No I have not lost my mind- I have found my way to some good old fashioned common sense. And it has been hiding in plain sight for as far back as we have had problems in our education systems across large swaths of our country. Far too many American schools are not teaching America’s children well enough to support their survival in the modern economy. A great many of America’s children cannot be competitive with the top domestic schools, much less hold their own on a global stage. And the problems are both social as well as scholastic. Indications are that we have lost our mojo in terms of public education and we need to find it before it is too late for us to recover.
But this time “separate but equal” will have nothing to do with a nefarious plot to advance a racist white supremacist agenda. This time, “separate but equal” will be about acknowledging the clear benefits to separating boys and girls from each other in middle school and high school. Here is the problem that we have been ignoring: gender dynamics are powerful and distracting by nature- and Trigonometry is hard enough to learn without the added burden of a raging erection your son caught because Miss Brenda “Boom-Boom” Lovejoy just sashayed past him on her way to the pencil sharpener. And teenage girls have been known to shrink away from that same Trigonometry class because it just might not be sexy or cute to young bucks fighting for their attention. Its a mess, y’all, and you will never convince me that it would not be in these kids’ scholastic best interest if they didn’t have to manage all of these complex dynamics at the same time.
While it is obviously necessary for young people to learn how to deal with the opposite sex, it is not necessary for it to take place at all times and in all places. In middle school and high school, boys and girls need to be kept apart during the school day. And while I know that both boys and girls have their problems, I can speak from the experience of being a teenage boy and the big problem is that when the rest of the world sees this adorable little thing here:
Teenage boys see that sultry vixen pictured up at the very top of the piece. That is a little embarrassing, but I bullshit you not, our youthful eyes process this information exactly this way. Is there any surprise then that boys go a little crazy sometimes? Beyond the distraction of the attraction factor, an even more dangerous dynamic is the reflex to compete for the attention and affection of these irresistible creatures. Even as grown assed middle-aged men, if a very attractive woman enters the circle, the energy and dynamic often shifts suddenly- regardless of the position or life details of any man there. The most sophisticated of us have learned to manage the reflexes but the fact is that effort must be expended to act like you are unaffected. Teenage boys barely have a prayer of pulling this off.
How much of the bullying that goes on in middle school and high school is grounded in some boys trying to show off for some girls at the expense of some unfortunate fellow who just happens to be slow developing or is otherwise burdened by awkwardness? I don’t have numbers but I remember high school and anecdotal evidence says its a lot. How many times is a girl targeted for attack, ridicule or scorn by other girls simply because the boys can’t stop looking at her hair or flirting with her- and the others have grown weary and angry at the spectacle. Again, no empirical evidence but I do remember high school.
The logistics of this gender division would be easier to pull off than opponents would have you believe, and I am straining to find the lasting social value of keeping the system as is. The absolute mess that is gender relationships today is hardly an endorsement for more of the same. What if you could spend more directed time teaching boys about the role and responsibilities of manhood because they didn’t have to worry about looking stupid in front of any girls that might be around? What if you could spend more time teaching girls about their value and self-determination because they didn’t have to worry about dealing with boys boorish behavior or harassment while they were at school? There would be plenty of socialization opportunities with a “Brother -Sister” school system akin to what has been wildly successful at Morehouse College and Spelman College for 150 years now. I’d call that a pretty successful model- one we could replicate to great results particularly in urban America.
At this point, what in the hell would we have to lose? Are we actually waiting for it to get worse before it gets better? We have been sliding scholastically and socially ever since we successfully defeated the original “separate but equal” in the Supreme Court- and we have nothing to show for it. Schools are just about as segregated today as they were then, but now our students are actually further behind in nearly every measurable category. Since we already don’t have the financial resources to invest our way out of the mess, this is something that we actually can do to make structural change. In short, just take some of the pressure off of our kids while they are trying to grow up. That is something that we actually CAN do.