Best friends never

Kids shouldn’t have a best friend, say “some educators and other professionals,” reports the New York Times.

. . .  the classic best-friend bond — the two special pals who share secrets and exploits, who gravitate to each other on the playground and who head out the door together every day after school — signals potential trouble for school officials intent on discouraging anything that hints of exclusivity, in part because of concerns about cliques and bullying.

“I think it is kids’ preference to pair up and have that one best friend. As adults — teachers and counselors — we try to encourage them not to do that,” said Christine Laycob, director of counseling at Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day School in St. Louis. “We try to talk to kids and work with them to get them to have big groups of friends and not be so possessive about friends.”

In the baby-boom era, kids found their own friends. Our mothers were busy with our younger siblings. We worked out our problems ourselves.

Now some summer camps have hired “friendship coaches” to make sure no child is excluded. They encourage children to have lots of playmates but no “best” friends.

Psychologists say strong friendships provide emotional support and security. And they “help children develop the skills for healthy adult relationships — everything from empathy, the ability to listen and console, to the process of arguing and making up.”  Adults shouldn’t interfere with children’s “normal social pain,” says Michael Thompson, a psychologist who is co-author of the book Best Friends, Worst Enemies: Understanding the Social Lives of Children.

“Friendship coaches” had better stay away from my daughters and their friends, rants Russell Arben Fox, who concedes it’s “pointless and silly to allow oneself to get worked up over another one the NYT’s patented create-controversy-and-concern-out-of-a-no-doubt-minute-slice-of-upper-middle-class-New-York-life Style section articles.” (Breaking up close friendships seems to be a private school and summer camp thing, if the Times is to be believed.)

Diane Auer Jones, still friends with Evie, the best friend she made at the age of five, thinks parents can handle friendships gone wrong without interference from teachers, counselors or friendship coaches.

My daughter had two best friends in middle school who became bitter enemies when one stole the other’s boyfriend. Allison learned a lot about being in the middle. (She is an honorary member of the Former Girlfriends of Arthur club.) Eventually, the friends turned enemies became friends again. When one moved to Kansas with her husband, the other followed with her husband. They live a few blocks away from each other.

I’m trying to persuade my best friend from high school to go to our 40th reunion in October.

About Joanne


  1. Brave New World, anyone? The next step will be to discourage strong romantic attachments and to promote promiscuity in the name of equality. Oh, wait, the “experts” have already done that.

    Remember the song…”Make new friends but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold..”? A dated sentiment, I guess.

  2. Richard Nieporent says:

    How do educators come up with these ideas? Not only is this dumb but it is dangerous. Nobody gave them the right to attempt to remake human nature. I guess individualism doesn’t fit the model of the socialist world that they are trying to create.

  3. wahoofive says:

    Boy the “socialism” accusation sure comes easy to some lips, doesn’t it?

    The wellspring of this ridiculous idea is more likely the impractical goal of trying to make sure no one’s feelings ever get hurt in school. It’s just another “zero tolerance” policy, a reasonable concern taken to an outrageous extreme, like busting kids for having Advil or wearing a hat with pictures of toy soldiers on it.

  4. Isn’t socialism just a society-wide “zero tolerance” policy?

  5. Like what real teacher in public education has the time to worry about crap like this? Come on, this is a concern of the elite upper to upper middle class private and semi-private schools, not the general run of public education, where we’re more worried about dealing with disruptive kids in big class settings and keeping the mean kids from bullying the milder ones while keeping the all-important test scores climbing.

    Buy a dose of reality!

  6. How much are we as a society paying “experts” to blather on about stuff like this?

    However much it is, it’s way too much/

  7. Richard Nierporent wrote:How do educators come up with these ideas?

    It’s Darwin at work.

    The quality of the ideas that succeed is a measure of the environment – what it nurtures and what it ignores.

    Educators embrace stupid, crappy ideas because the environment in which they exist doesn’t value good ideas.

  8. Richard asked: How do educators come up with these ideas?

    Allen answered: Educators embrace stupid, crappy ideas because the environment in which they exist doesn’t value good ideas.

    Well said, Allen. But, I will add that they learn to embrace this type of thinking in the politically correct, constructivist, and postmodern world of ed school. By and large, their ed school professors disdain true scientific research and embrace personalistic views of knowledge, which promotes charlatans and pseudoscientists who advocate nonsense to the status of rock stars in the education field.

  9. Oh, get over yourselves. It’s Mary Day, for heaven’s sake. “Society” isn’t paying anything — private schools with enormous endowments and more money than they know what to do with are.

    I think Joanne needs a chicken little tag.

  10. The constructivist ideas feel good and ostensibly have research to back them up. Most educators don’t have the background or training to realize that said research is complete crap.

  11. Thank you anon but you’ve got it backwards. It’s not the ed schools that are responsible for the crackpot ideas but the K-12 system. The indifference to teaching skill that’s institutionally universal in the K-12 system makes crackpot ideas attractive to the ed schools.

    Crackpot ideas have a number of virtues not the least of which is providing the illusion of progress without the difficulties of progress. When you don’t really have any interest in educating the kids you’ve got to offer something to the public to satisfy a desire for visible results.

    Crackpot ideas, what I call “edu-crap”, satisfies the desire for an indication that the education system is doing something worthwhile.

    Oh, and Lightly Seasoned? The whole state of California mandated whole word reading instruction. A crackpot idea that practically qualifies as an antique.

    I don’t think the whole state of California qualifies as a “private schools with enormous endowments”. That worked out pretty well for California, didn’t it?

  12. redkudu says:

    Before I clicked to the article I thought this was an Onion piece.

  13. SuperSub says:

    This is what happens when schools empower themselves with educating the “whole” child. Schools try to squeeze in nonsense character education that usually requires 20-30 years of life experience into a series of 15 minute lessons.
    I have yet to see any explicit character education programs show any amount of success. Any “character education” I received from school was coincidental by observing how my teachers interacted with students and each other.

  14. Schools should do one thing and do it well; teach academics in a disciplined, orderly environment.

  15. allen: how would I know? I’ve never stepped foot in California. Nice red herring, btw.

  16. Or in any private school either I suspect.

  17. The other thing this idea doesn’t consider, as most education fads don’t, is how difficult this broad-and-shallow model of friendship would be on introverts. There are some people for whom the act of socializing with a large group is quite difficult, even a little painful. To favor this mode of socialization is to favor extroverts over introverts, which I guess is a perfectly fine form of discrimination these days.

    Also, I’ll say that working with large groups is distinct from socializing with them. Personally, when it comes to work, I can be perfectly comfortable with a group of dozens of people. When it comes to socializing, I find being around more than a few people to be mentally exhausting. When I was growing up, all I could manage was 2 or 3 good friends, and it would have been tough to hear from the people running the school that that wasn’t OK.

  18. “some educators and other professionals” need to butt out.

  19. That this article was in the Fashion section explains it all.


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