I was having dinner with my favourite cousin who is a teacher this week. We talked about the rising trend in bullying at school. Apparently the worst place for bullying is on the bus - all PEI Kids are bused.
This conversation got me to think more about how magic numbers could help. We know that if we violate these social groupings, that there will be a breakdown in civility. In addition there is the risk that other forms of tribes, gangs and cliques, will emerge to fill the void. Gangs and cliques are power groups that drive a lot of persecution of the outsider and hence bullying. So worse than chaos, the risk is the emergence of social groups that are designed to bully.
There are no formal subgroups in Island Schools. Schools can run from 300 plus to over 1,000. We know that there has to be formal sub groups of no more than 150 for a natural; social order and that it is even better to have further formal sub groups of about 8 and 35. These match the organizational building blocks of any army and are the social, cognitive and reproductive groupings of all tribal organization. With no formal subgroups, gangs, cliques (the female version of a gang and just as awful) have to arise and bullying will become pandemic. It works like this. We are all hardwired to see the "outsider" as outside our protection - as not even human. Hence a kind family man who loves his children and pats his dog can justify his work to himself and to his family of being a concentration camp guard. . The "other" is at best to be ignored - more often persecuted.
Darla Thompson and I wondered if we could as an experiment set up a tribal society in her school. Think for a moment about Hogwarts, now the best known school in the world. Like many English boarding schools, Hogwarts breaks down the large number of students in the school as a whole into groups that fit magic numbers
. There are 4 "Houses" at Hogwarts that are the centre of life for the individual. On the train ride to the school the 1st yearer is isolated and alone. He or she has no protection and has no source of information about what is going on. However, the first act of arriving is to have the Hat choose for each new student their House. From that point on you are part of a tribal society where the role of the elders is to organize, discipline and protect the young. Each house competes with the others in academic achievement - the collective not only the individual. Each house competes for points for good and bad deeds - so behaviour becomes a collective issue. Each house competes for sporting achievement - participation again becomes a collective issue. House prefects are responsible for most of the discipline and not the teachers who are largely freed up to teach and to mentor. At all times the individual has to consider what they learn, how they behave, and what sport they do in the collective context of their allegiance to the tribe - the house.
In this structure the "other" are not the younger or the more vulnerable but the other houses. Each house protects its most vulnerable collectively. In this structure the age cohorts are connected on the vertical axis as well as the older kids have responsibilities for the younger ones.
So how might we do this on PEI?
Darla's great idea - to make the bus the Tribe. On PEI the bus you take is the 1-2 hour time of the day where all the kids of all ages in your community are together travelling back and forth to school. You travel with the same group for years and you all live close to each other. The bus is currently the hot bed of bullying. What if the Wood Islands Bus stopped being yellow and having only a number but had a distinctive paint job with the Wood Islands Logo? What if new kids were inducted into the Wood Islands Bus? What if there were prefects on the bus? What if teachers who lived in Wood Islands were the official coaches of the Bus Tribe? What if there was competition between the bus tribes on points for learning, behaviour and sports? What might happen with the parents whose kids were members of a bus tribe?
What do you think?