Adapting the School Program

THE modern school system is asked to compensate for the failures of others of our more basic social institutions. It is for this reason that its efficient administration and functioning are so deterministic in the lives and experiences of adolescents and youths. It must compensate in a large proportion of cases for unhappy home situations where conflict and bickering have robbed the child of the essential security which should be the birthright of all.

The teacher of the adolescent may actually have to become a confidant, a role which should have been assumed by the parent but which could not be assumed because of the chronic conflict between the adolescent and the parent or because of marital conflict in the home or other such factors that produce an atmosphere where confidence and trust and even normal conversation are impossible. The adolescent finds the teacher the only adult in whom he can confide. Then there are a large number of children who come from broken homes. In them the teacher must take special interest since all adolescents need an adult confidant to help them in the many decisions to be made.

In too many cases the school must provide a core of moral teaching which should have already been deeply implanted in the home but which parents, confused in their own moral lives, fail to cultivate in their children. It must give sex instruction because some parents are ignorant, careless, fearful, or perhaps too emotionally involved or too closely in touch with the problems of family administration and household routine ever to penetrate into these more intimate phases of the experiences of their adolescent children. It must teach habits of regularity and a sense of responsibility because the home has failed in ' many cases to do so. It must develop habits of industry in a society that has removed the work world so far from the domestic scene that the child grows up without experience in work, duty, and responsibility. It must even indirectly, if not directly, build a regard for religion, a respect for diety, the sense of man's eternal destiny, for an increasing number who have never seen their parents engage in any form of religious exercise, pay due respect to diety, or open the Bible. It must in many cases introduce adolescents and youth who have not been in connection with church or Sunday school for the first time to a realization that religious institutions and religious experience are part of the great heritage of mankind. It must bring to many for the first time through one device or another a sense of security that men find in religion, faith in God, and the ultimate triumph of righteousness, and this without direct religious teaching. It must for many provide the only intimate play group that they have ever had by bringing children, adolescents, and youth together in a situation where play is part of the normal pattern. Unfortunately, an increasing number of children grow up in only-child situations without the experience of giving and taking in peergroup relationships. The school system has to assume a major part of the responsibility for the elementary processes of socialization once taken care of in the great family where there were many brothers and sisters and lesser relatives in the immediate play group.

The school must also inculcate respect for the aged in a society where many children grow up to adolescence without having any experience with relatives, grandparents, or other aged people. Even respect for parents often is lacking until such ideals are developed in the school system. Many of these social realities, so essential to the development of the mature social individual, are best impressed in the early period of adolescence when for the first time major attention in the curriculum shifts from the rote memory to training in the less exact phases of human experience.

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