Administrators at Illinois’ Quincy Junior High School are working with 6th-grade boys to give them the “skills to make a man valuable and character to make a man invaluable,” The Herald Whig reports.
“They’re men in the making—and what they learn now, along with how they act, can help them move into the future confident and capable,” according to the news site.
QJHS Principal Dan Sparrow explained how the idea to help guide the school’s boys into adulthood began when he noticed assistant principal Rick Owsley and “a couple of kids during lunch . . . outside weeding, picking up things.”
“He saw an opportunity that they kind of wanted to give back to the school, taking some pride in it,” Sparrow said.
In December, several 6th-grade boys met up with Owsley to launch the school’s first Men in the Making Club, which teaches life skills and character virtues highlighted in the best-selling book Manual to Manhood.
Students were required to get written permission from their parents to attend, during advisory periods or lunch, and discuss the issues they face as they grow into men.
“Moving from boys to become men is hard,” Sparrow said. “With that comes responsibility.”
Sixth-grader Chase Lawrence said he signed up because “it sounded like fun, interesting and a great time.”
“Plus, people can talk to us, help us,” he said.
Students who join receive a gift box with a book and T-shirt, which Sparrow asks the boys to wear on Fridays to show their pride. Lunchtime discussions center on issues like respect, and building a “social-emotional bank account” to use at school.
“How do you get respect? It’s not given. You’ve got to what?” Sparrow asked students.
“Earn it,” the boys said, according to the Herald Whig.
Sparrow said he wants the students to understand that the way they project themselves—whether they do their homework, how they treat teachers and classmates—impacts their character, and their ability to lead.
“People are going to look at what we do, how we behave, how we act, the things we say,” Sparrow said. “The biggest part of that’s trust. You’ve got to have the trust of people, then you will earn the respect.”
Sparrow said the goal is to build strong character in students that will ultimately draw others into the club and its positive mindset.
“Sometimes students lead in positive ways. Sometimes they lead in negative ways. If we convince the negative leaders to lead in positive ways . . . when we start doing this together, start growing this, then we truly can make junior high what we all want it to be,” Sparrow said.
The QJHS Men in the Making Club fills a critical role in character formation and moral education.
James Davison Hunter, founder of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia, wrote in The Death of Character that morality “is received by the individual, internalized into subjective consciousness, and thus experienced as the basic ordering of categories of life.”
Sparrow is providing the vision of responsibility for young men at his school through intentional practice and regular guidance.