In the current society, the meaning and purpose behind schools have very directly become the quality of life that they can offer you. But the greater reality is that this quality of life that we talk about is a direct consequence of the social and mental growth that the school helps a child achieve.
Social growth is a very interesting phenomenon to observe. Human beings are predominantly social animals and we achieve a feeling of safety and fulfillment only when there is some sense of community and oneness. This is not subject to individual preference. We are hardwired to feel safe around people since it is this collectivity and tendency to form tribes that kept us alive and helped us survive. Because of this way of life and survival, we evolved to have many emotions associated with those around us.
Human beings, unlike other mammals, are born prematurely. Meaning, we are born before our body is equipped to keep itself alive or even function in the direction of keeping itself alive. A human baby is completely dependent on their parents. There is a very scientific reason behind it. The size of a human brain is larger in proportion to the human body, in comparison to other mammals. A developed human brain cannot be delivered from a human body and hence, to make the process of birth less fatal and more efficient, human beings evolved to give birth to babies while they are still premature.
Our complex social connections start from a very young age, come to think of it. Some of the studies by the renounced psychologist Sigmund Freud, assert that infants are heavily psychologically influenced by their caretakers. Everything from the amount of attention, affection and physical closeness, and warmth that a child experiences in their infancy deeply impacts their social patterns as they grow up. On top of that, since human infants are so dependent on their parents for survival, human beings are just as emotionally connected to their children.
So to put it into perspective, when a child plays with their mother by making faces at them, laughing at their peek-a-boo plays and crying out loud when not paid attention are all first signs of social growth that a human beings experience and from here we are on a consistent journey of social growth till the end of our lives.
One of the reasons why schools, as a social construct has thrived through decades and many centuries is because it is built and designed to suit this very need for social growth in humans. Starting from nursery schools, human beings are actively encouraged to socialize, communicate, and form bonds, share emotions and fulfill their social needs.
But here comes the question we want our children to ask. When this need to socialize and our ability to socialize are so deeply encoded in our genetic memory, why do we need schools to push us in that direction? Before human civilization reached a point of organized and systematic education, we still formed a friendship and met our social needs. Why do we need schools to direct us in our pursuit of social growth?
Significance Of Schooling For Social Animals
Just as much as we are all aware that we survive collectively and that we are made to live within a sense of community and oneness for our maximum fulfillment in life, it is also true that human beings are more twisted and complex than that.
Just as much as we need others to keep ourselves alive, it is also true that we have to compete with the same people to survive. Ever since the evolution of the modern man, we have been trying to navigate between limited resources available to keep everyone alive, and our need to co-exist with others.
We can observe this phenomenon with every human relationship. Siblings compete with each other for their parent’s love and affection. Classmates compete with each other for social validation and competence, much like trees compete with each other and grow taller for sunlight and deeper for nutrition.
It is this complexity where we compete and co-exist at the same time that makes a human being’s social growth such an interesting phenomenon to learn about.
The Role Of School In Helping Us Navigate Through This Social Complexity
1. Introduces low-stake competition
Like mentioned, humans have always competed for survival. So much so that with or without our survival being in question, this instinct to compete drives us against each other and creates social disturbances. Schools recognize, respect, and channel these very instincts of human beings and create an environment that satisfies them, by introducing low stake versions of the same competition. This is the real reason why education is meant to have an essence of competition in it, by comparing numbers, grades and ranks.
This is also why even in extra-curricular activities; students are extremely motivated by the rewards associated with it. So, schools help children by making an environment that allows them to make the best of their competitive spirits without that damaging their quality of life. By making competition acceptable and unthreatening, schools make co-existence far more easy and practical.
2. Competition And Compromise
Just as important as the competition is for human beings, compromise is often the higher road to take and this does not come to us naturally always. Relationships and friendships are built on compromise; and compromise is an agreement to sacrifice and coordinate. Competition is exhausting, time-consuming, and only fun for a limited period under extremely controlled environments. But excessive competition is detrimental to our survival and mental health.
This is why in all societies and communities there is some sense of compromise and adjustments. Schools, while they nurture our competitive spirits, also put children in a slightly socially compromising situation where students have to compromise with each other, form friendships, create groups, and some idea of oneness within themselves.
After our immediate families, schools are the first community that we become a part of. This is where, for the very first time and from a very young age, our ideas are challenged, we are among unfamiliar people who are not entitled to help us out, our likability is in question, we need to prove our competence, we are introduced to the social power structure in a way, we learn to make groups and identity people with certain roles in that group and we finally navigate our way through our competitive instincts and learn compromise in a carefully created environment to suit our social needs and hence nurture our social and mental growth.
It is true that many times, the environment of schools can go overboard with the competitive nature and result in stress, tension, and unhealthy competition among students. But it is never the competition itself, but the nature of its conduct and overestimating the stakes associated with it that result in hostile conditions. Otherwise, when conducted properly, schools provide a perfect environment to meet our social needs and balance our social instincts.