Saturday, March 10, 2012

Why is School Like That?

I've been pondering the mystery of college vs. high school. Let's say it's because of the recent focus on school bullying. This post was inspired by something I actually can't discuss because of confidentiality rules in some volunteer work I do.

I hope that's obscure enough.

I've pondered a question: why is it that bullying is one of the worst problems in school until you get to college? It's not just that not everybody goes to college; that would assume that all the bullies don't go. That may be what we want to think: bullies are idiots. But they aren't. I think it comes down to class.

Most everybody goes to elementary school, junior high, and high school. Almost all victims and their bullies are in these schools. If you're getting bullied while being home schooled, you have more problems than the evening news has covered thus far. Did I just stumble upon a new YA? Anyway...

My theory is that from college on, class is hidden. Through high school it is naked. Everybody knows who is on free lunch, everybody knows who has the latest gadget, everybody knows who lives where. When you get to college you are on your own, out of your parents' house for the most part, and manhandling massive future debt is a common feature for the majority. Even the richest parents may not pay tuition for their scions. Within your department and your major you can find all the us vs. them you could want, and if you wish you can add a sorority or fraternity identity. Plus, you are called upon to be a bit more sophisticated in your attitudes and behaviors. High school is prison; college is a country club. You are of the college class. The have-nots are now in menial jobs. Beneath mention. You, by virtue of an acceptance letter, are acceptable; you are a winner, and so is everyone around you.

And it ain't just about school.

Adulthood is a continuation of class separation, whether we acknowledge it or not. Think adults are all sophisticated and able to leave petty differences behind? Yeah, force people together in times of crisis. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. What I've been contemplating is just how rarely the different classes mix in day-to-day life, and how awkward it can be when they do. We are embarrassed and embarrassing in our turn. I haven't read or seen The Help, but I fear the cringe-worthiness.

As a last point, I should mention that I don't believe in any classless society, anywhere. Surprise. Maybe most schools have no major problems and all the kids are happy together in their identity as Wildcats or Warriors or Spartans of Anytown, USA, but I fear for those who aren't. I hope they make it to college.

P.S. Please support your local Red Cross. Volunteer if you can.

1 comment:

Paul [Daniel] Asuncion, BLUE said...

Lorelei [one of the best and the brightest]:

Hello again!

Every time we watch the news, we see examples of bullying - but on an enormous scale. Syria. Tanks firing on apartment buildings...

Even in the animal world. One animal wanting a mate has to fight another animal. The meaner, more violent one usually wins. Bullying in the animal world!

My point is not to strike a pessimistic note, but to merely suggest that such behaviour is deeply ingrained.