Courtesy of East Bay Boys’ School
This summer, All things Considered looked at the evolution of men’s lives in America. And that means talking about how the country educates boys.
In Berkeley, Calif., A private, nonprofit college called the East Bay School for Boys is trying to reinvent what it means to train confident young men. In some ways, the school’s different approach begins with leading, not stifling, the frenzied energy of the boys.
“I think the boys’ energy has been misunderstood,” says Lisa Hayle, professor of language arts at East Bay School. âInstead of stifling their enthusiasm for things, in our school we channel it and work with it.â
East Bay School is not a traditional boys’ school, aimed at reinforcing typical ideas of what it means to ‘be a man’. Rather, school principal Jason Baeten says the goal is to create an educational space where boys can make mistakes, be vulnerable, and learn to be independent.
Baeten says, âWe all got together and decided what we wanted our graduates to look like, what qualities we wanted them to have. So things like: respect women, flexible, resilient – all of that.
One of the ways the school is trying to reverse tradition is to reinvent the store class for the 21st century. In fact, they don’t even call it “boutique”. At the East Bay School for Boys, it has a different name: “work”.
David Clifford, innovation director of the school, explains why: âWe have moved away from the language of the store because it has a history behind it, where for decades the store has been considered the second or third. education level, where the first level is made up of academics. . “
Store classes have dropped out of the country’s secondary school curriculum. In Los Angeles, for example, about 90% of traditional shopping classes have been cut.
Today, what is called “vocational and technical education” still exists. In fact, this week President Obama signed a law encouraging the expansion of such programs. But the most popular courses nationwide are health sciences, information technology, and business, not blue-collar vocational training like carpentry or the auto shop.
In East Bay, “work” is one of six major classes all boys take, right next to math and language arts. The boys build their own lockers, desks and benches. A student, Jaden Yu, builds a huge metal hammer as part of a larger project in which the boys imagine themselves as superheroes.
Yu says his superhero mission is to fight poverty and the hammer is his weapon. “It serves to destroy old buildings so that new ones can be rebuilt. Old buildings that are not in use, so new ones can be built for the homeless, the people who need them.”
And they also tie this work to a larger agenda. In one case, the boys built replica chairs of Civil War officers that were associated with biographies of the officers who sat in them.
Clifford says teaching these kinds of technical skills is vital, for both boys and girls. Not only do they graduate knowing how to use a table saw and welder, but Baeten says the work fosters creativity and resilience.
These tools are sometimes viewed as “soft skills” by educators who place more emphasis on difficult academics. But Baeten says these types of skills, including empathy, are central to the school’s mission. “The most important part of being a man is to take responsibility for your actions, to live your life to the fullest in a truly present way, and to love people fully.”
As a private school in the Bay Area, East Bay doesn’t come cheap. Families pay over $ 21,000 a year to send their sons here. But they also made an effort so that their view of masculinity was not restricted to the privileged. More than half of the students here get help with tuition fees. Over 70 percent come here from public schools. And almost half of the boys here identify as non-white or mixed race.
The East Bay School program is new and only opened its classes in the fall of 2010. The school’s holistic view of childhood – ranging from academic development to social development – is always evolving.
The big question is, can some aspects of East Bay’s more holistic approach to educating boys work elsewhere, especially in US public colleges? The statistics can be sobering for a boy in public school. Boys drop out of school and are suspended at much higher rates than their female counterparts. Federal statistics show that of those who are repeatedly suspended and deported, 75 percent are boys.