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Elementary school girls: Are the better off without boys in their classroom?

A is for apple. B is for boys. C is for confronting stereotypes.

Some of the most basic gender lessons are taught – often unconsciously – in the first few years of elementary school. So now a growing group of American educators are looking to challenge traditional gender roles in an unconventional, seemingly counter-intuitive, way: by instituting single-sex classrooms.

According to reports from the Associated Press, the number of all-boy or all-girl classes in public schools has risen to nearly 500 across the United States.

Proponents of the movement claim that separation allows for more tailored curricula, with the ultimate hope of improving boys' graduation rates and promoting confidence among girls. They also claim this arrangement cuts down on distractions like flirting and gender-based bullying.

"We want more girls engaged in robotics and computer programming and physics and engineering," said supporter Dr. Leonard Sax. "We want more boys engaged in poetry and creative writing and Spanish language."

To promote these goals, teachers are using some striking methods. For example, in one school boys are allowed to run around in preparation for a test, whereas girls are encouraged to take part in more calming activities, like yoga. The physical environments of single-sex classes are also altered. In one Idaho school, the decor of the classrooms are gender-specific, with blue chalkboards in the boys' rooms and red hearts on the walls of one of girls' rooms.

Critics of these schools have claimed that these educators are actually promoting sexual discrimination and breaching the constitution.

But the approach seems to be the other side of the coin of a problem many education systems are trying to tackle. In a bid to erase stereotypes before they start, a Swedish preschool abolished gender-specific pronouns in 2011, which led to the rise of the popularity of the term "hen," a gender-neutral pronoun.

Despite all the clucking over stereotypes, there's been little acknowledgment that bullying still happens in single-sex scenarios. Just ask any girl who survived junior high.

Do you think single-sex classrooms are a good idea or a breeding ground for more problems?

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