Educating Boys II

7 Aug

What are some of the keys to educating teenage boys? How do we activate their sense of adventure, risk-taking and questioning in such a way that it leads to wisdom?

I use the word wisdom, not learning, for a specific reason. All education is about the gaining of wisdom and, as Thomas Merton suggests, more happens outside the classroom than in it. Wisdom is the capacity to engage, evaluate and assimilate events, experiences and knowledge so that one lives a life that values and is valued by others.

Teenage boys behave chaotically, dangerously and impulsively yet can be thoughtfully, compassionate and engaged. Yet the capacity to do so requires a different pedagogy than is generally employed in schools. What does that look like?

When I was in Gethsemane Monastery, the home for 27 years forThomas Merton, I pondered how this educational institution took men, barely out of their teens, often with little education and life experience and produced writers, academics, astronomers, civil rights activists and leaders. How did that happen? How did a self-possessed young man such as Merton, who ran away from the world, became the leading Catholic author, activist and interfaith communicator of the 20th century?

As I sat in the chapel and watched the monks say the daily offices beginning at 3.15am, I began to discover the key to their success. The rule of St Benedict sets out the parameters, the monastery practices mirror this ancient rule. What happened in the chapel had not substantially changed since 1848 when the monastery began. What happened in the silence, work, learning and rhythm of Gethsemane hadn’t changed substantially over that time either.

The key to working with young teenagers I believe can be found in a daily routine giving energetic young men space and boundaries to discover self and others:

  • Silence & Solitude 
  • Education
  • Repetition
  • Work
  • Community – Prayer
In subsequent posts I will look at each of these separately and suggest how they may be incorporated in the modern educational offering.

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