A high school in Ventura County is trying an experimental program in which girls can choose to be in an all-girl math and/or science class.
Because recent studies have shown that girls' math and science grades drop once they reach junior and senior high school, the Ventura school is hoping that the same-sex environment will raise their scores.
I think this option is a great idea. When most girls enter their teen-age years, they become self-conscious of the opposite sex. At the elementary level, girls are very competitive in all areas. A boy's opinion has little or no effect on them. But this all changes once they reach adolescence.
Suddenly, a boy goes from being another student to being prospective dating material. Everything changes. Now girls are scared that they'll make a "social blunder" and be laughed at by their classmates. Let's face it, humiliation is one of the worst things that can happen to you in junior and senior high school.
An all-girls math class would have fewer distractions too. Girls could concentrate on the subject at hand and less on their appearance. And they wouldn't have to worry about how what they said would be interpreted by the guys. How many times has a girl asked a perfectly legitimate question in math class, only to have the guy next to her laugh at that "dumb" question? After an episode like that, she might never ask a question in that class again, no matter how lost or confused she is.
Another advantage is that a teacher could teach according to the girls' needs. In coeducational classes, the teacher presents a concept and then asks for questions or comments, which are usually provided by males. (In a 1990 study by the American Assn. of University Women, teachers were found to call on boys twice as often as girls to answer questions.)
In an all-girls class, the teacher can modify the lessons, if needed, to successfully present a concept to the girls, improving their chances for understanding and for better test scores.
Some individuals say that, by giving the option of a same-sex class, the school is not preparing girls for the real world, where women and men coexist.
The opposite might be true. Girls will gain more self-confidence and poise by concentrating on the subject being taught; they will know their subject better, be confident in their opinions and be able to defend their viewpoint when challenged by a male.
Education for the world of tomorrow needs to be flexible.
Just as we have resource classes for students who have learning needs or for students who need help with English, maybe the time has come for a voluntary math and/or science class consisting of only girls.