REPRODUCTION, RESISTANCE AND HOPE:
THE PROMISE OF SCHOOLING FOR BOYS
Extended editorial introduction to a double special issue on boys and schooling.
Adopting a developmental perspective on boyhood, the editors frame these special is-
sues on boys' education by reviewing research on their experience of schooling. In
particular, they endeavor to illuminate boys' agency and opportunities they can find
in schools for resistance to restrictive masculine regimes.
Keywords: boys, schooling, child development, resistance
Boys, the founding editors of Thymos wrote in the inaugural issue, have some-
thing to teach us about human nature. Before we can learn from them, though, we
must be able to discern the boy from all that obscures him. The goal, as they wrote,
is to “see a phenomenon that is by no means intuitively obvious” (Groth & Janssen,
2007, p. 4). To this end they propose the study of boyhood: “the state of being a
boy; the time of life during which one is a boy” (Groth & Janssen, p. 4). At the very
least, a study of boyhood quickly reveals that a primary commitment to boys’ de-
velopment and to the flourishing of their capacities is hardly to be found anywhere.
In this special issue, we undertake to locate boys in a particular setting—schools—
and bring together diverse scholars to examine boys’ education. Our aim is to ask:
What is the place of boys’ development and of their flourishing in the school cur-
riculum? How might schools advance the broadest fulfillment of boys’ human ca-
pacities as a goal? What specific directions must they follow to do so? In this effort,
we build upon a New York University educators’ summit that considered how un-
challenged assumptions about boys and girls still confound schools’ abilities to see
students distinct from gendered stereotypes. The summit was held in the city on
December 10, 2011 and a number of the authors in this special issue attended and
presented at this forum.
We initiate our consideration of these questions with a brief review of the history
of childhood and of the ideas, discourses and institutions built around the funda-
* Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Michael Reichert, Center for the
Study of Boys’ and Girls’ Lives, 2311 W. 16th Street, Wilmington, DE 19806. Email: michreich@com-
MICHAEL C. REICHERT*and JOSEPH NELSON,Guest Editors
THYMOS: Journal of Boyhood Studies, Vol. 6, No. 1, Spring 2012, 5-16.
© 2012 by the Men’s Studies Press, LLC. All rights reserved. hp://www.mensstudies.com
thy0601.5/$15.00 • DOI: 10.3149/thy.0601.5 • ISSN/1931-9045 • eISSN/1872-4329
mental vulnerability and dependency of young human beings: the “miserable, ex-
tended, helpless state in which we are born and remain for so long” (Gaylin, 1978,
p. 3). Western childhood has evolved over the last several centuries from a state of
shocking abuse and neglect to more informed efforts to care and to nurture. de-
Mause’s psychohistory of childhood, for example, established six historical “modes
of parent-child relations”: Infanticidal Mode; Abandonment Mode; Ambivalent
Mode; Intrusive Mode; Socialization Mode; Helping Mode. He argued that a cor-
relation exists between a society’s progress on this continuum and its overall evo-
lution. Regarding the final mode in which caretakers endeavor to follow the lead
of the child, deMause remained pessimistic, concluding that “few parents have yet
consistently attempted this kind of child care” (1974, p. 52).
In the decades since deMause, developmental researchers have established a
child’s hand in his own self-development more clearly and have described the in-
tegral way reciprocal communication between child and care-giver, the degree to
which “the signals sent by the child are directly perceived, understood and re-
sponded to,” links to a child’s sense of self (Siegel & Hartzell, 2003). In the case of
both girls and boys, however, signals sent to caregivers must filter through gen-
dered beliefs and preconceptions, a “forestructure of understanding” (Nakkula &
Ravitch, 1998, p. 4) that shapes how the child’s message is interpreted and acted
upon. With respect to boys, the gendered filter produces a characteristically un-
happy result: Pollack found “historically salient cultural and interpersonal models”
that lead to a “traumatic abrogation of their early holding environments” common
in boys’ development (1995, p. 35). More recently, Way (2011) found that a “crisis
of connection” best characterizes the patterns found in over 15-years of longitudi-
nal boys’ studies.
