The way I put it to myself had to do with "age segregation." Every time I thought of middle school or high school, I would think: all those 14-year olds together in one place---eeek!
The age segregation of the middle school struck me as particularly unnatural. K-8 schools seemed a more constructive social grouping, and in fact there is evidence that K-8 schools are more constructive academically, although I'm not going to take the time to look it up just now. (Middle school posts here.)
In any event, age segregation bad is as far as I ever took this line of thought -- until this week, when I ordered Hold On to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More than Peers by Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Maté. Debbie S was raving about it, so I got it.
Neufeld's book is a revelation.
Neufeld puts into words the inchoate thoughts and intuitions I've had re: kids, schools, and parental authority (helicopter parent posts here).
Hold On to Your Kids argues that teens are being raised by teens -- and that our culture sees this historically unprecedented situation as normal and correct.
The chief and most damaging of the competing attachments that undermine parenting authority and parental love is the increasing bonding of our children with their peers. It is the thesis of this book that the disorder affecting the generations of young children and adolescents now heading toward adulthood is rooted in the lost orientation of children toward the nurturing adults in their lives....For the first time in history young people are turning for instruction, modeling, and guidance not to mothers, fathers, teachers, and other responsible adults but to people whom nature never intended to place in a parenting role--their own peers. They are not manageable, teachable, or maturing because they no longer take their cues from adults. Instead, children are being brought up by immature persons who cannot possibly guide them to maturity. They are being brought up by each other.I imagine Neufeld and Maté are going to say that a school, depending upon its culture, can act to increase -- or to decrease -- "peer orientation," but we'll see.
That is certainly what I've observed.