To find our identity is the most powerful urge that we have. Most of us find it in a Tribe. Yes even today. Teens are perhaps the most tribal of all humans. They claim individuality but dress, do their hair, listen to music tribally.
School is all about Tribes. The In Group - The Cool set - the Goths - the Nerds and so on.
I think that what causes so many to get much less from school than they could is that most schools don't see the Tribal issue for what it is. In most schools, especially in Middle School, the losers are those that enjoy school. The folks that find school dull or worse who find school makes them feel inadequate switch off and become by grade 9 THE most important Tribe to belong to.
We have seen how Harrow has understood this and has made Designing a Social System to produce Healthy Tribes that support the student. We have seen how Englewood School is grappling with this. We have sen how Alice Byrne school in Yuma is ealing with the problem of the early years where the pattern of failure is set.
Today let's look at one vector that any school can consider.
The school bus!
It is unlikely that your school can be like Harrow. Not every school has the human resources and farsightedness that Englewood has. But most schools have a bus.
But first what is the problem we are seeking to fix?
The big issue is Engagement - Tribal forces at schools attract most of the kids away from learning and into dysfunction and rebellion. This is not because the kids are bad - it is because they are human. They are reacting to the social design of the school.
- There are no official and authentic positive tribes for them to belong to - so they make their own - this is what happens in prison
- They are cooped up in tight age cohorts - so all their peers are as ignorant as they are
- They have no responsibility - so they become rebellious and helpless - they do not care enough for others especially for those that are struggling
- All the power is located in the teaching staff - this makes the teachers into remote warders and makes power and control the central feature of the relationship
Good Social Design has to counter act all of these flaws.
So let's look at the bus then.
Social Scale - Most buses have about 70 kids in them from the full age range of the school. Most kids use the same bus for their time at the school unless they move. The bus satisfies the rules of an authentic tribe. It is in the right size. Harrow houses are set at about 70 boys. The Roman Cohort is 80 and the Fibonacci ideal is 89. 70 is in the sweet spot.
Age Diversity - Kids will be from all the ages in the school. This sets up a natural hierarchy where it will be possible for the school to create Student Authority Figures whose role is to be responsible for all the kids not only on the bus run but throughout their time at school as well. The Bus is the House! Buses can be a jungle but they can also be the centre of life and the tribe that all can relate too.
Tribal Identity - At Hogwarts and at Harrow the Houses allow their members to wear distinctive clothing and to be the foundation of all competitive urges. Sport - Work - Music - whatever - the house/bus/tribe is the unit that kids compete from. This creates cohesion and reinforces identity.
Staff Tribe - Staff would be connected as Coaches to each Tribe. At Harrow each house has a lot of staff who are also part of the Tribe - the House Master, the House Tutor and 10 other Tutors. This relationship is outside the class room! They are there to help and they are part of the Tribe. At Engelwood, The Tribes are coached! Coached not by their form room teacher but by others who are not involved in the power issues of the class.
Distinction - Every house at Harrow - every house at Hogwarts is distinct. In the military regiments are distinct. Make the buses distinct. At the moment they are all Yellow and just have numbers. Why not have your bus a traditional colour? Why not give it a name linked to the place that it draws from?
What might happen if you did this?
You would have set up powerful social counter forces to the Kids forming their own tribes - especially the Tribe of the Loser which is the pre-eminent tribe in many schools today. You would have countered all the negative forces.
You would have set up a culture that leads to real citizenship which surely is the goal. You would set up a culture that was open to leaning.
Would this be fun as well?