Though grand narratives of childhood gloss over important cultural variation, as
Morrell (2009) reminds us in the case of the differentiated paths of Black and White
boys in South Africa, we set our discussion of boys’ education against the broad
background of childhood in order to train a developmentalist’s eye on boyhood’s
particular priorities. Gilmore’s global survey of man-making (1990), for example,
which found “pressured masculinity” to be the cultural norm awaiting boys al-
most everywhere, reminds us how widespread the core values of the “masculiniz-
ing regime” (Connell, 1995) are—and cautions us that there is in fact something
grand and terribly relevant in the design of boyhood. Especially in the modern
global era when the spread of normative gender codes ushers in an era of “mascu-
line fundamentalism” (Connell, 2000, p. 53), we must consider boyhood and de-
velopmental opportunities for boys on both local as well as grand scales.
Schools come into the story of childhood early on, in response to the Renaissance
concern that the child—a “tabula rasa”—must be more carefully molded: “Hence-
forth it was recognized that the child was not ready for life, and that he had to be
subjected to a special treatment, a sort of quarantine, before he was allowed to join
the adults” (Ariès, 1962, p. 412). It was boys, of course, who were the special targets
of this molding and were the first beneficiaries of schools designed to perpetuate
the aims of the social and cultural order (Mook, 2007). Favored this way, boys en-
countered the contradictions of boyhood, described by Kaufman as “a strange com-
bination of power and powerlessness, privilege and pain” (1994, p. 142), at the
hands their schoolmasters, in classrooms and school hallways. As deMause recog-
nized, there has been little pretense that a school should follow the lead of the “boy-
REICHERT & NELSON
Finding there to be a tension between boys and boyhood, developing persons
and the gendered design for their lives, developmentalists must conduct a “di-
alectical critique” of school curricula (Giroux, 1983, p. 64) to locate boys themselves
within these institutions. Hardly neutral sites offering knowledge, mentoring and
skills, schools must be also be understood as “long arms of the state” (Torre & Fine,
2006, p. 270), directing and attempting to control the arc of boys’ imaginations for
their lives. Especially during a time of neoliberal ascendency, when many schools
narrowly attend to concerns of “efficiency, economy and competition” (Keddie,
2009, p. 122), developmental advocates must expose the formal and especially the
“hidden” school curricula—“dispositions, structure and modes of knowledge, ped-
agogic relationships, and the informal culture that make up the daily character of
the school” (Giroux, 1983, p. 46)—as these actually affect boys.
In this effort, researchers adopt methods to perceive boys’ lived experience, ac-
cepting the feminist wisdom that voice often deviates from accepted truth (Brown
& Gilligan, 1992). Ideally, in fact, seeking to build theories grounded in the realities
of school life for boys, researchers will study with them instead of about them
(Drummond, 2009, p. 114; Kuriloff et al., 2009; Reichert et al., 2009). The “ethno-
graphic moment” (Connell, 2000, p. 9) in masculinity research that penetrated the
gloss and subterfuge of masculine conventions to demonstrate the real costs of
men’s ways of being must similarly ground theories of boys’ development in boys’
own perspectives. Despite their seductive rhetoric and noble claims, we should
probably not simply take schools’ stated missions at face value.
Instead, we must first bring schools’ “informal cultures” to light, tracing their
contours and illuminating their defined pathways. Just such scholarship has been
a central focus of feminist educational research (cf. Bailey et al., 2002) for several
decades and the resulting school reforms have helped to restructure educational
opportunity for the present generations of girls. Recent analysis of the Programme
for International Student Assessment (PISA) data conducted by the Organization
for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) have validated the impact of
this scholarship, closely linking girls’ educational achievement with social prac-
tices of gender equity (Guiso et al., 2008).
