Friday, December 09, 2005

Closing in on childrens' social skills: better for us or them?

About a month back, I came across an article I wanted to share with the class out of the Boston Globe. It was the November 13th issue, the article entitled, "Don't underestimate the value of social skills," by Penelope Trunk. In this article, the importance of having social skills was emphasized, and related to how they impact the workplace. The article touched on the notion of "in" and "out groups" and mentioned "how we value competence changes depending on whether we like someone or not" (p. G 1). What I thought was very interesting was what educators are doing now to promote this skill set. It seems that schools are starting to work on children during their playground days now, plucking out those who seem to need extra help in socializing with other children, and giving them a "variety of therapeutic approaches [that can] teach a child social skills while their brain is still forming" (p. G12). I couldn't believe it when I read that they were doing this at such an early age now, considering the number of years children have before they need to enter the workplace; and I'm still not sure of how I feel about it all. However, I do think that being liked, as Trunk notes in her article, is key to landing a job, or staying at a job. We are being conditioned now to be in the "in" groups, whether we know it or not. However, I'm not sure if the educators' decision to start on children this early was for the childrens benefit as much as it is for the organization the child may grow up to work in. Kenneth Burke's notion of identification sticks out for me while I'm rehashing this stuff. Will we feel more guilty for the children who grow up with under-the-par social skills? Or are we worried more about ourselves, as potential managers or co-workers who may feel guilty not being able to break through the wall of difference between ourselves and someone other than us (which is what Burke's theory deals with)? I'd like to think it's for the children, but in a capitalist society that is very self-concerned, I can't be so sure. Thoughts?