Sharing Insights On Raising and Educating Boys

“Are we not richer for having these three incredible thought leaders on stage and addressing us together?” Dr. Sandra Boyes, Executive Director of the Crescent Centre for Boys’ Education and event host, posed this rhetorical question at the conclusion of the February 28 Men of Character Speaking Series presentation with Richard Reeves, Dr. Michael Reichert, and Tom Batty. There was no doubt that the attendees—parents of boys, educators of boys, and those who oversee boys’ health and welfare—were in complete agreement following the insightful, thought-provoking and timely discussion.

Titled There’s Never Been a Greater Need: Why Boys’ Schools Matter Today More Than Ever, the discussion centred around the struggles facing men and boys, what parents and educators can do to meet their needs, and how boys’ schools are uniquely positioned to nurture a boy’s purpose, path and passion. 

Richard Reeves kicked off the presentation by sharing sobering statistics related to boys' and men’s mortality and suicide, university matriculation, and high school GPAs, among others. Reeves is the author of the book Of Men and Boys: Why Men are Struggling, Why It Matters, and What To Do About It, described as a “landmark” by The New York Times and named a book of the year by The Economist and The New Yorker magazines. He attributes some of this observed phenomenon to when boys go through puberty—which impacts their physiological and psychological development—and a lack of male role models both at home (given the high rate of children born outside of marriage) and in HEAL professions (health, education, administration, literacy) in which men are vastly underrepresented. 

Dr. Michael Reichert acknowledged that these are challenging times but that “there’s never been a better time to raise a son. We’re getting real about who boys are and what they need.” A clinical and research psychologist, he believes boys must be “known and loved” to thrive at home and in school. Times have changed, noted Reichert. In the not-too-distant past, educating and parenting boys was about “taming the feral creature by domesticating, stomping on, trying to manage and control that boy.” He has learned in his decades of research that boys are highly relational. “Boys thrive when we hold them close, strengthen their hearts, and maintain our connections with them.” Reichert pioneered relational pedagogy, which set the standard for how boys succeed as learners and fundamentally changed how boys' schools create culture and curriculum. 

Rounding out the impressive panel was Tom Batty, Executive Director of the International Boys’ Schools Coalition, which connects educators worldwide to discover the best learning practices for boys. He applauded the relational focus he observed at Crescent. “We met with the prefects today and, my word, did the care in developing their relational capacity come through. You could see it in their openness with us and each other and their confidence when expressing their views and in their school.” When boys have a strong relationship with a trusted adult, it helps them cope when things go wrong. He described it this way: "You need soft hands that don't move so boys can run into them at full pelt, and they don't get bruised or damaged. You need hands that are filled with love and care but you hold the line, you stick with it. And that works for boys.”

Batty concluded his segment with his vision of the future of boys’ schools, particularly in light of the advent of AI and its ability to deliver curricular content. “It's going to mean a return to the humane development of each boy. We're going to be able to focus more and more on that originality, the capacity to think originally derived from living originally.”