Last week I was fortunate enough to make the trip to The King’s School in North Parramatta and attend this biennial conference on boys’ education. I’ve been before and it was great and this year was no different. I would highly recommend it to all those who teach boys. This year’s theme was Head, Heart and Hands. It follows the 19thCentury pedagogue Pestalozzi who argued that children should be free to pursue their own interests. Education should be about developing the whole child, nothing new for teachers, especially those in Catholic schools, nonetheless it’s worth some reflection. A good education is rested on engaging the mind, having positive relationships and active learning.
Baroness Susan Greenfield began proceedings and while I didn’t agree with all of her arguments I did think she made some interesting points. She spoke on how the digital world will change the way we think and learn – she refers to it as mind change. A very similar version of her presentation can be seen here.
The one thought that stands out in my mind from her presentation is when she showed an image of a hand holding a brain and questioned what if, while you were handling this brain, you got a little bit stuck under your finger nail? Would it be the bit that somebody loved with, or would it be a habit – the habit of biting your fingernails perhaps?! This really got me thinking about the how fragile yet how powerful the brain can be. In fact ‘Thinking is … movement confined to the brain’ and every time we think we make a shift from the sensory to the cognitive experience.
Dr Michael Kimmel, joined us from Frankfurt Germany to speak on “The Boy Crisis.” Here’s a few points he made that stuck with me:
- Is there really a boys’ crisis?
- Boys are made to be problems
- Boys lib movement introduced the boy scouts movement
- What benefits girls actually benefits boys
- There is no empirical evidence that the sex of the teacher by itself makes any difference to boys or girls – in fact girls have done pretty well given the lack of female role models in many areas
- We don’t tend to see gender when we talk about boys, we do see it when talking about girls. Why?
- Boys don’t see gender as important to them as do the girls. Why?
- We need to make gender visible to boys
- Ideology of masculinity has 4 rules: 1. No sissy stuff, 2. Be a big wheel, 3. Be a sturdy oak, 4. Give’em hell (psychologist Robert Brannon)
- Boys overestimate their abilities while girls tend to underestimate theirs
- The small number of girls who do well bring up the score whereas the large number of boys who do poorly bring the score down – hence the gender gap
- Girls tend to like English and Languages for the same reasons boys don’t
- Single sex schools can perpetuate stereotypes
- Let’s make a school ABOUT boys rather than ones of and for
- “Boys will be boys” is male bashing! It assumes boys will be violent, rapacious, predatory animals
- Boys’ schools can address these issues and start conversations – we can do something about it.
“Is that a psychologist in your pocket?” was the title of Dr. Michael Carr-Gregg’s address. He took us on a rather interesting journey through the idea of using the internet as a psychology triage. He tabled many aps and websites as an upside and positive use of the technology that has taken over our lives. He likens the smartphone to a Swiss Army knife. Here are a few resources he spoke about:
Smiling Mind a modern meditation for young people
Cold Turkey for those distracted by social media
Let Panic Go by James Henry – self managing tool when panic attacks happen
Sleepbot helps those sleep deprived teens manage sleep hygiene
Dr. Carr-Gregg also spoke of positive psychology and reminded us of two things:
- Even if you can’t change something you can always change the way you think about it
- See life as it is but go out of your way to focus on the good bits
The final address was given by the Headmaster of the King’s School, Dr. Tim Hawkes. He based his presentation on ideas from his latest book “Blizzard Lines” a story set in two worlds. One is a suburban environment. It is a secure and comfortable community, but three photos, two sons and a fast car turn it into a dangerous place for some, and a death trap for others.
Dr. Hawkes has always believed that boys should be prepared for life not just exams. The Year 10 program, Boys to Men, at the King’s School does just that.
I’ll be posting more information on the conference workshops and panel discussions I attended over the next couple of weeks so stay tuned or click on follow and be alerted to further posts via email.