The National Association for Choice in Education
What is the National Association for Choice in Education?
The National Association for Choice in Education is a non-profit organization originally chartered in Maryland in April 2002 (see “History”, below). The mission of the Association is to promote and support girls’ schools and boys’ schools, whether in the public sector, private sector, or Catholic sector.
To “promote and support” includes a variety of activities. We seek to:
1. Understand and share best practices for single-gender schools: those best practices include gender-specific instructional strategies and motivational strategies, as well as gender-specific strategies for building community in the classroom and in the school.
2. Educate parents about single-gender schools. Many parents assume that because the real world is coed, a coed school necessarily provides better preparation for the real world. We point out the two major fallacies in that reasoning. But we don’t insist that single-gender education is better than coeducation for every child, just for some. So another part of this mission is to help parents determine whether their child would do better in a single-gender school or in a coed school. Some kids do better in coed; some do better in single-gender. We don’t blindly promote single-gender education for all students; we promote choice for all families (hence the name “National Association for Choice in Education).
3. Provide a big tent for all educators and administrators who care about single-gender education. There are already many fine organizations devoted to some aspect of single-gender education. But most of these organizations are concerned primarily with girls’ schools, or primarily with boys’ schools. In view of widespread misunderstandings regarding single-gender education, we believe it’s important to have at least one organization which is equally concerned with girls’ schools and with boys’ schools.
In April 2002, Katie Kautz, Janet Phillips, and Leonard Sax founded the National Association for the Advancement of Single Sex Public Education (NAASPE). This name was deliberately patterned after the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The NAACP is for people of color, but it is not against white people. The phrase “for the advancement of X” indicates that you are in favor of X without being opposed to Y. Likewise, we wanted to communicate that we although we are for single-gender education, we are not against coeducation. We drew our inspiration from the Association between then-Senator Hillary Clinton (D-New York) and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), who jointly sponsored legislation clarifying the legal status of single-gender educational choice in the public sector. As Senator Clinton observed on June 7 2001, “there should not be any obstacle to providing single-sex choice within the public school system.” More recently, Senator Hutchison joined with her Democratic colleague from Maryland, Senator Barbara Mikulski, to explain that single-gender educational options should be available for all parents, not just those parents who can afford to send their kids to private schools. You can read the full text of the Hutchison/Mikulski op-ed in the Wall Street Journal at www.4schoolchoice.org/hutchison2012.html.
But the name NAASSPE seemed cumbersome. Later in 2002, we shortened the name to NASSPE, deleting “for the Advancement of.” In retrospect that may have been a mistake. In 2011, eight professors in the United States created a non-profit organization whose primary objective is to criminalize single-gender education in the public sector. Whereas we – following the lead of Senators Hillary Clinton, Susan Collins, Kay Bailey Hutchison, and Barbara Mikulski (two Democrats and two Republicans) – seek to expand choice in the public sector, those eight professors seek to restrict it. They don’t believe that any parent who sends their child to a public school should have the option of single-gender classrooms, under any circumstance, for any reason. In opposition to our original web site www.singlesexschools.org, they created an opposing web site www.coedschools.org. In a particularly startling page on their web site, they assert that it’s wrong even to address children as “girls and boys” or as “ladies and gentlemen,” in just the same way that it would be wrong to address students as “blacks and whites.” The co-founder of the group, Professor Rebecca Bigler, debated Dr. Sax in Houston on October 21 2012. When Dr. Sax asked Professor Bigler whether she was opposed to the Girls Scouts, she answered, “Yes.” According to Professor Bigler, no parent should enroll their daughter in the Girl Scouts. It’s not sufficient for Professor Bigler to say that she personally does not like the Girl Scouts; she believes that NO parent should enroll their daughter in the Girl Scouts, and if she had the authority to do so, she would criminalize the Girl Scouts or compel them to make all their activities coed.
The most fundamental error this group makes is in misunderstanding the basic question. They believe that the basic question is “Which is better? Single-gender or coed?” They try to prove that coeducation is better. But we don’t believe that one size fits all. Coeducation may be a better choice for some kids; but single-gender may be a better choice for other kids. What works for Justin may be a disaster for Jason. We are not asserting that every child should be in a single-gender classroom; we are just asserting that parents should have choices, including those parents who can’t afford the tuition for a private school or a Catholic school.
The eight professors behind www.coedschools.org direct their angriest outbursts at advocates of single-gender education in the public sector. However, they have not hesitated to attack single-gender Catholic schools and private schools. After all, if their assertions were valid – if it were actually true that single-gender education inevitably reinforces gender stereotypes and promotes sexism, and that mere exposure to the single-gender format has lasting negative consequences – then the single-gender format would be wrong, regardless of whether the school in question happened to be a public school, private school or Catholic school.
The backlash against single-gender education is not confined to the public sector and it is not confined to the Angry Eight professors who launched www.coedschools.org. Listen for example to Terry O’Neill, president of the National Organization for Women, in this interview on KUOW public radio for Seattle, in which Ms. O’Neill asserts that you can look in “any archdiocese” in the United States which offers single-gender schools, and you will “inevitably” find that single-gender Catholic schools “systematically” give more resources to boys and fewer to girls; that the boys are first-class citizens and the girls are second-class citizens. (Ms. O’Neill’s interview begins about ten minutes into the segment.)
Boys are boys and girls are girls – regardless of whether they attend Catholic schools, independent schools, and public schools. The best way to get girls engaged and motivated in the study of number theory or quantum mechanics doesn’t vary substantially between a private school and a public school; but the best way to get girls excited about quantum mechanics turns out to be quite different from the best way to get boys excited about quantum mechanics, regardless of whether they are attending a public school or a private school. When educators don’t understand that, the result is that many girls who might have enjoyed quantum mechanics instead think that “advanced physics is for guys.”
By the end of 2011, it was clear that the name “NASSPE” did not accurately describe our work of promoting single-gender education in the public sector AND the private sector AND the Catholic sector. Hence the change in name to “The National Association for Choice in Education.” Our original web site www.singlesexschools.org continues to receive more than 100,000 hits per month, so we will not shut it down; but gradually we hope to redirect visitors to this site.
Our Eighth International Conference took place Saturday and Sunday, October 20 & 21, at the Westin Galleria Hotel in Houston, Texas. We had more than 50 different presentations, from Catholic schools, from private independent schools, and from public schools; from all across the United States, as well as from Australia, Canada, Colombia, and Iceland. More information, including a complete list of presenters and their topics, is online at the 2012 conference website.
Unfortunately we do not have plans for another conference at this time.
By telephone: 610 296 2821 between 9 AM and 4 PM Monday through Friday.
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