Dawn Hentrich posted this article yesterday:
Anyway—I was talking to the resource teacher about this and mentioned that they didn’t play with Ben. And she said—“Well, we can make them play with him”—as if that were the most natural solution.
And it really rubbed me the wrong way.
It rubs me the wrong way, too. It also points to the heart of my biggest complaint about not just government school, but most private schools as well.
Our idea of “socialization” as it occurs in these grade school environments is artificial and unnatural, and leads to worse, not better, social outcomes.
Children in grade schools are placed there generally without their consent. In school, they spend up to 7 or 8 hours a day in close proximity to a large group of children whose only common characteristics are age and zip code (and maybe religion or race, in the case of a private school). During this time, they are repeatedly told that negative opinions may not be voiced where adults can hear them. Everybody is expected to get along, do the same work at the same time, without complaining.
There is no place else in life where this type of socialization takes place.
Imagine if it did. Imagine if, as an adult, you were informed that because of your age, you would be working in the 36-year-old office. Everybody else in your office is 36 years old, too. You are told which office you will work in, and you are told what kind of work you will do. Somebody else decides what you should be interested in, what kind of work will be most beneficial to you. Everybody in your office does the same work, regardless of how good they are. Everybody in your office goes to lunch together, too, in the same cafeteria, sitting at the same table. Again, you are not given a choice.
Are you feeling stifled yet? Frustrated? Not listened to?
Here is where it becomes more difficult to find an analogy that we can relate to at all…again, because this is a completely foreign situation in adulthood. Yes, we do often work at jobs we don’t like, next to people we don’t like. As adults, though, we can move. We can change jobs, we can move to a different place. We can eat lunch someplace different, we can stop going to that bar. We have the freedom to choose our associations.
A group of football-loving, athletic adults may not choose to hang out with other adults who prefer throwing dice to throwing balls. The football adults will hang out together and watch games and toss the pigskin, and the gaming adults will hang out together and wage fictional warfare and write code. And they will all be happy. We don’t insist that the gamers must go play football for their own good, or that the ballers must go roll up some new characters for their own good.
Why would we do this to our children? Why would we put them into a situation where they have no power whatsoever over their lives, force situation after situation on them that they would prefer to avoid, give them no real choices in anything…and then act surprised when they turn around and exercise the little power they can find as bullies?