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Whenever we moved, my first big task was to figure out the culture of my new set of peers, so I could become part of it.
They delight in mocking adults and in finding ways to violate rules.
For example, when schools make rules about carrying even toy weapons into school, children bring tiny toy guns and plastic knives to school in their pockets and surreptitiously exhibit them to one another, proudly showing how they violated a senseless adult-imposed rule (Corsaso & Eder, 1990).
Even as children grow older, adults tend to engage them in ways that suggest that either the adults or the children are idiots, and often their comments have more to do with trying to teach the children something, or control them in some way, than with genuine attempts to share ideas or really understand the child’s ideas. They negotiate in ways very similar to the ways adults negotiate with one another.
Little children communicate with one another largely in the context of play, and the communications have real meaning. This is far better practice for future adult-adult communication than the kinds of “conversations” that children typically have with adults.
I observed, studied, practiced the skills that I saw to be important to my new peers, and then began cautiously to enter in and make friends.
In the mid 20th century, a number of researchers described and documented many of the childhood cultures that could be found in neighborhoods throughout Europe and the United States (e.g. Children learn the most important lessons in life from other children, not from adults.
There are many valuable lessons that children can learn in interactions with other children, away from adults, that they cannot learn, or are much less likely to learn, in interactions with adults. I don’t know if this is or isn’t true in traditional cultures, but in modern Western cultures adults are terribly condescending toward children.
Their communications with children, especially the well-intended ones, are frequently dishonest. Unless the adult is blind, or color blind, the adult knows perfectly well what color it is. Almost all the questions that teachers ask, through all the grades of school, are dishonest; the teacher knows the answer (or thinks she does because she read it in the teacher’s edition of the textbook), so her question is not really a question; it’s a test.
We had school (which was not the big deal it is today) and chores, and some of us had part time jobs, but, still, most of our time was spent with other children away from adults.
My family moved frequently, and in each village or city neighborhood to which we moved I found a somewhat different childhood culture, with different games, different traditions, somewhat different values, different ways of making friends.