Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Culture of Socialization in School

As Sir Ken Robison so eloquently put it, we group our learners by date of manufacture.

Groups of people all bunched up together because they were born within the same year.  At some point, I'm sure this was the most sensible, if not the easiest solution of how best to break up the one room schoolhouse; how to create a more efficient system of categorizing young learners.  We'll group them by age!  It's so simple!  Throughout the entire process of formal instruction, it seems perfectly reasonable and logical to assume that all people born within 12 months of each other should understand and master identical concepts.  Concepts that we have arbitrarily determined are appropriate absolutely necessary for each age group.

Generally speaking there is no consideration of the individual.  18 years and under are viewed only as members of their chronological peer group - of whom every one is (treated) as a kind of clone, really. All six year olds must know how to read.  All nine year olds must understand fractions.  All two year olds must know every single colour and shape; letter and number names too, if they're to be ahead and readying for those steeply competitive college years.

And so it goes.

Of course this also means that each person spends the majority of her day (shall we be a teensy bit dramatic and say "life"?  Oh do, let's!) ...spends the majority of her life with about 20 other people her age and one or two adults to supervise the lot.

And we call this "socialization".

I am forced then, to wonder, how that might work for other non-institutionalized or otherwise autonomous people - usually the ones we refer to as "adults".  What if I were only permitted to seek employment with a group of people who were all 35 before June 30th?  That, having met the other basic skill set, the main criteria is that I am the same age as all the other staff.

Sure, I'd have lots of generational stuff in common with them.  ("Remember 'G.I. Joe?  And Jem? Wow!  Memories!  Good times..." and/or "Can you even believe slap bands are in AGAIN?! And neon colours?!  Who knew?")  We may even have some major life milestones in common and other things like political views, spiritual paths... any number of non age-related things.

But then what?

The diversity and range of experiences fit neatly within a three and a half decade time continuum.  The SAME one.  What about having more experienced people to ask for their input?  Or even fresher minds who have new perspectives and totally different histories.

What about having timeline diversity?  Mentors and pioneers? Is it possible that these archetypes can all fit in the same chronological group?  Of course it would be possible.

Likely?  Not so much.

Being lumped in with people your same age is not true socialization.  That's exposure.  Which is different.  Exposure is saying to the learner "Here is a group of people and their ranges of behaviours that they have acquired in the same number of years that you have been alive.   Witness their problem solving skills, conflict resolution, sense of humor, perception of the world around them.  Choose from these people and their behaviours the tools you might like to have use of in the future."

I realize this may sound dramatic.  And it might be for very young children.  But consider your 10 year old.  Your six year old.  There can't be much to gain from associating only with other children who are the same age.

No comments:

Post a Comment