In terms of boys’ education, it is worth mentioning that when it comes to im-
proving achievement and literacy the sort of curricular adjustments of what is
presently understood as gender equity have little impact. In the same analysis of
PISA results it was found that regardless of a country’s practice of gender equity
boys’ educational outcomes remained flat (Guiso et al, 2008). In the studies they
report, Barker and the Promundo team (in our second issue) point to a very differ-
ent set of interventions that can free boys to invest more whole-heartedly in their
But how to advocate for boys’ educational development without playing to a re-
active or backlash politic? Weaver-Hightower (2005), for one, urges educational
policy-makers to base interventions and programs “on deep knowledge of the par-
ticular students and contexts” (2008) before them, avoiding generic, “boy-friendly”
interventions that essentialize and reinforce dubious “neuro myths” and “brain
scams” (Fischer & Immordino-Yang, 2008) on claims of biological difference. Our
perspective aligns with Hightower-Weaver on the need for “deep knowledge” of
the boy in school and we argue that we cannot know boys apart from an appreci-
ation of the opportunities and developmental constraints of schools’ masculinity
EDITORIAL: REPRODUCTION, RESISTANCE AND HOPE
Qualitative work produced over the last decade or so (e.g., Martino, 1999; 2000;
Kehler et al., 2005; Kehler & Martino, 2007 Reichert, 2001; Reichert & Kuriloff, 2003;
Stoudt, 2006) has brought this curriculum into sharper focus. Various studies reveal
how man-making is woven into virtually every aspect of schools’ social relations:
“Gender is made in schools and neighborhoods through peer group structure, con-
trol of school space, dating patterns, homophobic speech, and harassment” (Con-
nell & Messerschmidt, 2005, p. 839). By virtue of history and culture, schools’
masculinity practices may vary but at root typically reflect a high degree of hier-
archy, competition and relations of domination and subordination. The dominant
masculine form can be more or less formal, more or less visible, closely associated
with school authority or highly resistant to that authority; it is not necessarily the
most common identity but will be the most influential and is usually organized
around qualities such as physical size and skill, affluence, emotional control, social
dominance and always latent, sometimes overt, violence (Swain, 2005). There will
be a host of other identities that revolve around this central form, contesting for re-
sources and recognition. Research has found that this contest between dominant,
subordinate and marginalized masculine identities is highly contentious; in this
way, boys’ peer group relations might be described as a “churning sea of compet-
ing masculine identities” (Reichert, 2000, p. 262).
However fierce the competition, these studies have also shown that the game is
rigged in favor of a particular identity and those boys best able to fit themselves to
it. In their recognitional practices, schools valorize certain masculine qualities, at-
titudes and enactments, centralizing those boys willing and able to embody them;
other groups of boys may be derogated, scapegoated or simply ignored. The mar-
ginalization of the alternatives they represent is reified throughout the public life
of the school community and those boys slotted to these subordinated identities
find themselves confronting negative attributions. As Noguera (2008) writes re-
garding Black boys in the U.S.: “The stereotypes that shape the American images
of Black males are so stark and extreme that even the most ordinary and unexcep-
tional Black males find they are forced to contend with the fantasies and fears oth-
ers have toward them (p. xiii).”
There is no escape from masculine dynamics; their effect is to enmesh each boy
within a limited set of offers and choices. As we wrote in a recent study of boys’
schooling, “From these collectively constructed representations of masculinities,
boys get the message that some win and some lose, depending on their alignment
with power and prescribed norms” (Stoudt et al., 2010, p. 33). Themes of hierar-
chy, competition and privilege—“mechanisms through which observed macro-
level phenomena are produced and reproduced at the lived level on a daily basis”
(Weis, 2010, p. viii)—characterize virtually all boys’ school relationships.
As they win or lose, enjoy privilege or suffer exclusion, boys form masculine self-
concepts (Reichert & Kuriloff, 2004). The looking glass of the school’s reward and
recognitional system, skewed in favor of the society’s cultural and ideological in-
vestments, plays a key part in perpetuating the masculine standard across gener-
ations. No boy perfectly aligns with this standard; for all boys, there is tension and
repression, performing and pretending. Boys of color and those from other mar-
ginalized groups, in particular, absorb cruel distortions from school looking glasses,
reproducing broader cultural patterns. Researchers have found boys’ experiences
of school communities characterized by a barrage of remarks that were “homo-
REICHERT & NELSON
phobic, misogynist, anti-Semitic or racist helped to impose the boundaries of who’s
in and who’s out, what’s acceptable and what’s unacceptable, who’s “normal” and
who’s marginalized” (Stoudt, 2010, p. 41; in the first issue).
Boyhood and its institutions, especially schools, ensure that all boys pass through
this masculine crucible. Life within schools, “exclusive, anxiety-provoking, inter-
nally and hierarchically differentiated, brutal, and violent” (Donaldson, 1993, p.
645), conditions boys to a set of rules that seem immutable. But, while many boys
may reap some “patriarchal dividend” for their sacrifices (Connell, 1995), the in-
herent tensions in boyhood, particularly between what’s permitted and what’s
needed, could be the basis for sweeping changes in the way we help boys to man-
hood. As boys—and those who care for them—contrast who they are and what
they want with the opportunities available under a restrictive gender regime, imag-
ination, resentment and resistance dependably well up. In the gap between their
thirst to develop their “full capacities” (Nussbaum, 2000) and the restricted options
to be found within masculine norms, boys’ resistance arises. The dialectic of male
development, so painful and often debilitating, may also be fertile ground for a re-
structuring of gender.
