How can men make a difference for boys? Canadian man calls on Good Men Project community for advice on how to create an event for boys in his local school on International Men’s Day.
From time to time the Good Men Project is approached by people who want to know how they can make a difference for other men and boys.
One such man is Scott Heathcote from Alberta Western Canada who is planning to launch a new initiative to “promote positive masculinity” and asked for our advice.
We decided that the best way we could support Scott is to share his questions with the Good Man Project community and ask for your feedback and ideas.
2013 is certainly a big year for Scott, his wife is due to give birth to their first son in September and then by International Men’s Day (19th November) they are planning to set up a not-for-profit organization and host their first event for boys in their area.
The name of the event is “Ignite Your Passion” and is aimed at boys at a local middle school aged from nine to 14. Scott’s intention is that this launch project will inspire the boys who attend to find their passion and pursue it. He says:
“It is our hope that boys who find a passion and develop a plan to go after that passion will be more likely to graduate high school, have higher self confidence, be less likely to be involved in drugs or criminal activity and have a lower pertinacity to commit suicide.
“I know those seem like rather high expectations but from my digging around in the literature, extracurricular activities seem to have a correlation with the expected outcomes. It makes sense to me too. If your life has a purpose and a goal, lots of other things fall into place.”
Scott is clearly a bold man with a big vision and has big ambitions for this event. He’s already working on a video that shows boys pursuing their dreams, overcoming setbacks and reaching their goals as adults.
This will be followed by a number of inspirational male speakers and conclude with teacher leading an exercise where the boys try to identify their passion and develop a plan to achieve it. Scott’s aim is that the whole event reflects many different aspects and expressions of masculinity.
Despite his clear and confident vision, Scott acknowledges that he has concerns about how such an event will be received and mindful that some people might seek to oppose his idea:
“It is important to me that this program remains strictly positive,” he says. “There are many opportunities to complain about the difficulties facing men but I think doing that would make a lot of people tune out and also give my detractors a foothold to attack the program. I am also very careful to not detract from girls in any way.
“I want to involve girls primarily because I want them to hear positive messages about boys too. Girl power and the princess culture has done much to make people, boys included think girls are great, to the point that some boys despair being boys. I want to help balance things a bit. I want the girls value guys as much as they value girls. We hear a lot about teaching boys to respect girls, but nothing in the other direction.”
With this in mind, Scott has three questions in particular that he’d like you to give him feedback on:
1. This program could apply equally well to girls but there are plenty of programs for girls out there and really none for boys. Is it better to make this event just for boys or to include girls as well? If we include girls how should we do that?
2. Boys of this age are notoriously difficult to reach (or at least that is what their teachers say). I am concerned that a bunch of speakers may not hold their attention, so how do we make sure that this program is effective?
3. I find it difficult to say anything positive about masculinity without making sweeping generalizations or saying, by default, that men are better than women. How to I extol the virtues of boy and masculinity in general without saying “boys are better than girls”?
It’s great to hear from men like Scott who are taking on the challenge of making a difference for the next generation of men and boys. It’s also refreshing to see an emerging male leader acknowledge his fears and concerns and reach out to our community for guidance and support.
Scott told us: “When I was toying around with my opening remarks to the school I was planning on talking about the energy of boys. How the energy that boys contain, while difficult to deal with sometimes, is the energy of innovation, of change. Combine that with male mechanical curiosity and you have inventors and explorers. You have men who are willing to take risks to make the world a better place.”
Scott clearly has bucket loads of energy and creativity himself and is out to create a better world for his son to grow up in. With qualities like these I hope he will take a personal risk and stand in front of the boys at the “Ignite Your Passion” event holding his new baby boy and sharing his experience of becoming a proud (and probably quite tired) new father.
I am reminded of how much my life changed in the first few weeks of becoming a dad and sharing that transition into fatherhood with a group of boys sounds like a great way to celebrate International Men’s Day.
That’s my key piece of advice to Scott and we’d love to hear your thoughts and get your answers to his three questions in the comments section below.
—Photo credit: Flickr/samnasim