I'm not sure what I think about a recent proposal by a top Toronto educator to establish "boys only" schools.
Actually, I am sure what I think. I'm not sure how to say it diplomatically.
"Segregation" is the word that springs to mind, and with it, some not-so-nice connotations. It's not exactly new to Toronto - in January 2008, the Toronto Board voted for the creation of a "black-focused" public school, which although open to all ethnic backgrounds would focus on black culture and history.
At the time, I thought this was a big step backwards. It's the same problem I have with the various religious school boards. We all live in this world together, and we need to learn to get along. Segregating children for any reason - race, gender, religion - means they are deprived of valuable opportunities to interact with and understand kids from diverse backgrounds and cultures, and I don't see how this can be beneficial in the long run.
Of course school board officials may not be considering the long run. They want to ensure all kids do well in school today, and this is a laudable goal. I know that there are concerns about boys falling behind in schools, that there are studies to show that boys learn differently, are motivated differently, behave differently.
No surprises here - I have a boy and two girls, and guess what? All three of them learn differently, are motivated differently and behave differently. That isn't enough of a reason for me to think they should all be in their own unique school that caters exactly to their needs. They need to understand that everyone has their own challenges to overcome and they need to learn what their relative strengths and weaknesses are in the context of the greater community.
In my observation, teachers in general go out of their way to figure out what makes individual children tick so that they can teach effectively. But we can't leave it all up to them. Schools need to have resources they can tap into to help individual children who are having difficulty. Parents (who know their children best) need to follow up to make sure kids who are struggling for any reason have access to the resources they need for success, whether that be peer-tutoring at recess, extra help with homework on the weekends, or simply the occasional shout of encouragement.
If we all work together, perhaps we can leave the idea of segregated schools where it belongs: in the past.