Discussions concerning the pros and cons of coed education have been picking up in the Augusta-Aiken area and elsewhere around the nation since March, when the U.S. Department of Education announced it would change enforcement of the Title IX anti-discrimination law to make it easier for public school districts to create single-sex schools.
Proponents say all-boy and all-girl classes would lighten social pressures, improve pupil performance and behavior, and give middle- and lower-middle-income students the same opportunity as wealthy pupils have when they attend non-coed private schools.
Critics knock the plan, saying it will set back school integration, possibly damage pupils' social skills and, despite the government's promise the sexes must be treated equally, in practice same-sex classes could turn out to be "separate but unequal." It wouldn't be the first time.
Here's the way we look at it. Anything that broadens parental choice - and loosens up on the one-size-fits-all straitjacket of public school education - is a healthy development.
The point is, there's nothing wrong with coed schools. They work very well for many, perhaps even most, pupils. But some pupils might do better in single-sex classes - undistracted by the opposite sex. This is common sense, just as some pupils do better in small classes than large ones, or better in boarding schools than day schools. Studies have shown that girls often do better in math and science courses when they stick with their own gender.
Whether it's same-sex classes or classroom sizes, the more options available to pupils, the better chance they have of being put in a learning environment that works for them. It's not a matter of whether coed education is better than same-sex education. It's a matter of what works best for the individual pupil.
Should public school districts in our region open up some same-sex classes? Of course they should. This is the kind of diversity in education that might improve the performance of many pupils.