EDITORIAL: Don’t discourage options in school

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Bad marks for overzealous challenge to creative approach.

OVER DECADES, the American Civil Liberties Union has performed some remarkable services in the interest of individual liberty. The ACLUís history is filled with moments when it has defended rights and upheld the Constitution -- often at unpopular junctions with public opinion -- extending liberty for all.

So letís not jump on that bandwagon racing to condemn the ACLU as a meddlesome agent of anti-Americanism, bent on destroying every traditional belief of the people.

At the same time, the ACLU is as capable of overreaching as any other institution. Its most recent actions related to the School District of Beloit illustrate the point.

THE ACLU HAS ASKED the federal Education Departmentís office of civil rights for an investigation into whether Beloit is in violation of Title IX by conducting single-sex classes at Robinson and McLenegan schools. The Beloit district is one of many across the country in the ACLUís crosshairs.

The implication is that by filling some classrooms with boys and others with girls the school district is illegally discriminating and violating the rights of those youngsters.

Certainly, the district is making a distinction based on gender. And, if one changed the sentence above to read ďfilling some classrooms with blacks and others with whitesĒ one would hear alarm bells going off all around.

But intent matters. So does parental involvement. And upon closer examination itís obvious the Beloit program is an outcome-based experiment driven by positive motives.

THE IDEA BEHIND the single-sex approach is that boys and girls may have different learning patterns that could be enhanced by teaching to those strengths.

Keep in mind that this is a limited experiment, not an all-encompassing policy of the district. Also, remember that no child is forced to participate. Parents opt-in for the program.

Additionally, kids are not separated by gender across-the-board during the educational experience. It applies for certain core subjects. Otherwise, boys and girls mix at other times -- for lunch, for phy-ed, for other projects and class work.

So, obviously, there is no intent to deny anyoneís rights or reduce anyoneís opportunities. Quite the opposite, in fact.

More importantly, in our view, parents get to choose. Shall we accuse mom and dad of discriminating against their kid?

ON THIS ONE, itís obvious the ACLU is way off base. Beloit must endure the distraction of defending itself for no good reason.

Likewise, for the nearly 500 other schools nationwide targeted under this ACLU request. Itís not as if Beloit invented the single-sex approach. This is common as the education community looks for ways to improve outcomes.

Call us crazy, but we believe experimentation is crucial in modern education. Why? Because the status quo isnít enough. Too many kids are falling through the cracks. Too many are unable to function and prosper once they leave school. Thatís both an individual tragedy, for kids who fail, and a national tragedy as America strives to compete and win on a global scale.

The feds should punt this one back. Beloitís kids are not being harmed.

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