I just discovered a recent op-ed by David Brooks entitled “Honor Code.” He imagines Henry V in today’s schools, which Brooks portrays as coddling and feminizing. Overall, Brooks claims that today’s educational system, from kindergarten to college, promotes more feminine ways of learning, and either forces out vigorous boys like Hal, or drugs them into being little Hamlets. Here’s a key paragraph:
Schools have to engage people as they are. That requires leaders who insist on more cultural diversity in school: not just teachers who celebrate cooperation, but other teachers who celebrate competition; not just teachers who honor environmental virtues, but teachers who honor military virtues; not just curriculums that teach how to share, but curriculums that teach how to win and how to lose; not just programs that work like friendship circles, but programs that work like boot camp.
This piece reminds me of Harvey Mansfield’s Manliness, which argues “that manliness seeks and welcomes drama, prefers times of war, conflict, and risk, and brings change or restores order at crucial moments. Manly men in their assertiveness raise issues, bring them to the fore, and make them public and political—as for example, the manliness of the women’s movement.” At various points, it’s fairly clear that Mansfield too sees honor as the masculine ethic—even though he’s clear that women (such as Thatcher) can embrace and master it as well. In 2009, I presented a paper entitled, “Honor: The Ethic for Real Men?,” which I plan on including in my book. So lots of people are converging on these ideas.
Any opinions out there about Brooks’ piece? Is the default masculine “code” the “honor” code? Is his description of it fair? Is a decline of honor-mindedness (emphasizing cooperation and therapeutic values instead of competition and agonistic values) denaturing males?