As we’re talking about school and cultures (or just school, or just culture), let’s not forget that neither school nor culture is an anonymous, impersonal force.  Culture and school are both made up of people.  And people, in all settings, interact with other people.  Schools, we’ve seen and discussed, may have official characters, defined rules and policies (even mission statements), but they also have unofficial, personal, socially-defined characters.

Friends?And a big part of that is connections among and between people.  In some of our readings for unit 1 (I’m thinking particularly of the chapter from Tom Sawyer), and in some of your reflections and forum posts, a theme I kept seeing was how friendships, or sometimes the lack thereof, are a defining feature of students’ experience of school.  Many of you talked of the social dimensions of your own educational histories, and your own educational presents.  Making friends, making enemies, being bullied, being a bully, falling in love, breaking up, gossip, team work and competition–all of these are more a part of the experience of school than anything that comes out of a textbook.  We’ll see this again in the readings for this unit.

Friends?In fact, it might be the fights and the friendships, the friends and the enemies (or frenemies) which we remember the most about school.  And isn’t this true about culture, too?  If we’re talking about each of us having (being embedded in, and having embedded within us) multiple cultures, we should also be talking about the groups (of people) which form those cultures.  And it’s not all cooperation and teamwork, either.  Many times what goes on in school is about competing or struggling with another group or another people, defining oneself and one’s culture in opposition to others.  That’s part of what I mean with “frenemies.”  Fighting with someone, for young people and even older people, is sometimes a way of showing affection, or it can become affection, or it can cement affections with others.

And there’s learning there, too (which is why we remember it).  When my daughter started kindergarten, years ago, her teacher told me that the main goal of kindergarten was not teaching kids to count or to read or to know their colors and shapes.  It was teaching them to interact with each other, not to grab, not to hit, how to sit still and stand in line.  And that’s just the teacher’s idea of the social learning that has to take place in that early year.  What went on at recess, what goes on in college dorms or chatrooms or hallways or bars or Starbuck’s–that might be where some very important education (and building of culture) really happens.

As we move to the future of education, as we start opening our classrooms to the wider (online?) world, we also will see new ways for the social, interpersonal part of schooling to work.  I think that humans are endlessly adaptable in getting what they need and finding new ways to create their social spheres.  We’ve talked about how the medium of writing, or the barrier of a computer screen, may interfere with human interaction.  But I think humans need that interaction, and we find a way to get it, even if it takes a different shape.  After all, even our discussion about the ways that writing or computers can interfere with human contact took place in writing on computers! And I think those were some fairly rich discussions, and I think there’s a type of human contact–even developing friendships–happening in this class.

Or if not in this class, at least other places online.  Online friends? Online enemies? Online frenemies?  Just as in “traditional” classroom, there is a “back-channel,” an unofficial culture, and we make it (or you do) among and between and against each other, and we learn from that, too.  So what shapes will school friendships take in the future of education?  What do you think?