Because American children in public schools boast scores in math, science, and language arts that are skyrocketing (just kidding), naturally administrators have taken on the far more important focus: social skills.
This last year, some American schools took a cue from our friends across the pond and decided exclusivity in friendship was a bad thing and that schools should ban kids from having best friends. This is not only a difficult, if not impossible, thing to enforce, but it’s hardly something about which schools should focus.
While social skills are important, the main priority should be education.
This psychologist writes in U.S. News that she’s on the fence about this new trend, but ultimately embraces it:
Many of you will suggest that our kids should toughen up and will become hardier if they learn to deal with the natural shifts in friendships that are inevitable. Perhaps, there is some truth to that. However, I am concerned about the bigger picture, which includes the pain associated with exclusion and the gentle comfort associated with inclusion.
It’s true, “best friend” is inclusive in nature and when a child doesn’t feel like he has one, that can be painful. I’ve watched my older two children navigate the minefield of adolescent friendships — which isn’t nearly as tricky as the teen years—and even some of those experiences have made me wince. I’ve watched as the more extroverted girl in the group garners all the attention from her young, babbling friends, and noticed the quieter one on the edge left out. It looks painful and it most certainly feels that way, particularly for the child.
However, understanding social dynamics, cultivating deep friendships, and being an approachable friend is all part of growing up. Sometimes it’s often the pain of being excluded, or wishing for a “best friend” that teaches the child to be a more friendly person, and to develop his own strengths.
Banning a social concept like “best friend” because it might hurt is like banning junk food in grocery stores because it might make people fat. It might fix the superficial problem, but it doesn’t teach kids anything about how to operate in society.
The Biblical concepts of friendships truly prove helpful here. As Proverbs 18:24 says, “A man that has friends must be friendly.”
Not only would this concept be difficult to enforce and does no social favors for the child, it’s simply an inappropriate area of focus for a school system. Their main priority should be rigorous education — kids math and science scores are still lagging globally.
The trend for schools to focus on self-esteem, inclusion, and gender equality, while eighth graders struggle to understand algebra, is as puzzling as it is absurd. Schools should teach children reading, writing, and math; encourage them to be friendly and kind to one another; then get back to focusing on their education.
Nicole Russell is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. She is a journalist in Washington, D.C., who previously worked in Republican politics in Minnesota. She was the 2010 recipient of the American Spectator's Young Journalist Award.
If you would like to write an op-ed for the Washington Examiner, please read our guidelines on submissions here.