Teen lads learn the 'rite' stuff at school

BY KATARINA FILIPE
Last updated 05:00 22/02/2010

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Binge drinking and boy racing is out for teen boys in Timaru, as they prepare to be the first in New Zealand to make the move towards manhood in a more traditional way.

Timaru Boys' High School has introduced its year 10 students to a new programme called The Rite Journey, developed by Australian teachers Andrew Lines and Graham Gallasch.

It is one of eight schools around the world to introduce the programme this year, and has been backed by bestselling author, New Zealand's Celia Lashlie, the first female officer to work in a men's prison.

The programme reinvents the traditional process of a rite of passage, to assist in transforming the adolescent from dependency to responsibility.

Throughout The Rite Journey, students explore and discover consciousness, connection, communication, challenge and celebration with seven stages of ceremonies.

Rector Kevin O'Sullivan said teenage boys thought things like "binge drinking and using cars inappropriately" were their rite of passage, and the compulsory programme would help turn them into responsible adults.

"It's been my passion for a long time. We saw that it was something extraordinary and special."

In November, 10 staff at Boys' High underwent training for the programme, Mr O'Sullivan said.

It will involve 180 boys this year and will continue in years to come. The programme covers areas such as gender construction and identity, feelings and beliefs, non-violence, problem-solving skills and pathways to change, according to The Rite Journey website.

Celia Lashlie, author of He'll be OK: Growing Gorgeous Boys into Good Men, told The Timaru Herald any programme developed by men attempting to offer adolescent boys of New Zealand positive rites of passage into manhood "has my backing".

"There is an enormous gap in this regard in New Zealand, and alcohol, violence and fast cars are the default rites of passage for too many of our boys – rites of passage that lead far too many of them to an early death or to prison," she said.

Mr Lines and Mr Gallasch wrote: "As teachers over many years, we have been somewhat surprised by the young men who have been placed in our care. A significant number of them have seemed to struggle with anger, family problems, bullying, sexism and racism.

A proposal was presented to our school which would see the year 9 boys, in single gender classes, undertake a programme aimed at developing the `whole boy' and especially focused on guiding these boys through elements of being a responsible and respectful adult male."

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- The Timaru Herald

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