School is a terrible environment for learning social skills and having real social exchanges.
At school, kids interact almost exclusively with people in the same grade. They might have some interaction with those one year above or below but next to none with anyone outside that range.
School narrows social interaction with peers
What do kids of the same age attending the same school also share? Almost invariably they share the same post code, socioeconomic status, culture, social activities. Everything is common to their suburb.
They’re often more competitive too, not in healthy ways, but in seeking approval from peers, forming cliques, in-groups and out-groups etc. There’s no variety in who they see everyday, so they behave differently to people outside the school environment. Tension and hostility tends to bubble just beneath the surface, which leads to bullying. In environments where this age segregation doesn’t exist and people can interact more freely, rates of bullying are much lower. Rates tend to be lower still in environments where bullying, manipulation and coercion aren’t directly modelled to the students by teachers on a daily basis.
School also limits access to adults
Kids interact almost exclusively with the same teacher all year, they might have an aide if they’re lucky. That’s predominantly one adult for an entire year, perhaps half a dozen combined for any substantial amount of time.
That’s low but when you consider the nature of the relationship it’s even worse. School life is about following teacher instructions – doing things that please the authority figure and avoiding things that annoy them. There’s no mutual benefit or shared goal student and teacher work towards. Kids learn to seek rewards and avoid painful consequences. The situation is analogous to prisoner and prison guard, even if there is a feigned benevolence. Cross the teacher and you will pay.
Where’s the diversity?
Where are the relationships operating on mutual respect instead of control and coercion? Wouldn’t kids learn better from people in different stages of real careers? Why aren’t kids working alongside people doing valuable and meaningful things?
What about simply meeting and collaborating with a variety of people beyond the same few they see every day?
What might real socialisation look like
An improvement to this would see kids interacting with a variety of people. Crucially, doing so on their own terms. They’d learn caring and nurturing skills when with people much younger, and the young ones would learn to negotiate and communicate better from older kids and adults.
Kids would have more than one quality interaction with an adult every 2 months. They could speak with and learn from a multitude of people working and doing cool things in the areas that interest them. They would have the opportunity to ask questions, help out and gain real skills from real people.
These relationships would be more meaningful because all parties would have the power to choose to interact with or avoid whoever they please. This is not only a positive for well-being and treating kids humanely, it also prevents the authority pleasing mindset from hampering them long-term. This would end the notion young people have no voice and can be subjected to control and coercion no adult would tolerate.
Parents are already raising their kids this way
There are people already living like this. They’re ‘unschoolers’. While unschooling is a huge spectrum, it’s not hard to imagine that most are having a more diverse and meaningful social experience than their schooled peers.