Over the weekend I read an article by Dr Timothy Hawkes, Headmaster of the King’s School at Parramatta. I thought it would be worth sharing what he wrote as he was reflecting on how society has constructed what it means to be a man. He shed light on the fact that society has, and is, changing what it means to be male. Society is making it clear that it is no longer acceptable for masculinity to be defined in power plays, insensitivity or intimidation but rather it is re-defining it by pro-social behaviour.
However, this can lead to the perception that boys need to somehow not be masculine. Dr Hawkes argues instead that masculinity needs to be defined by courage, strength and daring. In this I support him. None of us want young men to feel that somehow it is wrong to be a male and that they need to apologise for being men. We want the boys to grow to be men who are confident in themselves and able to mature into leading themselves and others using all of themselves, their talents and their strength.
Within a co-educational school I have always hoped that it would be possible for the boys to grow with the right mixture of being understanding and respectful of women while also being able to see what it means to be men who are strong. I would like to think our boys know it is good to be boys and that their diversity is appreciated and rejoiced in. That it is OK to be a boy who loves sport, a boy who loves the arts, a boy who looks to serve others or a boy who is open to exploring faith and having a faith position. This can only happen where there is mutual respect for our diversity, a commitment to empathy and a sense of self which is not threatened by others having a different opinion.
While every year the School offers opportunities for students to go on service trips, it is evident that the girls are more likely to volunteer. However, what the Arranounbai experience for Year 9, the Nursing Home experience for Year 10 and the Social Basketball Program have shown us is that the boys bring to these experiences so much and their contribution is invaluable. It brings out their strength, their courage and their compassion. In all of our Service Trips, one of the things that is always needed is the boys’ physical strength and the way they bring a different perspective. I can’t help but think that somehow doing things for others is seen as a female thing to do and; therefore, not a manly thing to do. Perhaps what is preventing the boys getting involved is how other boys perceive them when they volunteer. It is as though it is somehow uncool to help others and yet, our experiences have shown us what strength the boys bring to these opportunities and how much they enjoy them.
Let’s embrace the diversity of our boys and work together to grow men of courage, strength and character.