Book Review: The separation solution?WilliamsJ. A. (2016). The separation solution?Oakland: University of California Press. 256 pp. $85.00 (hardback). ISBN 9780520288959. $29.95 (paperback). ISBN 9780520288966.
As a conclusion to the two-part special issue on single-sex education in Sex Roles (Signorella and Bigler 2011, 2013a), this Feminist Forum opens with a concluding commentary by Liben (2015), followed by commentaries on Liben’s paper from three different perspectives. Liben provides an historical overview of gender and education in the U.S. to the present and identifies different approaches to the role of gender in cognition and behavior (essentialist, environmentalist, constructivist). She also reviews evidence on the impact of single-sex education in the U.S. in the context of these and other differing perspectives. She concludes by examining the role of values in drawing conclusions about single-sex education. Three comments on the matters raised by Liben explore the biological (Fine and Duke 2015), legal (Sherwin 2015), and public policy (Huston 2015) aspects of the single-sex education controversy, with the latter two focusing on U.S. laws and public policy issues. I use a recent news article concerning legal changes in the U.S. to exemplify the ongoing disputes in this arena. The papers in this collection provide important directions for future research, as well as guidelines for researchers who wish to communicate their findings effectively to the public and to policymakers.
Although coeducation has been the norm within private and public schools since the 1970s, single-sex education has staged a comeback in recent years as a means of addressing the academic and social problems faced by some students. Single-sex education raises controversy on ideological grounds, and in 1996 the Supreme Court struck down the all-male admissions policy at the Virginia Military Institute in a decision that has cast a legal cloud over public initiatives. In this timely book, Rosemary Salomone offers a reasoned educational and legal argument supporting single-sex education as an alternative to coeducation, particularly in the case of disadvantaged minority students. Salomone examines the history of women's education and exclusion, philosophical and psychological theories of sameness and difference, findings on educational achievement and performance, the research evidence on single-sex schooling, and the legal questions that have arisen. Correcting many of the current misconceptions about single-sex education, she argues that it is a viable option and that the road to gender equality should be paved with diverse educational opportunities for all students-regardless of race, class, or gender.