By Mr Shaun McCabe
There are currently some 29 female leaders in countries or self-ruling territories. Of the 25 monarchies, there are reigning Queens in at least two countries: Denmark and the United Kingdom – and the latter is represented by female Governor Generals in 4 of the other 15 countries in which she is also Queen. There are 13 female Presidents. There are also female Prime Ministers.
The point I am trying to make with this digression really concerns itself – in its simplest form – with the concept of female leadership as role-models to a new generation of young people.
Understanding gender is crucial to the development of our youngsters. The new curricula for juniors and seniors have been devised to specifically address gender issues: in History, in particular, we have moved away from ‘old-grey-man history’ to an inclusive approach that looks at the role of women.
Certainly, as I mentioned above, world politics is rich in strong women. I see gender issues as more than ‘something we do in the classroom’; it is a lived experience. School, as I have maintained before, is less about what we teach in our subject areas and more about the ‘hidden curriculum’ in which socialisation, skills, attitudes, and values are taught.
The previous education systems provided little to no such process for children, as gender issues weren’t necessary because the chances of having a female boss were slim. Today the chances of having a female boss are high. We, therefore, need to be mindful that we must prepare our boys for a co-educational world.
Clifton as a school is fortunate in having a mixed and balanced staff compliment. This in itself allows for our boys to be in contact with both genders and diverse personalities. The reality is that boys are different and have different needs and consequently respond to different teachers in different ways; some boys find a connection with the male teachers while others are as likely to feel more comfortable responding to female teachers. In an ideal situation – not dissimilar to British public schools – boys would have the opportunity to choose their mentor, at least in the upper school.
Moreover, it is also crucial for boys to see female teachers in positions of authority. Across Clifton School, a number of women have positions of authority from Deputy Principals, Directors, Grade Heads and Subject Heads. Indeed, Richard Melvoin in, Beyond Politics: Boys, Biology, Values and Character, sums it up well when he states: “…boys need to work with adult women who are teachers, mentors, coaches, advisors. Boys need to see women as role-models. The modelling should include women as leaders within a faculty and administration, for boys thus see women leading not only boys but men.”
The other side of the proverbial coin is that not only are we exposing our boys to female role-models but we are providing them with opportunities to interact with their female contemporaries: certainly co-ordinated academic, cultural and sporting programmes with local girls’ schools afford boys the chances to lead and be led, to co-operate and to compete with girls; all of which is healthy. The advantages being that we reap the benefits of the monastic educational principle and send out into the world young men who are prepared for a co-educational world.
As Melvoin concludes, in Julius Caesar Shakespeare portrays men with all their strengths and weaknesses. He closes the play lauding a distinctly male hero for his complexity, for his range of virtues. Here are Anthony’s closing words, his epitaph to Brutus:
“His life was gentle, and the elements
So mixed up that Nature might stand upAnd say to all the world, “This is a man!”
Hopefully, we can send forth our Matrics and say to the world: “Here are men!”