Boyhood isn’t a phase, something that transforms into young adulthood and then maturity. Boyhood is something more durable than that, more real even than male adulthood. The “boyness” that teachers shape every day will remain in each boy for his life as a defining part of his character and person, the unchanging core of the boy. Good boys’ schools honor and nurture without apology that “boyness." We build our educational programs and traditions on real-life experience and practice with boys, fostering and celebrating what makes boys boys.
At Fenn, we take careful note of the research and current conversation as we engage our decades-old mission of educating boys. And with equal confidence, we rely on the good work and insight of skillful educators across decades here whose rich experience with boys has proved true through time. It is indeed a good time to be educating boys and especially to be educating boys in boys’ schools.
At Fenn we start always with our own observations about “boyness: We see over and over again in our boys endless physical energy; the aspiration to be just and even heroic; the joy in being physical; a delight in being comrades, friends and teammates; an appetite for competition; an eagerness to help; a desire to solve problems; a readiness to take risks of many kinds; a quickness to move on from slight or injury; an unyielding demand for authenticity and fairness; and, perhaps above all, a delight in and thirst for what is funny and fun. These are powerful traits and desires, and we use them to entice boys not only to take seriously the challenging business of school but to see school as a place where learning is fun and tailored to who they are.
All schools can, if they choose, light up boys’ lives by challenging, nurturing, affirming, and delighting in them as they do the hard work of growing into full, responsible, and wholesome young men. Those schools that succeed at this crucial mission engage boys on their own authentic terms and speak to who boys are. Such schools create a haven that not only affirms boys’ strengths and appetites but actively discourages and counters the downside of male culture: physical recklessness; emotional insensitivity and even cruelty; intolerance for weakness; sexism against girls and women; and an ethos of survival of the fittest. In schools that do educational justice to the wonder of boys, their teachers, male and female, model behavior that boys understand as true, good and worthy of their emulation and hold boys to the standard of being their better selves. On the field, in the classroom, and at play, boys are firmly reminded when necessary and gently coaxed more often into being their best selves and engaging daily the positive role they can have in their school and in the wider community.
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