What Boys Need: Part I

At a meeting of the International Boys Schools Coalition, I picked up the following insights – most of which should be attributed to author, Eli Newberger.

3 of the 6 Things Boys Need:

One: Boys need an adult advocate, someone who is “crazy” about him, someone who has his back no matter what the circumstances and will be there for him when he needs him most.

Two: Boys need  to acquire words to express emotions. Emotional intelligence is not a given. Narrow language can narrow a boy’s views of masculinity. Boys need help to acquire a fuller range of vocabulary in order to understand their fuller range of emotions and to gain a deeper understanding of themselves and others.

Three: Boys need to be protected from violence. Research on video games suggests they convey a tolerance for force in relationships and encourages “mean world beliefs.” Research also suggests that exposure to violence can be a predictor of future violence, and this is especially true for boys exposed to abused mothers.

When boys feel powerless, they respond in fear, rage, and sadness. Virtually all “bad boys” saw their mothers abused in one form or another. All too often boys respond to powerlessness by assuming super power or by becoming “hyper-masculine.” (Girls, by contrast, respond by blaming themselves and feel shame.)

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2 Responses to “What Boys Need: Part I”

  1. Weez Says:

    A boy needs to get into a school based on merit, not legacy status. Give it a try.

  2. Anonymous Says:

    I think I agree with number one, or much of it; but a boy might sometimes need his advocate to be able to sit him down and tell him the truth: You messed up; I know you’re a good guy; so face the consequence and let’s move on. That kind of thing.

    Number two: this happens in theatre. The characters that boys play often make rich, demanding, complex speeches. Such speech often occurs at moments of crisis. The young man playing Hamlet and I had a three-hour session this weekend on the soliloquies; I think any young man in that position learns about what is described as emotional intelligence: what does it look like when crisis is articulated? Reading used to play a social function; if people don’t read, that social function withers.

    Three: Hmmm. Boys are exposed to violence all the time. We implicitly encourage this, like it or not, by encouraging them to spend more time attached to electronic technologies of various kinds. The chorus around me sings: but this is the future. It’s a strange song. Here’s an irony: when one takes on violent materials in an educational institution, everyone is positioned to learn. King Lear doesn’t teach one to cut out the eyes of old guys who won’t comply—unless it’s taught by psychotics. The Greeks, Shakespeare, and tough moderns get this. (My point about American Buffalo).

    Masculinity is complicated, and representations of it—all kinds—make sense in a school. But throw boys to the wolves of popular culture, or give them the tools and then simply say, go forth, and, well, who knows.

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