Sunday, 13 September 2009
The "S" word
I am always amused when the parents of children at school ask me sadly, "Don't you think that your daughter might have missed out on the social side of school?" Here is an example of why I find this funny.
A few years ago our local council staged a raft of activities during the Summer holidays for children and young people. After all, everybody agrees that there's not much for the kids to do round here over the Summer. That year there was archery, kyaking, assertiveness training; masses of exciting stuff to do and all of it completely free. Needless to say my daughter, who was eleven at the time, booked up for practically everything . Unfortunately, about half the sessions were cancelled because not enough children could be found to make it worthwhile to run them. Odd.
When I asked the children of friends why they had not wanted to do all these interesting things, the response was predictable and depressing. "I won't know anyone there!", "None of my mates are going!" In other words, the idea of going somewhere and doing stuff with young people that they didn't know was anathema to these children.
I have observed this phenomenon over and over again. By the time they reach secondary school at the latest, children start sticking only to their school friends or those in other known groups. They will not generally talk to those older or younger, or socialise with adults. They avoid strangers like the plague. Is this the much vaunted socialisation? There is a pretty lousy college in our area; if you want a decent sixth form you have to go to a school about five miles away. Almost without exception, local school leavers choose the college, purely and simply because that's where everybody else is going.
The phrases, "I won't know anybody!" and "None of my mates are going!" are almost leitmotifs of modern youth. Those two commonly heard expressions of anxiety tell us all we really need to know about socialisation among schooled young people.