「ST」は紙名を新たに「Alpha」として2018年6月29日より新創刊しました。 Alpha以降の英文記事はこちら
「ST」は紙名を新たに「Alpha」として2018年6月29日より新創刊しました。 Alpha以降の英文記事はこちら


Speed friending

By Tony Laszlo


Remember trying to fit in to school cliques — sometimes succeeding, sometimes not? I'm not talking about clubs or circles, which are easy to get into, but cliques, which are not. Membership in a clique is gained and maintained not so much by being a bird of a feather as by eagerly chasing off the other birds.

Somehow, I had almost convinced myself that there weren't any cliques around when I was in school, back in my state of New Jersey. But they were all there: the sporty jocks, the proper preps, the smarty-pants nerds. Perhaps I'd forgotten about them because I hadn't been a member.

My son is now in middle school, and I know from his experience that kids nowadays are clumping and being clumped into more or less the same groups as in my day. Although gadgets and trends change with the times, basic social behavior hasn't.

Someone who, like me, ends up on the outside of these "in groups" is called a lone wolf. Paradoxically, they too can form a group: loners. Frankly, I find this puzzling. How can you be in a group, and still be alone?

Alternatively, loners may look to students in other grades for friendship. This was the choice that I made. Older kids were wise and experienced enough to know almost as much as adults — sometimes more. By hanging out with one or two of them, I eventually figured out that the world is bigger than I had been led to believe. For me, at any rate, these communications taught me more about work, life and morality than anything I learned in class.

If schools facilitate friendships between grades, they can help today's kids to step around the cliques. One way to encourage this is called "speed friending." For this, students all pair up in a hall and, for a few minutes, ask and answer simple, engaging questions. The kids then switch partners and repeat, switch and repeat, all while trying to remember names and faces. Think speed dating without the dating, or speed networking without the business cards.

Partly as a reaction to the U.S.'s many school shootings, in which shooters are often loners, speed friending is being implemented increasingly in high schools. By fostering more diverse bonds among students, educators hope to counter isolation. Sounds like a good idea, and not only when violence is commonplace. By reaching up a grade or two, a kid might find a once-in-a-lifetime mentor. By reaching down, they can become one. At the very least, they'll have a few more chances to wave and nod hello on campus. And maybe something might just "click," turning new acquaintances into real friends.



The Japan Times ST: June 22, 2018

The Japan Times ST 読者アンケート




2018年6月29日号    試読・購読   デジタル版