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I’m blogging tonight—developing a manliness curriculum

November 27, 2012
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Ok, this blogging drought has to end sometime, right? I’ve got so many things I want to write about, I just am really having trouble finding the time and words to write them. But today, one awesome thing happened that I wanted to share.

This morning I saw a great post by Grant Lichtman about Presbyterian Day School, a k-6 boys school in Memphis, TN, and coincidentally, the school I attended for kindergarten and first grade.

In his post, Grant described how PDS has developed a list of key life skills they promise to teach every boy by 6th grade. Here they are:

  • Doing a load of laundry (wash, dry, fold)
  • Washing the dishes
  • Ironing a shirt and pants
  • Pump gas
  • Cleaning a room (make bed, clean room, mop, dust, clean bathroom)
  • Cook a basic meal
  • Grill a hamburger
  • Community service project
  • Rules of dress (matching, dressing for occasions)
  • Mowing, weeding, edging a lawn
  • Tie a tie
  • Start a fire
  • Study for a test
  • Drive a nail
  • Write a handwritten thank-you note
  • Conversation etiquette in person and on the phone
  • Dating etiquette
  • Basic first aid
  • Give a speech

This got me thinking. My school has recently started a men’s affinity group at the behest of a few boys to talk about various issues related to masculinity. We’ve only met once, but I’m really impressed by the potential for this group. In addition, a colleague of mine who does duty on my dorm has a regular weekly men’s meeting on dorm where they talk about what it means to be a man at our school, and the guys love it.

After reading Grant’s post, I sent an email to my colleague wondering what would happen if we asked the boys at our school to make a similar list. What does a manliness curriculum look like for a guy who graduates from St. Andrew’s? What life skills should he have?

Tonight, my colleague had that discussion with our dorm, and here’s the list they generated:

  • How to cook

  • How to survive a night in the wilderness
  • How to Hunt
  • How to respect all people (be empathetic)
  • How to tie a bow tie
  • How to chop firewood
  • How to jumpstart a car
  • How to cold start a chainsaw
  • How to change a tire
  • How to change a diaper
  • How to negotiate
  • How to fish
  • How to cut hair
  • How to shave
  • How to manage finances
  • How to catch mice
  • How to discipline children
  • How to treat a woman

Our thought is to do this with a couple of more dorms, and then bring the guys group together to compare the lists and see how this might be the first step in building a manliness curriculum. Once we get the list, it shouldn’t be too hard for the guys to self organize lessons on many of these topics and teach one another.

All of this has me pretty excited, and it also has me thinking if it is seemingly this easy for students to design their own curriculum for life skills, why can’t students have more say in the shape and design of the more traditional academic curriculum?

12 Comments leave one →
  1. November 28, 2012 6:51 am

    The concept is on the mark but I am concerned about the need to push our kids to understand and look beyond gender stereotypes to perhaps make a list of life skills needed for not just boys, but girls and boys. I wonder what the list would include when broadening it to life skills everyone needs?

    • November 28, 2012 6:57 am

      Great point. Definitely a conversation worth having. What I see this doing is being the first step in helping our group to answer the question, what does it mean to be a man? I like the idea of having all students think about a list of life skills as well. It might be very interesting for the women’s affinity group to compile a similar list and compare the results.

      • chrisharrow permalink
        November 28, 2012 8:34 am

        Interesting. I wonder what parallels would occur if adults and students independently made lists. The similarities and differences would spark more great conversations.

        • November 29, 2012 12:02 am

          Another great idea. I’m definitely going to do this after we collect lists from a few dorms.

    • November 29, 2012 6:29 am

      It’s important to identify and teach skills that all students need. However, lists like these already show progress in countering stereotypes. Also, and more importantly, in a society with elements that promote behavior and thought patterns that are outwardly degrading to women and inwardly destructive to men, things like “how to treat a woman” are increasingly important. Yes, that can be generalized to “how to teat people,” but there seems to be power in men modeling and explicitly discussing this and similar issues for young men.

      A blog dedicated to this topic: engenderingequality.wordpress.com

  2. November 28, 2012 7:54 am

    I teach a course for hs seniors tHat teaches them college/life skills. Skills are many of those you have listed plus plan and cook for a party, write a proper e-mail to a professor, sew buttons and seams, wrap a package, tie a balloon, request information over the phone, check and add oil, inflate car tires, read a map, subway/bus schedule..and a raft of computer skills. I like the bow tie thing; I seem to always be doing that for some man. Great start!

  3. chrisharrow permalink
    November 28, 2012 8:32 am

    FYI, here’s a list of topics our “boys group” defined at the beginning of this semester of their work this year. Not quite the same as the lists you originally posted, John, but I thought it would add a nice dimension to the conversation.

    Manly Humor
    What does an “Ideal” man look like
    Manliness in the media
    Men in other cultures- rites of passage
    Journal for a week
    Raising Cain discussion
    Feminism v Chauvinism
    History and rules of Boxing
    Bullfighting history and rules
    Presidents
    Literature Day
    Pairing Stream of thought with GERLS
    Miss Representation
    Human Experience
    Islands in the Stream
    Game Day

    • November 29, 2012 12:02 am

      Chris,
      This is awesome, and it will be great to share with our group. I also think it’s fabulous that you’re involved with GUISE. That’s one of the things I wish I’d been a part of.

      • chrisharrow permalink
        November 30, 2012 5:30 am

        I wish I was involved with GUISE–a great group. I got the list through research with permission to share.

  4. November 28, 2012 9:02 am

    I work at Presbyterian Day School and thought I’d share the link to the book that the Chaplin, Braxton Brady, and headmaster, Lee Burns, wrote that is used to teach what it means to be a man. I believe that Mr. Brady is in the process of creating an online course that will be offered for families (students and/or parents) too. You might want to keep an idea on the PDS website for future information on this course.
    Flight Plan Book http://www.theflightplanbook.com/
    Presbyterian Day School’s website http://www.pdsmemphis.org/

  5. Reid Calhoun permalink
    November 28, 2012 9:17 am

    http://www.artofmanliness.com is one of the coolest blogs online and this website has lots of cool lessons. From this website, I began safety razor shaving then moved over to the straight razor. I also began journaling and developing a “council of heroes” at this blog’s encouragement. Here’s a really cool article from a Harper’s Magazine 1933 article outlining “What the Young Man Should Know” — http://artofmanliness.com/2012/10/02/what-the-young-man-should-know-from-harpers-magazine-1933/
    It goes into further detail about each skill, but here’s the list:
    Swim
    Handle firearms
    Speak in public
    Cook
    Typewrite
    Ride a horse
    Drive a car
    Dance
    Drink
    And speak at least one foreign language well

    I’m in the boys group at Westminster (GUISE) and I helped make a lot of the list above. We talk often about gender issues, but we also like to do short lessons about topics we may not know much about(i.e. bullfighting) that may be considered “manly.” I’m glad you’re doing this. It should be cool.

    • November 29, 2012 12:04 am

      REID!
      So great to hear from you. I still remember talking to you about AoM three years ago back when you were a freshman in my class. I still regularly read that blog, and it is the inspiration for a lot of the thoughts I’ve had about possible discussions we can have with our guys groups here at St. Andrew’s. I love the idea of a council of heroes, and I think my students will get a huge kick out of the article from 1933, thanks so much for sharing! I also hope you’re having a great senior year!

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