Brunswick 7th-graders kicked off their study of masculinity on April 21, and for the remainder of the year boys will take part in workshops on gender, bullying, social-emotional growth, and what it means to act like a man.
The curriculum was developed four years ago by 7th Grade Dean Jay Crosby and English Teacher Kate Duennebier. It is meant to introduce concepts of masculinity to Middle School boys, and complement the work of The Brunswick Trust
This year, study was kicked off with an anonymous survey that aims to identify where “the myths of manhood” are learned, including how manhood is defined and understood.
In a letter explaining the curriculum to parents, Crosby underscored a widely-shared, 2018 Op-Ed in The New York Times that highlighted how boys are often not taught about emotion, and are left to navigate life’s challenges by “sucking it up” and “being a man.” Crosby noted the article, The Boys Are Not Alright by Michael Ian Black, posits that “we no longer know what being a man looks like and even if we did, simply being “a man” is no longer enough.”
“Our boys face a much more complex and involved world than what we had to deal with,” Crosby wrote. “It is important we prepare them for this complicated social-emotional journey.”
Earlier, in 2016, Brunswick graduation speaker Joe Ehrmann brought the topic to the forefront for the ’Wick community. Ehrmann, Crosby noted, is famous for telling the world that the worst thing we can say to a boy is: “Be a man.”
“I was raised hearing these words, as many men were,” Crosby wrote. “We were told to keep a stiff upper lip, and if you cried or showed weakness, we were told to toughen up. Fortunately, we know so much more about emotion and how our boys’ brains develop now, yet it is something that is rarely taught. The stigma of maleness and mental health haunts our boys, and it should be erased with thought-provoking, compelling lessons on what it really means to be a man.”
The gender curriculum is woven into courses throughout the year, so while the topic was formally introduced in April, work on the concepts has been ongoing all year.
History classes have explored bias and stereotypes, English classes have looked at stereotypes and race through the reading of American Born Chinese and other short stories, and science has explored the human systems.
“There is no definition of manhood, as such; we do not plan to define it,” Crosby said. “In fact, it is an incredibly personal journey that each boy will define through his life experiences and reflection. Our sole intent with this exercise is to engage the boys in a conversation on manhood, as we continue the work to prepare our boys for life.”