OPRF’s most famous alum, Ernest Hemingway, graduated over a century ago. But now, in 2022, his return is needed more than ever.

Step Back, a required class for boys at OPRF, addresses the idea of “toxic masculinity.” This class taught me to “step back” from traditional masculine expectations that may lead to unhealthy or unkind behavior.

I enjoyed the Step Back class I took my sophomore year, but I found a problem in that there was not an exciting solution. This is where Hemingway can come into play.

Making some of Hemingway’s work required reading will cultivate a culture of intellectual competitiveness and curiosity, inspiring struggling boys in the classroom and tackling toxic masculinity in the process.

Playing football for the Huskies and fighting in the first World War, Hemingway fit the traditional image of masculinity.

However, he also embodied an intellectual masculinity. He was an ultra-competitive writer and steadfast in defending his clear, simple prose. It’s why Woody Allen depicted him in Midnight in Paris saying, “If you’re a writer, declare yourself the best writer! But you’re not as long as I’m around!”

Hemingway’s idea of masculinity was that to be a man, it is essential you have the ability to write clearly and stand up straight while defending your ideas. And while these skills are vital for all genders, our current generation of struggling young men especially needs this reminder.

Boys are struggling in school. Women outnumber men in higher education 60-40%. And in my recent graduating class at OPRF, the Scholarship Cup — given to students tied for No. 1 in the class — was dominated by girls at a near 3:1 ratio.

High school boys will be inspired by Hemingway’s character as I was a couple of years ago. An ambitious, strong man who channeled his energy into writing can be an example for our current Huskies on how masculinity is not one-dimensional; there is also an intellectual aspect.

OPRF already has a “Hemingway Room” on its third floor. Now it’s time to fill the rest of the school with his spirit.

Calvin Roe
Oak Park

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