The Thinking 
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The Dangerous Liaisons of Childhood

June 27, 2010


THE AIM of public education is an impersonal society. That’s why, in a hundred obvious and hidden ways, mass education stands in the way of childhood friendship. It shifts children around purposefully, so that they never spend time with the same people for long, so that both friendship and feuds are thwarted. It breaks up the school years into unnatural divisions, in elementary schools, middle schools and high schools, to keep people from settling into deep and longstanding bonds, whether of enmity or love. Casual and superficial good will to all is the desired social objective.

To this end, there are now programs explicitly devoted to keeping children from having best friends. According to The New York Times:

[I]ncreasingly, some educators and other professionals who work with children are asking a question that might surprise their parents: Should a child really have a best friend?

Most children naturally seek close friends. In a survey of nearly 3,000 Americans ages 8 to 24 conducted last year by Harris Interactive, 94 percent said they had at least one close friend. But the classic best-friend bond — the two special pals who share secrets and exploits, who gravitate to each other on the playground and who head out the door together every day after school — signals potential trouble for school officials intent on discouraging anything that hints of exclusivity, in part because of concerns about cliques and bullying. Read More »

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