In August 2015, I wrote a blog titled “Bad News (for) Boys” in which I reported on boys’ academic achievement, and particularly their difficulties in reading proficiency. I quoted columnist Michael Kimmel:

“Boys’ underachievement is driven by masculinity – that is, what boys think it means to be a man is often at odds with succeeding in school. Stated most simply, many boys regard academic disengagement as a sign of their masculinity.”

The mass shooting at MS Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida has raised an array of questions and opinions about this tragedy. While my major intent in this blog is to provide you with some instructional resources, I feel I need to offer you the context (the “why”) before addressing the “what” to do in your classroom.

Four quotes provide background for teachers, parents, and students in P-12 schools.

“MS Douglas High School was the nation’s deadliest school shooting since a gunman attacked an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, more than five years ago. The overall death toll differs by how such shootings are defined, but Everytown For Gun Safety has tallied 290 school shootings in America since 2013, and this attack makes 18 so far this year.” AP, 2/14/2018

“I challenge you: Put on a ‘boy perspective’ and take a hard look at your school – from the curriculum, to the décor, to the policies and procedures. What is turning boys off and tuning them out?” -Peter DeWitt, the author of Writing the Playbook: A Practitioner’s Guide to Creating a Boy-Friendly School

“…Men commit the vast majority of violent crimes in this country. Every mass shooting we have seen in recent years has been a man….We don’t need to arm teachers with guns. We need to arm teachers with new ways of talking about manhood.” – Patrick O’Connor, H.S. English Teacher, Education Week, February 22, 2018

“What do these shootings have in common? Guns, yes. But also, boys. Girls aren’t pulling the triggers. It’s boys. It’s almost always boys. America’s boys are broken. And it’s killing us. The brokenness of the country’s boys stands in contrast to its girls, who still face an abundance of obstacles but go into the world increasingly well equipped to take them on.” – “The Boys Are Not All Right,” Michael Ian Black, NYT

Resources For You (the “What” – and How)

Call for Action to Prevent Gun Violence in the United States
Interdisciplinary Group on Preventing School and Community Violence, February 28, 2018

Student Activism and Gun Control: How school leaders can respond—by listening, helping to empower, and affirming students’ rights
Leah Shafer, Usable Knowledge, February 25, 2018

Emma Gonzalez Leads a Student Outcry on Guns: This Is the Way I Have to Grieve

Resiliency After Violence, Usable Knowledge: Connecting Research to Practice, Harvard Graduate School of Education 

American Psychological Association Resources for Coping with Mass Shooting, Understanding Gun Violence—Some Tips

Talking to Children About Violence: Tips for Parents and Teachers, National Association for Secondary School Principals

Let’s Have Faith and Hope

“Faith makes things possible, not easy.” – Luke, 1:37

“Faith is an expression of hope for something better. More than a wish, it is closer to a belief, but not quite. A belief is rooted in the mind. Faith is based in the heart….All that we hold precious rests upon a faith in people, their potential not yet fulfilled. The evidence of history points us in a different direction—the world is full of ugliness, brutality, and injustices. Yet there is also tenderness, kindness and concern and that takes the bigger part of our hearts.” – Psychology Today, September 28, 2012

“I am overwhelmed again. But not by sadness. By hope. By the power of student voice. By the bright light that is the future generation….There is something incredibly inspiring about students standing up for what they believe in and finding their voice. Their courage deserves our respect.” – Michelle C. Lipkin, Executive Director, National Association for Media Literacy Education

“It should be possible both to believe deeply in the rightness of one’s own cause and to hear out the other side. Civility is not a sign of weakness, but of civilization.”  – Nick Kristof, NYT, conservative columnist

Edward DeRoche, Ph.D.
Character Education Resource Center, Director
University of San Diego
5998 Alcala Park
San Diego, CA 92110
(619) 260-2250 Office

For past issues of News You Can Use and Blogs:

Middle Schools Girls: Character, Leadership, Service

February Blog 2018

I want to tell you a story about an “experimental project” that we implemented this month. The idea was “sparked” by two articles that I read several months ago noting that the suicide rate for girls has doubled since 2007 and that a national survey revealed that respondents believed that schools should be offering “leadership development” opportunities for all youth focusing on competencies such as self-motivation/discipline, adaptability/versatility, effective communication, and learning agility, multi-cultural awareness, and collaboration.

