This post is the start of a series of postings which are designed to create conversations on a variety of educational topics. Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments section.
I have been thinking about this topic for a couple of years, because I have yet to hear valid reasons for segregated our students when they play on school sports teams? Is it really necessary to separate girls and boys for team sports, at the elementary level?
Developing co-ed sports teams at the upper elementary level can create more harmonious classroom relationships between girls and boys, and may even lead to a deeper sense of gender equality later in life. Those that play together learn to live together. I have often been dismayed by the lack of respect boys and girls show each on the playground, occasionally in the classroom, and frequently on the field of play. These offences are usually gross-generalizations passed down through generations. I have lost count how many times I have heard these quiet murmurings on and around the soccer, “They are just girls,” “We should score lots of goals today, they have girls on their team,” “You can’t skip with us you’re a boy.”
I have heard the argument that the physical differences between boys and girls should be reason enough to separate them, but I disagree. In my experience, boys and girls aged 10, 11, and 12 (the age which students in my school district typically join sports teams) are very similar in bodyweight and height. Sure, there are times when the opposition towers over my smallest boys and girls, but they know its safe to play and nobody will intentionally hurt them.
Playing on co-ed teams teaches children to be more socially responsible. One of our school’s goals is social responsibility. We learn social responsibly in different ways throughout the day, and one way is through play. What better way is there to learn these skills, in a truly authentic way? The power of a great play between a boy and girl on the soccer field cannot be understated, especially when that moment of mutual respect is later transferred to the classroom in terms of working together in harmony. I would even go so far as to say that later in life that single moment could lead to a deeper sense of gender equality.
Our schools should mirror society’s move towards greater gender equality. We don’t have public schools for boys and public schools for girls in British Columbia. In fact, we activity encourage our students to work in mixed gender groups in the classroom, so why not on the sports field? Working and playing with the opposite sex is a skill and a necessity in life. The sooner we close the gap by developing co-ed teams at the elementary level the better.
Is it really necessary to separate girls and boys for team sports, at the elementary level? Co-ed teams foster a sense of mutual respect, they teach social responsibility, and they mirror what happens naturally in the classroom.
Further reading on gender bias’ in education: