How about a little conversation? As I said I’ve had some things rattling around in my head and they must get out. Maybe unblocking my brain will free the creative side.
As I’ve been sitting on my couch, I hear it’s coming back in to vogue, I often wonder about stuff. I’ve always been an observer. I tend to be invisible when in a crowd. It isn’t really a superpower since I do nothing to make it happen. I’m just not flashy and tend to be more quiet in a group setting. When I view what’s going on it makes me think and often I start with why.
Human beings have a need to be social. For the most part it’s in all of us to be part of a pack or part of a tribe. We want to fit in and be accepted. Sure there is a continuum of how social we are. Some like to sit on the edge. Others like to be right in the center. Maybe some only need to view the group from a distance to feel involved. Then there are the ones who seem to have their own spotlight so no one can miss them.
From the time we are small we are given clues to follow. Some of the clues are subtle and others are a brick to the head. I remember being in elementary school and being required to line up to walk to the cafeteria. We were lined up by height, smallest in the front. I was number 2 in line and the nun would walk along beside the line keeping us to the right and moving at the same pace. Just the other day I saw the local preschool walking a group of kids all wearing orange vests and holding on to a rope from the church to the playground across the street. It gave me flashbacks.
In 6th grade I had a really fantastic team of teachers. I don’t know if it was standard practice for upper elementary schools but we had teams of 3 teachers and we “changed” classes much like junior high and high school. Granted we did just have the entire class get up and walk the prescribed route as a group. One of these teachers I really admired. She was fun and very cool. She rode a motorcycle to school in the good weather and wore a leather jacket. It was the 70’s. All week long she’d tell us if we were good and got our work done on Friday afternoon she’d play music while we worked on the last of our work. All week long when anyone stepped out of line a peer was there to call them out and get them back on the straight and narrow.
I used to volunteer in H’s elementary school. I’d go in once a month or so and help in the classroom. I remember the first grade teacher, who I wasn’t much of a fan of though other parents loved her, having the children follow an intricate set of steps when doing their work. It involved plastic colored bread closures and little cups used to denote that you’d finished the particular assignment. Every time I was there one or more children were scolded for not placing their bread tab in the correct cup when they’d completed their assignment. Often I’d have heard one child tell another in a whisper to do their bread tab.
In each of these situations conditioning was being practiced. People were being trained to be part of the group and do “the right thing.” If they didn’t do as was expected they were called out by both the person in charge and often by the other children.
Requiring people to walk on the right side of the hallway is innocuous enough. It’s for safety as much as don’t run in the hallway is. But at what point does conditioning become manipulation? Is it manipulation when the peers are encouraged to call out those who don’t go along? How many steps is it from manipulation to coercion?