Some Blatant Self Promotion: Single Sex Education and Masculinity

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Please forgive me if this self-promotion is beyond the standards of decency. But, if anyone is interested, I’ve posted the most recent draft of an article I’m working on and would love any feedback people might have if they are inclined to look at it. The abstract is below, and the link to the page where it can be downloaded is here. Thanks!

In late 2006, the Department of Education changed the Title IX regulations to broaden the permissibility of single-sex education in primary and secondary schools. The changes took place in the context of a growing concern over the performance and well-being of boys in American schools. This article describes, dissects, and critically analyzes the narrative about boys, masculinity, and single-sex education that surrounded these changes.

The public narrative about the need for single-sex education focused, in substantial part, on what I call the essentialist myth of masculinity. This article catalogs the important components of this myth: heteronormativity, aggression, activity, sports-obsession, competitiveness, stoicism, and not being girls. The article then shows, using education and gender theory, that this conception of masculinity is harmful to both girls and boys. Instead of pushing this form of masculinity, the law and schools should make room for multiple and varied masculinities for boys (and girls).

The article argues that the Title IX regulatory change that allows for the expansion of single-sex schooling can actually work to further empower and entrench the essentialist myth of masculinity, thus violating its own prohibition on sex stereotyping. By adopting strong interpretations of already-existing jurisprudence about gender stereotyping from both constitutional law and Title IX, the article shows how de-essentializing masculinity is possible and preferable in the law. The article concludes that schools that implement single-sex education must do so for reasons other than promoting an essentialized notion of masculinity and that the law must be vigilant in ensuring that schools’ implementation not further reify dominant conceptions of what it means to be a boy.

– David S. Cohen

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0 Responses to Some Blatant Self Promotion: Single Sex Education and Masculinity

  1. ceejay1968 says:

    Two years ago, I found out late about the parish’s efforts to segregate several schools by gender:

    As the ACLU brief explains (ttp://, they were not JUST going to have gender segregated public education here, but were going to rely on outdated stereotypes about the biology of gender to teach boys and girls differently. Girls, the training for teachers under the new program claimed, learn best by talking and being in groups. Girls hear better. Boys, the training for teachers said, learn best by doing. Boys should be active. They are wired for hunting prey. Boys who are not as active should be encouraged in group activities outdoors. When processing literature, teachers should ask girls how they would feel if they were the characters in the story, and not about the action; boys, on the other hand, must never be asked about their feelings and should, instead, be asking about the action. Livingston Parish spent Louisiana taxpayer dollars on teacher training from this man at his “Gurian Institute,” without ever checking his credentials:


    As I wrote to the ACLU after they’d already won their temporary court reprieve (the current status is that the parish has simply backed off for a while as they wait for the furor to die down and regroup their legal strategies), I knew Michael Gurian personally when I lived in Washington State. The guy calls himself a “counselor.” He appears on CNN and “Good Morning America” where anchors call him “Doctor” and fails to correct them. He has written a number of books on boys and girls (including one in which a friend of mine in WA is credited as a “research assistant” when all she did was show the dood how to use a word processing program). Although the Gurian Institute’s webpage gives his partner’s credentials in great detail (hers are relevant to the work they’re doing), it is suspiciously light on his credentials. This is because, as I was able to prove to the ACLU simply because I knew the guy enough to know where to begin digging, he has a B.A. in Journalism and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing. Some gender expert, eh? He cherry picks his science in his books. It’s a joke. Finally, he is what is called a “registered counselor” in WA State. A “licensed counselor” is someone with an actual education in therapy. A “registered counselor,” on the other hand, is someone who 1) lives in WA State, 2) pays a registration fee to their Department of Health, and 3) works in the field of counseling, usually in an institutional setting, like a school or a prison (the latter is where Mr. Gurian apparently began his work as a “counselor”). You read that correctly. “Registered counselors” in WA are not required to have any particular training in therapy-related fields, any particular degree, or even be working towards such a degree. Anyone may receive the designation, including you or me. In fact, in 2007 WA State convened a task force to decide what to do about the designation, as it is so vague as to be potentially misleading (task force findings at: ttps:// When an R.C. counsels patients, he or she must get a signed waiver stating that the patient understands that this person may have no actual background as a therapist. So, Mr. Gurian has to get waivers from patients, under WA law, when he sees individuals, yet the state of LA paid him taxpayers’ money to train several dozen Livingston Parish schoolteachers in his gender studies quackery, no waiver required (Mr. Gurian’s registration with the state is here: ttps://

    The Livingston Parish gender segregated education plan was also heavily influenced by this guy, Leonard Sax:


    My daughter has an auditory processing disorder! She has never, ever learned anything well by “hearing” or by being in groups. She learns by DOING, by getting up and creating, just like these idiots claim boys do. Their narrowly defined, gender restricted versions of teaching would have been a disaster for my daughter – and will be if they ever manage to implement it.

  2. ceejay1968 says:

    I am going to provide a link to the ACLU’s documents in a third post. Sorry. my computer freezes every time I go to that link. I’ve lost what I’ve typed three times now, so I will give the link last.

    Anyway, the teachers were taught to smile and make eye contact with girls, but avoid this with boys. Boys would be outside at school more than girls. Girls would learn “character development” while boys would study what it means to be “heroic” and what it means to “be a man.” Girls and boys would be taught math and science differently. Boys – and only boys – would be stress relief breaks where they could do things like hit stuff with a Nerf bat.

  3. ceejay1968 says:

    Okay, sorry it took me three posts.

    Here is the ACLU link. The really juicy stuff starts on page 3.

  4. Gurian and Sax are two of the leading proponents of the essentialist myth of masculinity that I detail in my article. Unfortunately, their views have taken hold in a lot of educational circles and they are both used by school districts across the country to train educators on how to implement single-sex education. Scary stuff.

  5. ceejay1968 says:

    Did you know about Gurian’s utter lack of background in this field? If not, I hope this information helps out somehow.

    A friend of mine in Spokane is credited in one of his books as a “research assistant.” All she ever did was teach the guy how to use a word processing program. We figured that says much about how little actual research he does!