Across all academic institutions in the United States, the most current data suggest that the average male student underperforms his female counterpart in academic achievement. Furthermore, studies across some of America's top educational programs agree that girls are better equipped than boys to handle the distractions that a traditional high school experience can include. Your son deserves to be part of a place where this statistic can stop being just another thing you worry about as a parent.
In public schools, the United States Department of Education recently updated Title IX-America's Federal program designed to prevent sex-based discrimination in public schools-to include a provision to allow for single-gender classrooms within public, co-educational schools. The change reflects the government's knowledge that boys and girls have different educational needs and that isolating them under certain school conditions will be better for both genders' learning and is not discriminatory.
The Title IX update came as a surprise to many, but not to us at Fork Union, where we have prioritized boys' educational needs since 1898.
The co-educational system as we know it settled around 1900, with many during that time advocating for equal rights for boys and girls in The United States' newly matured public educational system. To ensure that this education system was fair and equitable for every student, curriculums changed to include much more lecture-based pedagogy. Since that time, America has made tremendous strides in classroom gender equality. But unfortunately, the co-educational system went from equalizing opportunities for boys and girls to depriving young women of options in STEM fields as it pushed boys into them. Slowly, single-gender schools are losing their undeserved reputation for being anachronistic learning models. The drive behind the change is parents. Parents everywhere are beginning to understand that single-gender schools have far more benefits than previously known.
A report from Brookings University argues that since boys have not been given a chance to explore creative areas due to societal pressure to focus on "masculine" interests like science, technology, and math, girls have systematically been excluded from those same pursuits. The benefits of same-gender schooling grow even more evident when considering that research shows that many boys have a natural acuity for humanities subjects that they frequently face pressure not to explore. Two Ph.D. child psychologists, Michael Thompson-a New York Times bestselling author and international speaker-and Dan Kindlon co-wrote a book: Raising Cain. They discuss boys-only educational systems and how boys are enabled to discover new interests and passions if they do not feel that they need to perform to impress girls. PBS aired the book as a documentary.
Thompson and Kindlon focused on various aspects of boys' psyches throughout their stages of development but focused primarily on how co-educational schools negatively impact, due to social pressure that boys experience when learning alongside girls, boys' ability to explore specific academic exploits in drama, the arts, theology, and literature, among others. Eleanor Maccoby, Ph.D. and Emeritus Professor of Psychology at Stanford University, praises Thompson's book, saying that educating boys without girls in the academic environment allows "...for boys to become more 'emotionally literate,' to understand their feeling and those of others more."
The data about co-ed schooling vs. single-sex education agree; your son will learn more effectively if he does so in an all-male environment.
Research confirms a natural observation about how boys learn; unlike girls, boys perform significantly better when allowed to engage in physical activity in the time immediately surrounding classroom education. At a co-educational school, educators cannot accommodate all of boys' unique learning needs. All-boys schools have the freedom to design programs that provide for boys in ways that programs with girls cannot. An all-boys school like Fork Union Military Academy features courses that focus on boys' hands-on learning style, allowing them to retain what they learn in ways that are unique to them.
At co-educational schools, teachers may try to combine elements that work for girls and boys, but this results in neither gender receiving precisely what they need. Schools are making concessions that hurt both boys and girls, but since girls learn better in lecture-style environments and tend to be auditory learners, boys take the brunt of the compromise.
Parents seeking to invest in a college-preparatory environment for their son likely already know the alarming statistics for boys' college completion rates. Significantly more troubling than high school graduation rates-where girls are more than 10% more likely to earn a diploma than boys—government data shows that in college, boys are not only less likely to enroll in college than girls, but they are less likely to finish if they start.
There are far more reasons to consider an all-boys school for your son than just learning styles.
Raul Nidoy is a lifelong educator and author. He presented to the United States Congress what has been deemed the "best available meta-analysis of the effects of single-sex schools." His seminal work discusses the merits of all-boys schools. The research "finds [that] positive results are three to four times more likely to be found for single-sex schools than for co-educational schools in the same study for both academic achievement and socio-emotional development."
Nidoy's research, which spans back years and has earned him many academic cameos, has focused on the reasons why boys learn better when surrounded by other boys. Contrary to the claims that many boys' schools make, the primary strength of an all-boys environment is not the mere absence of girls. Girls, Nidoy found, are not the reason why boys tend to struggle in co-ed schooling environments.
There are four main categories into which Nidoy concatenates his reasons that single-gender schools offer a better quality of education than co-educational alternatives: Student-Student Relationships, Student-Teacher Relationships, Teacher-Student Work, Negative Behaviors Avoided, and finally Positive Behaviors Fostered and Moral Education.
The following results draw from systematic surveying of educators drawn from a pool of 33,979 teachers with experience in both co-educational and same-gender systems.
For Student-Student Relationships, SSRs, the primary benefits of an all-boys environment were fewer distractions, fairer competition, and mutual support and friendship. In addition, the report indicates that boys are much more likely to ask classmates for help when they don't worry about how a girl may perceive that action. Boys were also markedly more confident when contributing to class discussions when doing so in an all-boys environment.
Exploring Student-Teacher Relationships, STRs, the most significant differentiator that Nidoy found was a lower level of sex stereotyping from teachers. The study suggests that many teachers tend to develop standards biases against one gender when teaching in co-ed settings. Another benefit for STRs involves teaching material that may be awkward or unpleasant if both boys and girls were to be present. This applies more broadly than just to sex education classes, but to leadership, home economics, and other classes typically associated with particular genders. Simply due to how the material would be parsed differently, the report suggests that entire bodies of knowledge are better taught at single-gender schools.
Negative Behaviors Avoided, NBAs primarily focused on the potential pitfalls of students becoming romantically involved at a young age. Teachers reported that attendant problems surrounding early romantic relationships made the prospect a highly risky one. In addition, teachers often noticed that middle and early high school students largely did not feature the developmental maturity to handle a romantic commitment alongside a full-time academic load.
The last primary category from Nidoy's research was Positive Behaviors Fostered and Moral Education, PBFME. One of the most significant findings aligns with research from Hamilton College. A report from Hamilton College suggests that the current co-educational system in the United States leaves room for dangerous gender attitudes to form within students. For example, the authors found that boys in an all-male environment were statistically less likely to commit acts of sexual harassment in college and beyond compared to boys who went to co-educational schools. Moreover, when surveying teachers with years of experience in both settings, many agreed that by the end of high school, boys who had been educated at an all-boys school tended to exhibit "better overall character."
All told, boys from across tens of thousands of co-educational schools fall more than 20% behind in overall likelihood to earn a college degree. As a result, the general American workforce has a dwindling number of men with degrees. If more boys had experienced the unique learning environment tailored to their needs that an all-boys school like Fork Union Military Academy provides, those numbers could look much different.
While these figures may seem to reflect an inevitable disadvantage for boys, they indicate one primary argument: co-ed schools can fail boys in some fundamental ways. In a system where teaching methods avoid the kinesthetic, cooperative teaching methods boys need, all-boys high schools stand out not just in principles but also in numbers. Even throughout COVID-19 and its many damaging effects on college admissions and high school graduations, Fork Union Military Academy, an all-boys school, graduated a full class of Cadets and maintained 100% college acceptance.
Micah Giszack is an alumnus of Fork Union Military Academy and works with the Academy in marketing and admissions.
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