Fighting Inequality

School bans kids from having best friends.
Thomas’s Battersea, the school George attends, bans kids from having best friends, Marie Claire reports. Instead, teachers encourage all students to form bonds with one another to avoid creating feelings of exclusions among those without best friends.

The trend of banning best friends has been growing for several years, and it’s spread beyond European borders to American schools as well. Some psychologists and parents argue kids become more well-adjusted when they have larger friend groups and can avoid negative feelings associated with feeling left out.
Equality sure turns out to be a problematic goal. Maybe we should consider the possibility that it isn't always the right goal. Hannah Arendt said that the only sense in which equality was desirable was 'equality before the law,' which we have definitely not attained and could still usefully be working on achieving. Maybe most of these other senses of the word are actually even undesirable. I don't want good doctors and bad doctors equally likely to be my doctor, and indeed, I don't know that I want bad doctors even equally likely to be doctors. I'm sure I don't want everyone equally likely to be doctors, whether or not they are otherwise qualified.

Equality may just not be the right goal, most of the time. That doesn't mean it isn't crucially important in those limited cases in which it really is the right goal. It just means that, often, it's not what we should be after. Pursuing it instead of the proper goal is unlikely to work out well.

11 comments:

Eric Blair said...

It has become another goal in and of itself, with little regard to what that goal really implies.

Korora said...

"Life is a joy in Our Town
"We're all equal here
"No one is superior
"And no one shakes in fear
"In Our Town, in Our Town
"We work as a team
"You can't have a nightmare
"If you never dream."

-- The anthem of a cult straight out of Harrison Bergeron in one of the Friendship Is Magic episodes.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Intense and exclusive friendships provide some protection against the incursions of government and authority, in a similar way that the family does (or should). Many milder friends fits you more properly for hive behavior. I write this as one who has always had many mild friends, so it's not just spite talking.

As for "better adjustment," that sounds very suspicious to me. I wonder what their definition was? I greatly suspect that we are again witnessing social scientists who cannot separate correlation from causation. Children who are already well-adjusted, because of genes or training, will make friends more easily. They are therefore likely to have more friends. This is not evidence that having more friends is better for you. Needs vary, and I will assert that beyond a certain threshold, the addition of 10 or a hundred friends adds little to one's life. The desire to do so might merely be a good quality swollen out of proportion. OTOH, those who are pathological might have no friends for good reasons. They therefore pull down whatever average adjustment the observers are measuring, making the group of people who have one friend or few - who might be quite well-adjusted - look bad.

Also, circumstances can vary from day-to-day. There are times when it is best to have learned to be alone, some when a single close friend is the best medicine, some when a small convivial team meets the need, and some hours when the ability to interact pleasantly with many people is the best thing. Being good at the lattermost of these does not guarantee any skill at the others.

The impulse for this likely stems from feeling sad for lonely children and wishing those others on the playground were more available to them. There are other ways of fixing this.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I should have noted that I learned the sentiment in the first paragraph from CS Lewis, writing over seventy years ago.

Larry Harman said...

AVI, I recognized the tone of Lewis in your quote, and it made me wonder whether these social scientists were perhaps seeking to fit people better for the collective.

Grim said...

Intense and exclusive friendships provide some protection against the incursions of government and authority, in a similar way that the family does (or should).

Indeed. That's more or less just how I feel about it.

raven said...

Yes, exactly. Putty for the rulers.

A nice smooth mish mash , oil on the water, every nail pounded down to the same level, everyone as an equally crappy achiever, all the spices blended together in a uniform gray pap....

All this shit does is make the individual more vulnerable-are any of those acquaintances going to stick for you the way your best friend will?

jaed said...

It strikes me that such a policy also teaches children that their loyalty toward other, specific people ought to be crushed out. If friendship is fungible—if you might as well have five sorta-friends as one best friend, because after all, you're spending just as much "time with friends"—then what does that tell you about the value of friendship? Certainly that it doesn't inhere in who you choose to be your friend.

Christopher B said...

Hannah Arendt said that the only sense in which equality was desirable was 'equality before the law,' which we have definitely not attained and could still usefully be working on achieving.

'Equality before the law' is being pretty specifically rejected in a lot of quarters these days, in favor of the other kinds of equality.

E Hines said...

'Equality before the law' is being pretty specifically rejected in a lot of quarters these days....

Not just these days. See Affirmative Action programs.

Eric Hines

Ymar Sakar said...

Equality is a necessary prerequisite for Lucifer.