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Dr Leonard Sax's Visit to Merchiston

Published Friday 10th of May 2013 11:41:10 AM

Merchiston was delighted to welcome Dr Leonard Sax, a highly acclaimed American psychologist, family doctor and writer to the School yesterday. The best-selling author of Why Gender Matters, Boys Adrift and Girls on the Edge is a leading expert on the role that gender plays in child development and education and passionately believes that boys and girls should be taught separately at school. Dr Sax first visited Merchiston in 2008 and is an impressive speaker who has spoken widely at hundreds of academic and parent community events and has been a guest on NBC's The Today Show, CNN, BBC and many other national and international media outlets.

Much of Dr Sax's work focuses on how best to navigate the unique and ever-changing challenges faced by today's children. Dr Sax delivered thought-provoking sessions for pupils, staff and parents at Merchiston. With the boys, the format was interactive and conversational. He posed questions and reflected aloud on their answers. He covered the following topics:
* Do you play video games? What sort of video games do you like to play? How much time do you spend playing in a week? How much time would you like to spend playing?
* What do you like to do in your spare time when you have no obligations and no homework and you are by yourself?
* What is meant by the term 'gentleman'?

Pupils had many questions for Dr Sax and were very fascinated to hear about the impact that the way they spend their time has on brain development.

At the staff session, the presentation was more professional and scholarly, directed toward concrete strategies in the classroom and across the School.

Parents and guests were welcomed to the evening seminar where the focus shifted away from the school and toward the home with more discussion of parents' responsibilities to work in alliance with the school. Dr Sax included the following topics during the session:

* Managing Stress: how do boys and girls handle stress and anxiety? the gender difference
* Building Resilience: strategies and coping mechanisms
* Learning humility without being humiliated

Headmaster, Andrew Hunter, commented on the visit, 'I am thrilled that Dr Sax was able to visit us and spend time with us at Merchiston during his trip to the UK. Dr Sax is impressive and knowledgeable across so many fields; every assertion is backed up with evidence. I am certain that the entire School community benefited greatly from hearing what he had to say about teaching and nurturing boys. We remain convinced that by doing what's best for the boys, our pupils are engaged and encouraged to achieve their personal best in all areas.'


Why Gender Matters: '�is a lucid guide to male and female brain differences.'
New York Times

Boys Adrift: 'A must-read for any parent of boys. This is real science, and Dr Sax thoroughly uncovers the important health issues that parents of boys need to be tuned into.'
Dr Mehmet Oz, host of The Dr Oz Show

'Until recently, there have been two groups of people: those who argue sex differences are innate and should be embraced and those who insist that they are learned and should be eliminated. Sax is one of the few in the middle -- convinced that boys and girls are innately different and that we must change the environment so differences don't become limitations."
TIME Magazine

Further Information on Single-Sex Education:
In the 1960s and 1970s, a number of school boards abandoned single-sex education for economic reasons. Baby boomers flooded the school system and new schools needed to be built. For many, it did not make strategic sense to support multiple single-sex schools. At the same time, a shift in family dynamics and the drive for gender equality seemed to suggest that coeducation would provide a fairer system for everyone and that single-sex education had served to perpetuate stereotypes.

If we look to the twenty-first century, there is renewed interest in single-sex education. This time, the swing of the pendulum is driven by brain research including the work of Dr Leonard Sax, who was recently profiled on the front of TIME magazine. His book, Why Gender Matters succinctly summarizes the key arguments in favour of single-sex schools.

Sax contends that the brain develops differently in girls and boys. In girls, language areas of the brain evolve before areas used for spatial relations and geometry. The opposite is true for boys. Generalizations about boys being better at Mathematics and girls being better at languages are common but here we see them grounded in scientific fact.

Sax further argues that brains in boys and girls are wired differently. In girls, expressions of emotion are processed in the same area of the brain processing language. Girls are therefore able to express emotions more readily. In boys, emotion is processed in a separate area of the brain, making it more difficult for them to express how they feel.

Sax believes that schools able to focus or specialize on a specific gender and recognize its unique developmental issues can be more effective at achieving success. Girls typically do better at Mathematics and Science in an all-girls' environment and, correspondingly, boys do better in languages and the arts in an all-boys' school.

In an all-boys' environment, boys appear more team-oriented and less preoccupied with competing for the attention of the opposite sex. Instead they strive for excellence in whatever they choose to do and that effort should be celebrated and congratulated by all.

The single-sex debate will continue but those who witness the effect of single-sex education on boys on a daily basis can attest to its positive influence. Merchiston boys are equally comfortable on the rugby pitch as they are on the stage or when taking part in a debate.

Please visit the School's website here for further information about how Merchiston nurtures boys and young men or visit Leonard Sax's personal website here.

For further comments please contact 0131 312 2236 or email externalrelations@merchiston.co.uk
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