Reader Cassandra sent us this article, on the rise of single-sex state education in the US, particularly in the early teen years. I expected my reaction to be wholly negative, and there’s plenty there to trigger a negative response: Throwing balls to boys when they’re called on to keep their attention! Having girls analyse makeup in chemistry classes! I mean, Stereotypes R US, right? But… one girl who chose single sex classes (over her parents’ protests) talks about how it gave her the confidence boost she needed to be more assertive when she returned to mixed-sex classes. This is just the kind of argument we hear for keeping all-women’s colleges, and feminists are often receptive to these arguments. And: think about the age range we’re discussing. At a very early age, it would look like simply gender indoctrination, and we’ve already got too much of that. But by the early teen years, these forces have already done much of their work and pressure to conform is at its highest. Is it so crazy to suppose that the result of these pressures *could* be boys and girls benefiting from different kinds of classes? And think again about the makeup analysis. Is it really clearly mistaken to use the undeniably widespread teenage girl interest in makeup to get teenage girls interested in chemistry? If pressure to think about makeup could make chemistry cool, wouldn’t this be a good thing? (Similar thoughts apply to the ball-throwing, arguably.) Sure, it would be better to get rid of all the gender-conformity pressure. But since it *is* there right now, we should also try to do the best we can for the kids who are already its victims. Still, of course huge and troubling issues remain: is this just enhancing the gender-conformity pressure? Will boys who don’t like balls and girls who don’t like makeup just find life even harder? I know I myself would have hated the idea. And what about trans-kids? I’m certainly not convinced that this is the right approach– a part of me still hates it quite viscerally, and on balance I still probably oppose it. But I’m surprised to find myself not just dismissing it out of hand.