Barker (2005; in the second issue) has searched in many countries for what he
calls “voices of resistance” to inform anti-violence and anti-gang programs. Sur-
veying and talking with young men especially in lower income contexts, he wrote,
“The social pressure is high to be part of certain hegemonic versions of manhood—
to fight for your honour, to dominate women and to suppress fear. It is an act of
courage in many cases and of tremendous reflection to step away from these con-
tests of traditional manhood and find other ways of being a man (2005, p. 148).” The
courage and reflection he describes can seem scarce, particularly among those who
collude with and conform to school conventions and authority. But a more careful
gaze, one that peers beneath the surface glare of “ideological fetishes” and “insti-
tutional taboo” (Fine, 1991), can bring a very different picture of boys and their re-
sistance into view. In the most persuasive formulation of masculinity theory, the
dominance of the standard is seen as effective not so much by suppressing alter-
natives as by obscuring them: “Indeed, achieving hegemony may consist precisely
in preventing alternatives from gaining cultural definition and recognition as al-
ternatives, confining them to ghettoes, to privacy, to unconsciousness” (Connell,
1989, p. 186). Perhaps the common belief in boys’ willing collusion and easy coop-
tation by our system of masculine domination might itself be an illusion?
In Barker’s and others’ work (e.g., Reichert et al., in the first issue; Way, 2011 and
in the second issue; Anderson, 2009 and in the second issue; Sadowski, in the first
issue), the close-up lens of qualitative research lets us see how commonly boys cri-
tique, defy and opt out of mainstream masculine rewards. Boys react to their cir-
cumstances emotionally, often emphatically, but commonly, displaying what
Gramsci regarded as good and bad “sense” (1971). As they react, they manifest a
divided consciousness, “in which elements of accommodation and resistance exist
in an unsteady state of tension” (Giroux, 1983, p. 151). Strategies of survival, re-
bellion, collusion and surrender all well up as boys respond with judgment that is
both clouded and clear. Boyhood scholars and advocates must sort through these
responses, with the hope to support those representing a healthy challenge to the
current lives of boys.
In a series of interesting studies of boys in schools, Martino (2000, 2001), Kehler
and Martino (2007) and Kehler et al. (2005) described boys’ capacities for “interro-
EDITORIAL: REPRODUCTION, RESISTANCE AND HOPE
gating gender normalization” and their expressed hope for lives less constricted
by masculine norms. In an ethnographic study of “footballers” and other popular
boys (Kehler & Martino, 2007), for example, their samples included boys who cri-
tiqued hegemonic masculine practice and even absented themselves from its con-
ventions, attracted to alternative masculinity practices by a desire for less
domination of their hearts. As the authors wrote: “Their willingness to critique the
norms governing displays of hegemonic, heterosexual masculinity needs to be un-
derstood as driven by a desire to search for better alternatives of self-expression
which, they believed, would lead to enhancing their lives and relationships with
other people” (p. 107).
In a study of Jewish boys in a Western U.S. city (Reichert & Ravitch, 2009), where
they were often distinct minorities in their high schools, we heard similar themes
of a desire for freer lives, contradictory consciousness and social critique. These
adolescent boys supported each other and promoted alternative ideas for being
male quite at odds with the mainstream of their public high schools. Forswearing
conventions of hierarchy and harshness, emotional constriction and narrow self-in-
terest, boys drew inspiration from their Jewish families, organizations and religious
schools to forge strong ties to each other and to express their struggles and emo-
tions. In so doing, they exhibited a capacity to resist what they critiqued as a de-
graded status in favor of what one boy described as “the root of everything that,
like, makes us human” (Reichert & Ravitch, 2010, p. 24).
Way’s studies (2011) have underscored the commonplace resistance manifest in
boys’ friendships within a culture that actively works against male connections.
Despite more stereotypic images of boys’ relationships as shallow, action-oriented
or troubled, she reported finding deep bonds, loyal support and expressive shar-
ing among many boys: “Boys who have been portrayed in popular culture as more
interested in shooting each other than in sharing their thoughts and feelings spoke
to us about male friendships that “you feel lost without,” about “deep depth”
friendships, and about wanting friends with whom you “share your secrets,” “tell
everything” and “get inside” (2004, p. 182). Boys, she concluded, “regularly resist
conventions of masculinity; and peers, particularly close male friends, often pro-
vide support for such resistance” (p. 45). Schools and the institutions of boyhood
too often operate, according to Way, on the basis of thin culture explanations, rep-
resenting conventional ideas, while boys themselves, especially during early ado-
lescence, live in the “thick of it” (2011, p. 25).
