Debate with Christina Hoff Sommers

In August 2013, we debated the value of single-sex education at the American Enterprise Institute.  Here’s the video and a transcript of my opening statement was published in the AEI’s magazine, The American.

Single-sex education and the brain

My peer-reviewed article with this title is now published in the journal, Sex Roles.  Springer issued a press release that summarizes the article quite nicely, but if you’d like a full-text copy for your research, contact me at:

Commentary on South Carolina single-gender school survey

Diane Halpern and I recently posted a critique of a highly-publicized survey the South Carolina Dept. of Education conducted to evaluate its widespread single-gender public school initiative.  Though not in any sense objective, the survey results are being used to try to rescue the segregated classrooms, which are otherwise in decline in the state. 

Our article was given a clever headline — “The Single-Sex Trick” — and appears here in Slate.

Diane and I would like to thank Becky Bigler (U.Texas), Janet Hyde (U. Wisconsin) and Rick Fabes, Carol Martin and Laura Hanish (Arizona State) who helped shape an earlier version of the commentary.

Debate with Gurian

I have a new article in Educational Leadership on gender differences and their relevance to education.  I’m trying to put things into perspective, citing the real magnitude and multiple causes (hormones, peer and parent influence, time-on-task) of differences between boys’ and girls’ school performance.  It’s a complex issue, but not to gender essentialists like Michael Gurian, whose team of “Gurian Institute” associates published the next article in the same issue.  So we’ve sparred on the ASCD blog, first in response to my editorial, then Gurian’s.

It is hard to discuss scientific evidence with people who have no understanding of statistics or the scientific method.  But I keep trying, because they have hoodwinked so many parents and teachers into believing in “hardwired” gender differences in learning.  The problem, of course, is that what parents and teachers believe powerfully influences children’s own behavior and learning.  How is an AP calculus teacher who reads junk like  “girls have great difficulty in learning certain aspects of math” (p.  294 in Gurian’s book “Boys and Girls Learn Differently!”) supposed to treat girls and boys equally?

Oh, and he also states that the human brain weights 8 pounds (p.18).   But what can you expect from a supposed “brain-based” educational guru who uses the Reader’s Digest as a primary source?

UPDATE (August 2011):  My article was selected for the “Best of Educational Leadership, 2010-11” collection and is now available here without a subscription.

“Big Idea” piece in New Scientist

Here‘s an article I wrote for New Scientist rebutting the idea of “hardwired” sex difference and laying out how small innate differences become magnified through cultural learning.

Scientific American Mind piece

In the May 2010 issue of Scientific American Mind, I wrote an article that summarizes the more significant behavioral differences between boys and girls, the roles of nature and nurture in generating them, and some suggestions for how to narrow them. It’s called “The Truth About Boys and Girls” and can be accessed here.

Sex vs. gender and the brain

Most studies of brain differences between men and women obviously separate groups by sex–that is, biological male- or femaleness. However, some research is beginning to identify neural differences that correlate as well or better with gender–one’s self-perceived masculinity or feminity, which varies along a continuum and is likely more influenced by learning and experience than biological sex.   I discussed this distinction in  regard to research on social perception in a recent blog at Scientific American online (Mind Matters).

College enrollment gap is leveling off

Here’s one bit of good news. The college enrollment gap–more women than men–appears to have leveled off. After falling from 55% to 45% of total students (graduate and undergraduate) between 1975 and 1995, men’s proportion has settled at 43% over the last five years. Hopefully, we have reached the nadir for this ratio and the new attention to boys’ needs from birth through high school will raise the ratio closer to gender parity.

You can find the numbers here.