This article at CNN (called “Could Your Child Be a Bully?“) illustrates yet another case, I think, of folks failing to take the next logical step and calling the phenomenon of full-time, age-sorted, compulsory school itself the problem:
“I look back and shake my head,” says Eva, who asked CNN not to use her last name because she plans to apply for graduate school. But “when you’re in elementary school and junior high, there’s nothing else. We don’t have responsibilities. We don’t have skills. We buy candy and do homework.”
“Part of the problem here is that kids are kind of stuck in a cage,” [Sociologist Robert] Faris agrees. “They don’t have formal roles and responsibilities. … They have to work status out for themselves.”
And if we put adults in a similar situation, he says, we’d see the same behavior.
So does anybody advocate changing school fundamentally? Maybe opening the cage? No. They advocate still more made-up “programs and activities”!
For that reason, Faris advocates programs and activities that de-emphasize social status and re-emphasize the qualities of a good friend.
Like what, for example? The article doesn’t say. The grown-up, former bully herself said “We don’t have responsibilities. We don’t have skills. We buy candy and do homework.” She recognized that homework doesn’t feel like a real responsibility; it does not contribute meaningfully to the world. Household chores, while important, don’t either; they’re usually just the things that the parents themselves don’t want to do. Why don’t kids have real things to do? Why don’t they spend their time with a variety of people who can work with them to do real things? Volunteering, making art, building things, who knows? But something more important than, as the young woman says, “buying candy and doing homework.” Something that they know matters, so they can know that they matter, so they won’t feel the need to jockey for position in (as the sociologist called it) the “cage” of school.