According to a recently published and very influential book, scientists have recently discovered some amazing things about the differences between boys and girls. For example, girls' hearing is said to be an order of magnitude more sensitive than boys' hearing. And this is a difference with major consequences in public as well as private life:
The difference in how girls and boys hear also has major implications for how you should talk to your children. I can't count the number of times a father has told me, "My daughter says I yell at her. I've never yelled at her. I just speak to her in a normal tone of voice and she says I'm yelling." If a forty-three-year-old man speaks in what he thinks is a "normal tone of voice" to a seventeen-year-old girl, that girl is going to experience his voice as being about ten times louder than what the man is hearing. […]
The gender difference in hearing also suggests different strategies for the classroom. … [E]leven-year-old girls are distracted by noise levels about ten times softer than noise levels that boys find distracting. … If you're teaching girls, don't raise your voice …. [but] the rules are different when you're teaching boys.
That passage is from p. 18 of Why Gender Matters: What Teachers and Parents Need to Know About the Emerging Science of Single Sex Education, by Dr. Leonard Sax, a pediatrician who is the leading light of the National Association for Single Sex Public Education (NASSPE). Dr. Sax is a tireless advocate for the view that boys and girls are so different, in so many scientifically proven ways, that it makes no sense to try to educate them in the same classroom.
There's just one problem: the scientific foundations of this "emerging science of single sex education" are exaggerated, misunderstood, or misrepresented. At least, that's true in the cases where I've checked the original research that Dr. Sax cites, including especially his assertions about sex differences in hearing.
I posted about this two years ago; and a couple of months ago, Dr. Sax posted on the NASSPE web site a letter answering my objections. A few days ago, a reporter asked me for my reaction to his letter ("Sax Q & A", 5/17/2008). So here goes — I warn you that this may be a little tedious, unless you're specifically interested in some of the more obscure techniques for studying human hearing, or in the rhetoric of Dr. Sax's movement.