Sociological discussions within the last 10 to 15 years have begun to unpack root causes of violence within society. While it is clear that violence within all societies – even those of early establishment – has long existed and been contemplated, recent times have demonstrated an exponential growth in violence within the United State’s school system. Only weeks ago, we witnessed the horror of a mass school shooting in Florida–with regret, such news has become commonplace in our country. With this enduring wave of gun violence within the school system, the true charge and purpose of schools (that is, education) seems to be a fleeting, now unobtainable vision.
Hegemonic masculinity exists in a unique, clearly defined fashion within the United State’s school system. In history courses – or “social studies” as they are referenced in early grades (though there is seemingly a lack of “social” notes within the discipline) – students learn about the socially-designed concepts of “true masculinity” ; these concepts have been generated from toxic social values regarding gender norms/values, and recorded with great breadth in elementary, middle, and secondary scholastic cannons. From an early age of exposure, boys are presented with an image of “man as the conqueror,” a decidedly colonial, occidental rendering of masculinity. Without question, this rendering has morphed into a now traditional American ideology of masculinity. Here, we may argue that the hegemonic authority which dictates expressions of masculinity retains control of the dissemination of knowledge (i.e. textbooks). An arguably toxic image of masculinity is, in turn, produced for the retention of boys within the school system.
In the same way with which we may submit that the education system serves as a catalyst for violence – vis-a-vis illustrations of hegemonic masculinity – we may no more blame education itself as the impetus of this illustration than we may blame the textbook itself. Rather, we understand that this knowledge regarding gender subjects is corrupt prior to its dissemination. In essence, an integrity (of sorts) must be implemented at the pedagogical, classroom level. This integrity should be informed by education – an education that starts at the instructor level. A shift in the pedagogical approach to gendered subjects (such as history) is necessary. Why does American society view colonial conquest or military power as an accurate and acceptable version of masculinity? These two examples are deeply founded in a tradition of violence and massacre. Why, then, do we not equate masculinity to movements of great men who have historically acted in non-violent forms (i.e. Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi, etc.)? This pedagogical shift must find its genesis through collaboration with boys, not exercises that work against them. Baring in mind the humanity of the issue at hand, it can only be addressed through a collective, community effort – not from an individual approach to a problem that offers no universal solution; a philosophical practicum should serve as a foundation upon which unique approaches can be crafted and later implemented.
The truth of this conversation is simple: a whitewashed American history that is only concerned with the perpetuation of hegemonic ideologies in all of its lethal, virulent splendor, is what is preferred in modern-day America. An homage to the days of masculine conquest and patriarchal dominance could be offered in a less harmful way, a way that does not seek to cripple an entire system by imagining masculinity in an educational framework that leads to violent outbreaks and the senseless mortality of young people.