Still another researcher, Judy Chu, has studied boys’ relationships at different
ages using similar “voice-centered” methodologies (2000; 2004). In a longitudinal
study among elementary age boys, she detailed how sensitive to the peer and in-
stitutional demands of masculinity young boys are, making deliberate “compro-
mises” in their identities to avoid going against the grain of masculine norms. In a
separate study of adolescent boys, she identified two general patterns for how boys
respond to these masculine pressures. Some boys “internalize” societal definitions
of masculine ideals, even “to the detriment of one’s own sense of self” (2004, p.
100). Such boys not only hold back in order to fit in; they can even come to evalu-
ate themselves, sometimes mercilessly, against this unrealistic masculine standard.
In the second pattern, boys are better able to “shield themselves” from these ex-
ternal pressures and to establish senses of self that are more confident and inde-
pendent. Those exhibiting this second pattern typically enjoy relationships with
REICHERT & NELSON
other boys with whom they can talk honestly, find validation and exchange sup-
port. She concluded that their “experiences of being validated and valued in rela-
tionships appear to be key to boys’ resistance and resilience” (2004, p. 101).
These studies afford glimpses of a naturally-arising opposition to the historic
terms of boyhood and encourage us to identify the conditions which make boys’ re-
sistance more likely, durable and substantive. New (2001), who proposed that
“emancipatory interests” in gender change arise for males in their experience of
“systematic mistreatment” within the standard curriculum, supports a fundamen-
tal faith in boys’ good sense. Connell (1986; 1995) detailed these interests more
specifically—connection to females that inclines males to resist collusive mas-
culinities; personal discomfort with their own lives; and, a more general commit-
ment to social justice—encouraging the view that boys’ resistance for their own
sakes as well as for the sake of those they love might become compelling. Just as
Chu (2000) proposed two patterns in boys’ reactions to school masculine pressures,
one internalizing and another shielding, Ward’s research on Black girls also dis-
tinguished between two kinds of resistance: actions taken “for survival”, in which
laying low and avoiding the most punishing sanctions of gender policing are pri-
mary; and those that are “for liberation”, more likely when youth find sufficient
community support to take more collective, organized stands (Ward, 2000). Brown
and Gilligan (1992) made the original distinction, between “psychological” resist-
ance in which adolescents give up on “what they know,” take themselves “out of
relationship” and trade off having their experiences understood in return for being
accepted; and “political” resistance in which conflict with others is unavoidable
(1990, p. 271).
For Gilligan, the “overwhelming desire for human connection—to bring one’s
own inner world of thoughts and feelings into relationship with the thoughts and
feelings of others” (1990, p. 275), animates children’s struggles against restrictive
gender conventions and makes their resistance to gendering pressures “indelibly
political” (2011, p. 157). Way’s focus on friendships carries this model into a con-
sideration of boys’ development and locates their resistance to a boyhood that
“forces them to be figures of a masculine imagination rather than human beings
with a range of beliefs, feelings, and thoughts about their worlds” (2011, p. 45). Yet
we must be realistic about what we regard as resistance that amounts to something
more than “the logic of deviance, individual pathology, learned helplessness (and
of course genetic explanations) and…the logic of moral and political indignation”
(Giroux, 1983, p. 107). As boys shield themselves against the losses and pressures
of masculinity, many react with aggression, violence and self-defeating refusal, re-
actions ably met in schools and in societies with a growing arsenal of behavioral di-
agnoses and interventions. Even as the casualties mount in families, schools and
communities, we cannot take comfort in such deviance and acting out. As common
as such self-defeating behaviors are, we suggest that healthier forms of resistance
are every bit as ordinary.
In our study of urban adolescent boys of color from the most impoverished, vio-
lent communities, attending some of the most under-resourced schools in the tri-
state region around Philadelphia, PA, we found many boys exercising both
personal integrity as well as strategic agency. These boys showed up for an after-
school mentoring program, on their own and without the benefit of any particular
structure or support, often for years. In interviews, boys chronicled experiences of
EDITORIAL: REPRODUCTION, RESISTANCE AND HOPE
routine confrontation and unrelenting threat and admitted that they did whatever
they determined necessary to fend for themselves against such threats. But the boys
also maintained that they “don’t love no fight” and described identities that resis-
ted both normative masculinities as well as the inductive pull of cultural images of
Black and Latino males. As one boy expresses, distinguishing himself from very
different stereotypes, prescriptions and images, “I care about people, and just …
stuff” (Reichert et al., 2009. p. 23).
