to actual children? There's a lot we don't know about educating children. That's what makes it so sad when these self-righteous monomaniacs are willing to kill a program that clearly works for actual children out of deference to the possibility that somebody's theoretical rights might somehow be damaged.
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Raspberry's pleas call to mind similar pleas of those black educators and parents who, after the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education court decision, did not want to dismantle the country's networks of all-black public schools. Instead, they desired to upgrade and improve these institutions with the additional (and fairer) funding that would then be available. Of course, black professional elites had other ideas, as they set about carving out new careers for themselves by concocting the endless programs now possible in the new world of forced integration.

Read about Title IX.
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Sunday, February 06, 2011

A February Remembrance

Thaddeus Kosciuszko
Polish Son of Liberty
Born on February 4, 1746

A memorial by Booker T. Washington, from his Autobiographical Writings

I knew from my school history what Kosciuszko had done for America in its early struggle for independence. I did not know, however, until my attention was called to it in Cracow, what Kosciuszko had done for the freedom and education of my own people.

After his second visit to this country in 1797 Kosciuszko, I learned, made a will in which he bequeathed part of his property in this country in trust to Thomas Jefferson to be used for the purpose of purchasing the freedom of Negro slaves and giving them instruction in the trades and otherwise.

Seven years after his death a school of Negroes, known as the Kosciuszko school, was established in Newark, N.J. The sum left for the benefit of this school amounted to thirteen thousand dollars.

The Polish patriot is buried in the cathedral at Cracow, which is the Westminster Abbey of Poland, and is filled with memorials of the honoured names of that country. Kosciuszko lies in a vault beneath the marble floor of the cathedral. As I looked upon his tomb I thought how small the world is after all, and how curiously interwoven are the interests that bind people together. Here I was in this strange land, farther from my home than I had ever expected to be in my life, and yet I was paying my respects to a man to whom the members of my race owed one of the first permanent schools for them in the United States.

When I visited the tomb of Kosciuszko I placed a rose on it in the name of my race.

From the Will of Kosciuszko

I, Thaddeus Kosciuszko, being just on my departure from America, do hereby declare and direct, that, should I make no other testamentary disposition of my property in the United States, I hereby authorize my friend, Thomas Jefferson, to employ the whole thereof in purchasing Negroes from his own or any others, and giving them liberty in my name, in giving them an education in trade or otherwise, and in having them instructed for their new condition in the duties of morality, which may make them good neighbors, good fathers or mothers, husbands or wives in their duties as citizens, teaching them to be defenders of their liberty and country, and of the good order of society, and in whatsoever may make them happy and useful. And I make said Thomas Jefferson my executor of this.

(Signed) T. Kosciuszko. May 5, 1798.

Visit the Polish American Cultural Center
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