This week’s Interfaith Lectures have given a variety of perspectives on the ways boys are raised and develop in our society, but Director of Religion Robert Franklin wants to end the week on a practical note.
Franklin will lead a discussion titled “Individual and Institutional Responses to the Emotional Needs of Boys and Men” with founder of Ground Control Parenting Carol Sutton Lewis and Wabash College President Gregory Hess at 2 p.m. today in the Hall of Philosophy.
“At the conclusion of a full week in which we receive a multidisciplinary perspective on boys’ and young men’s development, [this is] an opportunity to listen to practical intervention and programs that people can enact,” Franklin said.
Franklin said Lewis was invited to provide insight into what individual parents can do to help their sons grow into emotionally healthy and socially productive adults. Lewis’ blog, Ground Control Parenting, is a resource that is geared mainly toward those raising boys of color, but provides guidance, support and encouragement to all parents.
Lewis said the inspiration for the website came from her experience in raising sons after watching her parents rear her brother, who had a learning disability.
“I watched my family struggle to figure out how to help [my brother] best,” Lewis said. “I have three children, and as my sons grew up I wanted to be sure I didn’t miss anything relating to their development. As my children grew, I thought it would be helpful to share this info however I could.”
Lewis said the focus of her blog means that she often is faced with giving parents tools to help their sons understand and overcome the stereotypes placed upon them by society.
“Because my blog focuses mainly on boys of color, I find myself having this conversation more about helping our boys to combat the stereotypes that are out in the world,” Lewis said. “So it really is manifested in helping parents to have conversations with their boys about what it means to be a boy, and what it means for this particular child to be a boy, and how not to get caught up in what other people think boys should do and be.”
Outside the influence of their parents, institutions like schools and colleges must also help to develop young men into well-adjusted adults, Franklin said. To that end, Hess will provide insight into the ways in which colleges can provide guidance to their male students.
“Institutionally, Wabash has been a very innovative institution,” Franklin said. “And we will just get a testimony of what’s happening at one of America’s few remaining single-gender, all-male schools to nurture young men.”
Hess has been the president of Wabash since 2013. The liberal arts college has a student body of approximately 900 students and is one of four remaining all-male colleges in the United States.
To combat these mixed messages, Wabash implements a “gentleman’s rule,” or honor code, and emphasizes the “three Cs” that define the liberal arts: challenge, confrontation with new ideas, and compassion.
Hess said these high expectations and accountability helps Wabash to allow young men’s minds to develop in a positive way.
Franklin, who served as president of another all-male college, Morehouse, sees the perspectives of both Sutton Lewis and Hess as important to helping build a better society.
“The future of healthy companionate marriages and families, on childrearing and parenting depends on men and women playing their appropriate roles and responsibilities,” Franklin said. “And if boys are sort of let off the hook and are told that they’re not important to their future families, then I think it just bodes ill for us.”
To Franklin, such changes could lead to a change in the kinds of futures many boys can expect.
“We’ve proven that we can raise the next generation of prisoners,” Franklin said. “Now the question is, can we raise the next generation of healthy, adjusted men and fathers and spouses who are carrying their responsibility in family and society?”