This past week has seen the college focus on some critical but key messages that stem from the value of Respect, one of our four college values.
In our assemblies we have discussed the whole issue of violence towards others. It is a complex and multi faceted issue. The White Ribbon symbol is a powerful one and the wearing of it is a reminder to our boys of the need to always treat each other with respect. However we have also tried to widen the focus so that they understand that violence towards anyone is not appropriate.
It is inconsistent with the message of Jesus “to love one another”, is inconsistent with the tradition of Edmund Rice and further and just as importantly it is has no place in the behaviour of the young men we seek to grow to manhood from this college.
There is a tendency for teenage males to not see this as relevant to them as it seems to be an adult phenomenon. However some, hopefully a small percentage, can attest to the reality of violence as they may experience it at home. For other is a screen experience- movie or video game.
We have tried to make it relevant by taking it back to where it begins. Yes the example they see is relevant whether it be in the home or on a screen. Yet individually they engage in it every day and don’t realise it.
In this I refer to how they speak to each other. Their language, the aggression with which they communicate, any physicality they engage in such as pushing, shoving or even punching, it is all in some way violence and could be sowing the seeds for normalising it over time. There is a link between such behaviour and what they do as adults . We talked about this ad and it’s key messages.
FR. Richard Leonard sj, the Jesuit commentator on media and film talks of swearing as a form of violence. When one considers the aggression we may inject into such invective, the viciousness of our meaning I think he has a valid point.
However as the above ad sponsored by Commonwealth funding notes we normalise such behaviour. We tolerate abusive verbal behaviour. We verbally mock friends or children and excuse it as ‘banter’, or as we often hear the boys say, “its just a joke sir”. Well, no it isnt!
That puts some responsibility on us as the adults who want to be good role models in their lives to be very mindful of just what our sons learn from us without us even realising it. We perpetuate it generationally, unconsciously and unintentionally. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t happening.
In the same way an unhindered screen diet of violence and pornography so readily available to our sons requires us to be supervising them and not leaving them to it. How many hours are they online at home? Do you know what they are watching? Do you monitor their screen history? Would a parent night on such a subject be worthwhile in 2018? Would enough people come to justify the cost of an expert speaker?
I also tried to get the boys to think about the need to not be hypocrites. What I mean by that is that there is a hypocrisy at play when we stand up hand on heart and pledge our support for non violence, to be against violence towards women or anyone else for that matter, wear a white ribbon, take part in a walk yet before or after have acted violently in some way verbally or physically. Wecan’t be part time Christians.
Our Year 11’s were privileged to sit through a presentation from Gus Worland on Manhood which really challenged themselves to look at masculinity in a new way. He challenged them also on some of the notions discussed above.
“For millennia, we’ve associated ‘masculine’ with ‘strong’. Now, we must also start celebrating men for the strength involved in opening up and unlearning destructive ideas that have become culturally ingrained.”
His point that it takes some courage to be a counter cultural male is a very valid one. I have challenged the boys to start thinking about a code that challenges any violent behaviour, any bullying, any ill treatment of students or staff as we are often on the receiving end also both verbally and in writing. I have suggested to our Prefects that we might frame it under the heading of, ” This is not what we do here”.
I’d welcome your thoughts and would encourage you to take the opportunity to talk about this subject with your son.