Single-gender education gains ground as boys lag

Experts worry that coed classrooms geared to girls put their counterparts at a disadvantage
San Francisco Chronicle June 18, 2007
For more than a decade, the conventional wisdom has been that schools have shortchanged girls, who were ignored in the classroom as they lagged behind in math and science. But now a growing chorus of educators and advocates for boys is turning that notion upside down.Boys are the ones in trouble, they say. They are trailing girls in reading and writing, are more likely to get in trouble or be labeled as learning disabled, and are less likely to go to college. The educators, citing emerging brain research, say that the two sexes learn differently and that schools are more geared to girls than to their ants-in-the-pants counterparts. But they are adopting strategies to help boys succeed, from playing multiplication baseball to handing out stress balls and setting up boys-only schools…Among the neurological differences Gurian and others highlight, based on brain scans and other research: — Males use more cortical areas of the brain for spatial and mechanical functioning, while females use more for words and emotions — meaning boys tend to benefit from hands-on learning, while girls are better auditory learners who write and use more words. — Boys have less of the “calming chemical” serotonin and more testosterone, making them more fidgety, impulsive and competition-driven. — Boys’ brains go more frequently into a “rest state,” leading to “zoning out” or moving around to try to stay focused. While gender brain differences remain controversial — only two years ago Harvard President Lawrence Summers lost his job after suggesting males may be more innately suited to science — what may have been dismissed as pop science a decade ago is now getting serious attention from brain researchers.