Schoolteachers Graham Gallasch and Andrew Lines have taught children and young men for a total of 40 years, specialising in physical education and sport. They combine the Lutheran tradition – a hardnosed Christianity with its roots in the Reformation – with Waldorf education – the more subtle and creative schooling based on Rudolph Steiner’s work, which emphasises myth and ritual as part of children’s needs.
Andrew told me, when we met for breakfast in an Adelaide cafe, that he had grown concerned about the boys he was teaching, noticing their behaviour in the school and in the streets, and the attitudes in their written work. Their heroes were rock stars, sportsmen and others who showed poor treatment of women and girls, excessive drug and alcohol use, and self-destructive and stupid behaviour. The boys’ attitudes, at least the ones they projected, were often racist, sexist, violent and stereotyped. Andrew suspected a root cause behind these boys’ poor idea of manhood: in most cases there was simply no
respected male figure in their lives who could teach them to be fine men. How could they be expected to turn out well?
He also noted another trend in the boys’ lives: that much of their waking time was spent looking at screens. They were being educated about life by sources that had no interest in their welfare. Andrew was well aware of the research that showed today’s young people to be the most troubled, anxious, lonely and disturbed of any generation of adolescents in history. He began to put two and two together.
As experienced teachers, Andrew and Graham had listened to many parents and fellow teachers who expressed total despair at how to help their boys and girls make it through adolescence. Then, in 2004, they attended a seminar run by the renowned futurist, Peter Ellyard. Ellyard pointed out that the whole
of Year 9 in secondary school is traditionally a wasted year, when kids just do not want to learn. He suggested a radical idea: Year 9 should be turned from a problem into a solution.
It should be a year focused on ‘the mysteries of adulthood’, specifically teaching how to function as a successful grownup.
To study the very thing these young men were most concerned about – how to become a man.
The Rite Journey is overlaid onto Year 9 or 10 of secondary school. It is substantial and long term – the research indicates that programs for changing kids have little effect unless they create long term relationships over a year or two, and are woven into the whole of their school experience.
The Rite Journey features ceremonies and retreat experiences, but at its core, for three lessons a week of around an hour each, the boys study how to be a man. Five C’s – consciousness, communication, celebration, connection and challenge – form the framework of this. The boys develop and strengthen relationships with the special teachers who spend this year with them. They are helped to connect more deeply to parents, mentors, their own spirit, and the outside world.
They listen and learn about life as an adult. They use innovative and potent ways of learning, such as the use of drumming as a metaphor for managing anger. They pass through the seven steps of ‘the hero’s journey’ from boyhood to the start of manhood, facing tests and challenges, culminating in a
solitary experience in the wild.
See also: Illuman