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OC HIGH: STUDENT NEWS AND VIEWS : Adding Math to the Battle of the Sexes : Con: But while those grades are improving, both sides are losing interaction skills.

March 10, 1995|PHIL EURS | Phil Eurs is a student at Cypress High School, where this article first appeared in the student newspaper, the Centurion Scroll

Some experts have discovered that girls do worse than boys in math and science classes for various reasons: They get embarrassed, are less outspoken than their male classmates, or they just are overlooked by their teachers (if that's the case, fix the teachers, not the students).

These experts theorize that separating boys and girls in math or science will help the girls learn better. Doesn't that run counter to the idea of equality, the very core of the women's rights movement?

Does segregation of the sexes in high school classes really help either girls or boys? I doubt it.

Theoretically, girls would volunteer to be separated. I think most girls would go for it. They would be placed in their special classes and start to learn better; I have no doubt that grades would improve, but that's not the heart of the matter. The biggest and most important loss--for both sides--would be less interaction with the opposite sex.

A teen-ager needs to learn to be comfortable with others, which is one of the most important skills that can be learned in high school. If they don't get a chance to develop that skill, they are going to get flustered when they hit the real world. It has been shown that boys approach problems differently than girls. In these technical classes, contrasting perspectives need to mingle.

Another issue is cost. Separating girls would require more classes. That means new teachers or giving existing teachers fuller loads. Either way, more money would be needed in a time that our schools already have enough money troubles.

Loss of interaction in class could also end up being discouraging, threatening a woman's sense of equality to men. Unless a woman can first make a fair comparison with a man, she can't feel equal to or better than him. Why deter an individual's self-esteem by loss of interaction? It doesn't make sense.

At a school trying this segregated class, girls' grades are reportedly up. The girls are happy; the guys are happy, the teachers are happy. The experiment appears to be a success.

But what's it going to be like for those students five or 10 years from now?

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