One For All

One big difference between students here in Georgia and students in America is that students in America eventually adapt to the social norm of individuality/ independence. I don’t believe this trait was always there; however. I think in the younger grades they were very communal and interacted in ways that resemble a ball a yarn. But as they got older, the social norms, especially of the school system, pushed them in another direction. A direction where individual effort and merit would be rewarded above all.

In Georgia the school system does not inherently or subconsciously encourage individual behavior. So from the early grades all the way up to high school age, the students foster and demonstrate communal/ group behaviors.

They hug and hang on each other relentlessly, boys and girls (although genders are segregated). They are very affectionate and touchy. When someone needs assistance, whether asked for or not, a crowd comes to their assistance. When one does something, they all want to do that same thing, too. One student climbed up and flipped off a high beam. All his friends followed suite. In the hallway, if one student says “Hello”, I can expect a chorus of hello’s for the next 2 minutes. And in class one day, a student asked to see one of my tattoos. I was rushed by the entire class like they were a school of piranhas.

With that ingrained group mentality, they constantly reinforce or discipline each other’s behavior. No one gets left behind, but no one strays too far ahead either.

This plays itself out in the classroom in the following ways: If a question is asked, everybody raises their hands even if they don’t know the answer. And if someone is called on that doesn’t know the answer, someone close by will tell him or her. If someone responds with a correct answer, the rest of the class echoes that answer seconds after as if it were their answer. Homework completed by the class is actually completed by four of the smarter classmates. When reading English passages out loud, it is VERY common for either their immediate neighbor says each word quietly seconds before they do, or for a friend(s) to help read along and pronounce the words out loud with them.  And I mentioned test procedures earlier. No teacher, no matter how dense, can say they don’t see them cheating.

But that is the culture that is fostered.

The only time a student is set apart is when they are disciplined. They are made the example for the rest of the class to learn from. They lash into one student with such fury; the other students quickly fall into line. The student is not shunned by the other students. There is no social stigma. I guess it’s looked at as taking one for the team.

I have only observed these traits so far. I haven’t really thought of a counter measure, or even if one is needed. Growing up in the States, I obviously have a huge aversion to non-individual norms. But maybe there is another way. Maybe learning doesn’t have to be such a lonely effort.

 

“We’re all in this together 
Once we know
That we are 
We’re all stars 
And we see that
We’re all in this together
And it shows
When we stand 
Hand in hand
Make our dreams come true”

We’re All In This Together, High School Musical Cast

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