Following up on the idea of “leadership development” for all young students, I sought out efforts to develop leadership skills and talents of young women. There are two programs I want to briefly describe to you.

1. The Leader in Me is a program designed to teach students life skills such as leadership, responsibility, accountability, problem solving, adaptability, effective communication, and more. It is described as a whole-school transformation model and process…based on secular principles and practices of personal, interpersonal, and organizational effectiveness.

2. Then I came across a book titled, The O Factor, written by Alan Nelson, a graduate of USD-SOLES doctoral program in leadership. The book has a unique sub-title: “Identifying and Developing 5 to 25-Year-Olds Who Are Gifted In Organizational Leadership.”

He writes that the “O Factor” refers “to the unique ability possessed by a small minority to instinctively accomplish things by organizing others to work together for a common goal….By identifying people possessing the O Factor very young (between 5 and 18 years of age), we can intentionally develop them into superior social influences that are effective and ethical.” (pp. 12-13)

I was particularly interested in his chapter on the question: “Why are female ‘O Factors’ so important in this and the next century?” In the appendix, Nelson describes his “LEADER Incubator” program.

My experimental project plan started to “jell” when CJ Moloney (CERC staff member and instructor for our course “Character and Athletics”) returned from the ANA Inspiring Women in Sports Conference and described it to me.

At the conference, Billie Jean King, Maria Sharapova, Aly Raisman, and other female athletes shared their stories, challenges, and goals for empowering women in sports. Julie Foudy, former soccer player, two-time Olympic gold medalist, ESPN analyst, and founder of a leadership academy for girls, was the emcee of the conference. After the conference, CJ told Julie about her role teaching the Center’s “Character and Athletics” course, and her volunteer work coaching Splash, a team of women basketball players who are 80 plus years of age. Julie arranged to have ESPN do a story on the team.

When CJ returned from the conference, she gave me a copy of Julie Foudy’s book, Choose to Matter: Being Courageously and Fabulously YOU. The book describes the “Five Rings of Empowerment”–Self, Team, School, Community, and Life.

Each of the book’s 12 chapters includes stories, experiences, and advice to young women (girls) from Julie and 11 prominent women from a variety of professions whom she interviewed. Julie addresses topics such as leadership, communication, responsibility, team-building, attitude and gratitude, with lessons and student activities.

I read the book twice–once for an overview, the second time to layout the experimental project idea using the content of the book. My plan was to have interested teachers/administrators select a group of about ten (10) female students from each of five middle schools, as well as one or two teachers who were willing to serve as project teachers. The project would run for about five months using Julie Foudy’s book and “character and leadership” resources from the Center.

My next step was to raise about $8,000 to implement this experimental project in each of five local middle schools. That didn’t happen. I did, however, raise enough money to try out the project in one middle school. The school: Monroe Clark Middle School, a 6-8 grade public middle school located in City Heights. The teachers: Janel Meehan, 7th grade ELA teacher, and Kelly Gelsomino, 6th grade Humanities teacher.

The program began on February 1st – “National Girls & Women in Sports Day.” Students, parents, and project teachers attended the USD vs. Gonzaga women’s basketball game. They met Julie Foudy and receive a signed copy of her book. They also met the players on the San Diego Splash senior women’s basketball team.

This month two meetings are planned with the “Girls Matter” group (the name the students picked for themselves) where they will be discussing and executing activities from the first two chapters of the book.

That’s my story. If you are interested, let me know, and I will keep you posted.

Edward DeRoche, Ph.D.
Character Education Resource Center, Director
University of San Diego
5998 Alcala Park
San Diego, CA 92110
(619) 260-2250 Office

Living a life of good character doesn’t happen by CHANCE, nor does it happen by CIRCUMSTANCES. It happens by CHOICES.