Maggie Gallagher
When it comes to race, separate is inherently unequal. Gender is different.

The Bush administration acknowledged as much in proposing to give public school districts new freedom to create single-sex schools or classes. In doing so, President Bush opened up new opportunities for both boys and girls. Women senators from Kay Bailey Hutchinson, R-Texas, to Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., supported the move.

The old guard reacted like, well, reactionaries. Marcia Greenberger, co-president of the National Women's Law Center, called the proposed regulations a "very serious attack on the most fundamental principles underlying protections against sex discrimination under Title IX and under our Constitution" that could "set back progress that women and girls have made for over 30 years."

"We are not advocating single-sex schools," a Bush education official told The New York Times. "We understand that co-ed remains the norm." "More options" is the Bush mantra on education.

Meanwhile, isn't it strange to see the same people who advocate separate sports teams for girls recoiling at the idea of a single-sex school? The reason we have separate sports teams is that gender, unlike race, is a biological reality. If we want girls to have equal athletic opportunities, we sometimes have to give them separate teams. We might wish to one day achieve a society that is race-blind, but a society that is gender-blind would be just plain blind.

Separate is always unequal when it comes to race because, for the most part, blacks and whites live in different families. It is quite plausible for one race (in our case, whites) to segregate itself in order to hog all opportunities for its own clan. By contrast, every family contains men and women, some combination of mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, grandmothers and grandfathers, aunts and uncles, sons and daughters.

In this day and age, we can count on mothers and fathers to advocate as zealously for good education for their daughters as for their sons.

Maggie Gallagher

Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.