In the study of older Jewish teens already mentioned, we heard from boys whose
resistance to dominant ideas for being male was not only explicit but also adamant.
We asked one boy, for example, whether he saw himself as one of the “popular”
ones in his high school. He answered, “Just about the furthest from it. I just don’t
identify with them. Like, I see them as, kind of, the beer-drinking bozos of the
school, you know.” How did these boys describe the identities they aspired to as
men? Another boy explained, “Just to be, like, a good human being.” In discussing
what these boys had taught us of the possibilities for being male, we wrote, “Boys
are ever-creative in their efforts to build their lives and to construct a positive sense
of self based upon human needs for connection, meaning and validation. They sort
through the resources and opportunities of their lives and often discover ways to
assert new, freer ideas for being male” (Reichert & Ravitch, 2010, p. 22).
These examples of boys’ good sense, arising even under harsh circumstances—
urban poverty, violence, racism and ethno-cultural prejudice—encourage faith in
the possibilities for a new boyhood. Agreeing with Giroux that social theories have
tended to be preoccupied with one side or the other in a structure/agency dualism,
we appreciate his insight that the personal impact of oppressive curricula are al-
ways mediated by the “complex and contradictory nature of human conscious-
ness” (1997, p. 73). Even in schools and cultures where the curriculum is most rigid
and severe, boys seem to experience themselves outside of, apart from and even in-
dependent of these prescriptions: what Gilligan (1990) has regarded as the “dou-
ble vision” of youth confronting the limiting effects of gendered options.
Particularly when they can perceive the existence of alternatives, or support for
their own imagined alternatives, boys’ independence can be strong: “the question
is not whether this is a masculine subject, but what form the masculine subject takes
in the social world, what discourses will be engaged in, inculcated, taken up by the
subject in its pursuit of identity validation and individualization” (Whitehead, 2002,
Finding support for their own voices and visions, alternatives to the dominant
conventions, seems key to boys’ abilities to fight for themselves. In addition to of-
fering a broad socio-cultural and developmental perspective, authors in this special
issue offer more focused suggestions. Sadowski (first issue), in the example of
schools “making-space” for a “queer voice” in the life of the school, illustrates what
schools can do to support boys’ sense of who they are and their critique of domi-
nant practices, even against “heavily policed” norms for sexuality. Anderson (in
the second issue) reports on research showing how cultural shifts in normative
masculinity may be making even mainstream spaces like athletics more accessible.
Atkinson and Kehler (in the second issue) describe a national campaign in Canada
to alter the physical education and health lessons conveyed to boys—“speaking
the unspeakable”. Howard (in the first issue) shows how African-American boys
must cope with the additional, intersectional pressures of both race and masculin-
REICHERT & NELSON
ity. Luttrell (in the second issue) examines boys’ “careworlds”, drawing from case
studies of boys from wage-poor families, to shed light on an often neglected di-
mension of school’s relationship to families.
Stoudt (first issue) draws upon research conducted in an elite boys’ school to
demonstrate how integral privilege is to masculinity and the part played by schools
in perpetuating these privileged forms. Barker at al (in the second issue) have es-
tablished a large body of international work conducted in schools from the Global
south to show how schools can actively offer boys some alternative to violent and
A commitment by teachers and others in charge of schools to create spaces for
possibility, where boys are not punished or otherwise coerced toward blind con-
formity, can affirm boys’ hopes and offer strong support for their libratory instincts.
Recent research with teachers reflecting on their work with boys (Raider-Roth, in
the first issue) found patterns in teachers’ reactions to boys’ resistance in school
that should help teachers to position themselves more effectively as boys’ allies.
Way’s (in the second issue) finding about the critical importance of boys’ friend-
ships and other connections also holds many implication for school programs. Fi-
nally, in the Notes from the Field section we have included pieces by Frerichs and
Kuriloff (first issue), Nelson and Vidale (second issue), Kagan (first issue) and
Thornburg (second issue) that offer concrete examples of how some schools are
presently engaged in offering boys glimpses of possibility.
Ultimately, from the work described in this special edition, we hope to suggest
that boys in schools can be equipped “with the skills they will need to locate them-
selves in history, find their own voices, and provide the convictions and compas-
sion necessary for exercising civic courage, taking risks, and furthering the habits,
customs, and social relations that are essential to democratic forms” (Giroux, 1997,
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