This week The Sun reported that schools across the United Kingdom are instituting bans on best friends. If a teacher notices that two children are developing more intimate friendships, they direct the children to play in a large group instead.
A member of the National Association of Head Teachers confirmed that some schools are implementing a no best friends policy. The reasoning behind the ban is that school officials are trying to spare children the pain of broken friendships later on. The Campaign for Real Education called the policy ridiculous and argued that schools are robbing children of their childhoods.
This latest move by school officials further illustrates the way in which modern education denies a child’s fundamental humanity. Not only are schools failing to recognize that children have souls which need to be cultivated, but they are further refusing to recognize a basic human need: friendship.
C.S. Lewis in The Four Loves argues that the greatest of the four loves is friendship. Where moderns value romantic love as the highest love, the Bible talks about friendship more than any other relationship. The love that David had for his best friend Jonathan was greater than any love David had for a woman. And there is no greater love, teaches the Scriptures, than a man laying down his life for a friend. Interestingly we almost always think about that verse in romantic terms; we think of a man dying for the woman he loves. But not so. The greatest love is the self-sacrificial love of a friend.
So in an attempt to spare children the pain that sometimes comes from relationships in a Fallen world, schools will deny children the greatest blessing as well: intimate friendship. The opportunity to love and to be loved. Truly the tender mercies of the ungodly are cruel.
I can’t help but wonder if this is also a case of egalitarianism run amok–a desire to see children play in groups without preferring some individuals over others. We must all love each other the same amount and in the same way.
One thing’s for sure. This new ban undermines the old complaint about homeschooling—children need to attend public schools to be properly socialized. I think I’ll start telling people that I’m homeschooling so that my children can have healthy social lives , best friends and all.