An all boy school is able to cultivate in each young man the following attributes, each of which is endangered, extinct, or greatly diluted in the modern co-ed school setting.
“The word chivalry has meant at different times a good many different things-from heavy cavalry to giving a woman a seat in a train. But if we want to understand chivalry as an ideal distinct from other ideals – if we want to isolate that particular conception of the man comme il faut which was the special contribution of the Middle Ages to our culture- we cannot do better than turn to the words addressed to the greatest of all imaginary knights in Malory’s Morte Daurthur. ‘Thou wert the meekest man,’ says Sir Ector to the dead Launcelot. ‘Thou wert the meekest man that ever ate in hall among ladies; and thou wert the sternest knight to thy mortal foe that ever put spear in the rest.’”
“The important thing about this ideal is, of course, the double demand it makes on human nature. The knight is a man of blood and iron, a man familiar with the sight of smashed faces and ragged stumps of lopped-off limbs; he is also a demure, almost a maidenlike, guest in hall, a gentle, modest, unobtrusive man. He is not a compromise or happy mean between ferocity and meekness; he is fierce to the nth and meek to the nth. When Launcelot heard himself pronounced the best knight in the world, ‘he wept as he had been a child that had been beaten.’” The Necessity of Chivalry, in Present Concerns: Essays by C.S. Lewis, edited by Walter Hooper, page 13.
When Lewis can say it so much better than I, all I would add is that smashed faces and the like are not going to be present in a co-ed school, but will in some form be a part particularly of a school of nothing but boys situated on a farm.
Humor is an appropriate and necessary male virtue. But it is also best cultivated in all-male company. The dynamic changes when the gender differences come into the room. Fully developed males need a space in which mature men can help young boys mature in their humor by guiding, editing, steering, modeling, and particularly in simply encouraging this trait.
This does not mean that the propensity of young men to find humor in inappropriate ways is to be nurtured, but rather that inappropriateness has two judges: morality (some things are not humorous but men still laugh at them) and gender (some things are only funny to men; women would be offended or incredulous). Young men must be taught these boundaries.
3. Relational maturity
The remarks on humor lead naturally into the broader discussion of a forgotten reality in God’s created order: there is male and female, and the two are different. The implications of this reality in a young man’s life are huge. He cannot relate to the two genders in the same way or he will remain immature. The maturing young man must first learn to relate mostly to his own gender rightly, then launch into the joy of a lifetime: learning how to live with woman. The pressure this second experience brings to a young man thrust too early into such relationships is intense. An all boy school through high school must lead him to this maturity by giving him time and space for both, not pushing him into cross-gender relationships prematurely.
The great lack of most young men (which all too often is never remedied) is that of disorder. His rambunctious and fractious soul, properly desiring to war and conqueror, often is never given the gift of order that would enable it to properly pursue a just cause to its end and gain victory for his King. The particular order I have in mind here is the ordering of his affections. Young men love and love fiercely, but what they choose to love most and least is critical to the direction and beauty of their life. The ordering of a male soul differs from that of a female, and should be given time and space to form.
With order comes the need for doing what should be done. Every child needs the training and discipline of their parents and tutors to develop within them the self-discipline that come from proper external discipline. This is much different for boys and girls and constitutes one of the most problematic areas for co-ed schools. Far too many schools, mostly staffed by female teachers, especially in the elementary years, seek to discipline all students as is appropriate for females. It is what fits the female teachers and results in the emasculation of its male students. The incredible agenda launched half a century ago in public education for the express purpose of converting males from the “violent and misogynist” nature of men into gender neutral or feminine traits has now come to full harvest – our young men do not possess the male self-discipline that would preserve our culture.
If the discipline is not present, few young men will learn to be their “own man.” They will remain in a feminine posture of dependence upon another for what they need. This is seen in how many 18-35 year olds are still at home and dependent upon especially their mothers in our day. An all boy school must be a place where responsibility for one’s own actions and one’s own needs is learned early and held in place with real natural consequences. Such thinking would tend to harm a young lady, but will build a young man of strength, conviction, and confidence.
7. Bravery and Courage
Once a young man begins to understand responsibility, and the attendant consequences that come with it, he will need to learn the virtues of bravery (doing in the face of fear) and courage (doing what is right, regardless). These virtues are not easy to form apart from real risk, danger, etc. that produce true and honest fear. A community of males on a farm will provide enough risk and danger to develop the needed bravery and courage to form a godly young man.
While not all men are called to public leadership, all must assume private or domestic leadership. They will have to lead their wife and children if no one else. Thus the necessity for all young men to learn leadership is brought forth. Much of leadership is learned in the capacity of following great leaders. The daily routines and authorities of an all male school on a farm will best provide the experience necessary to form young male leaders.
Much of male humility is learned through hardship and having to wrestle (at times literally) with authority. A sense of one’s true position under God and authority as a man is learned much differently in God’s economy than that of a young lady. The opening quote from Lewis is aimed just this type of learning. The best smashed nose is often one’s own.
10. The Cause
If everything else I have said is true, and I think it is, then all of it should be leading a boy to become a man for a reason, for a purpose. We need Warrior Poets, men like the knights of old. We need men who understand they have a cause, and that cause is the Kingdom of Christ here and now. They should have all the character and virtue needed to be able to love God and man as they have been commanded.