Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Emily Witt on the (Jesuit Elite) Boys' Club That Protects Kavanaugh: Need to Rethink Jesuit Claims re: Inculcating Healthy Masculinity in Students?

Mark Judge's Page, Georgetown Prep Yearbook The Cupola, 1983

Read the following statement by Emily Witt side by side with my posting yesterday, which suggested that there may be something more than a little flawed about the magical-mystical approach to militaristic masculinity — "We're men for others, a band of brothers!" — fostered by all-male Jesuit prep schools, which have long been breeding grounds for elite males who will step from their educational years into prestigious jobs tailor-made for men like themselves by other men like themselves.

Now the rest of us are learning about the hierarchy of Washington private schools—about what it meant, in the eighties, to go to Georgetown Prep as opposed to Landon or Gonzaga, and about the girls' schools Stone Ridge, Visitation, and Holton-Arms. By all appearances, the kids from these prep schools almost exclusively socialize with one another, and that social network informs their identities for the rest of their lives. As reporters have investigated Kavanaugh's high-school years, many alumni have expressed fear about going on the record and alienating themselves from a close-knit community. "I guess you could call it a fraternity between a bunch of rich kids," an anonymous alumnus of Georgetown Prep, who overlapped with Kavanaugh there, told the Huff Post. "All this shit happens, and then nobody really wants to talk about it, because if one person crumbles, the whole system crumbles, and everybody tells on everybody." I spoke with another Georgetown Prep alumnus, who hated high school but still didn't want to go on the record about what it was like there. Even for those who take less pride in the institution, what happens at Georgetown Prep stays at Georgetown Prep. ... 
During the past week, Georgetown Prep has defended its reputation, publishing a letter from its president, the Reverend James Van Dyke, to "the Prep Community." It is a strange document, in which Van Dyke describes this as "a time to continue our ongoing work with the guys on developing a proper sense of self and a healthy understanding of masculinity, in contrast to so many of the cultural models and caricatures that they see." The reasons for any bad behavior, it seems, lie outside the school. "That we are elite, we cannot deny," he writes. "That we are privileged, we also cannot deny." But, Van Dyke continues, "We are not entitled, and one of the most important lessons we strive to live and teach our students is an ethic of service and compassion and solidarity with those in need." Georgetown Prep students are framed not as citizens but as benevolent patriarchs: their good behavior is a form of service. Van Dyke speaks of a need to show "respect for women and other marginalized people." These are unfortunate constructions. Before the alleged assault, Ford wasn't necessarily "marginalized"; she wasn't "in need." 
What Kavanaugh appears to have been taught, as a young person, is that goodness is working at a soup kitchen or volunteering on a mission to a poorer country; it's granted to other people as an act of charity. Meanwhile, less good behavior would be tolerated, as long as it happened under the veil of drunkenness, or as a joke. The Jesuit fathers would turn a blind eye to the yearbook, and U.S. senators would chuckle at frat-boy antics. In this world, high school doesn't end when you’re eighteen; it's a lifelong circle of mutual support, an in-crowd that protects itself.

It might behoove the Jesuits, in light of what Brett Kavanaugh and Mark Judge are demostrating as the results of an elite Jesuit education, to rethink some of their presuppositions about male role-modeling. And about the reality of what happens in some Jesuit educational experiences as opposed to Jesuit rhetoric about all of this. The fact that, if Kavanaugh is confirmed, nearly a quarter of Supremes will be former students of Georgetown Prep, is not necessarily a good look for Jesuit education, or an advertisement for the masculine character-modeling in which the Jesuits claim to excel, especially given who those Supremes are and how they demonstrate their character through their judicial decisions.

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