Bryan Caplan  

First They Separated the Twins...

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I staunchly oppose putting twins in separate classrooms when they prefer to be together.  As I explained before:
Sure, if you separate twins, they'll make more friends.  But that hardly means you're doing them a favor.  The reason why twins put less effort into making new friends is that they've already got a better friend than most of us will ever have.  For twins, the marginal benefit of trying to making new friends unusually small - and cliquishness is their optimal response.
Now schools are discouraging best friendship altogether.  From Robin via the NYT:
The classic best-friend bond -- the two special pals who share secrets and exploits, who gravitate to each other on the playground and who head out the door together every day after school -- signals potential trouble for school officials intent on discouraging anything that hints of exclusivity, in part because of concerns about cliques and bullying.
Frankly and fortunately, I doubt the war on best friendship will get very far.  But this is indeed the slippery slope down which the main arguments for twin separation lead.

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COMMENTS (9 to date)
agnostic writes:

Something I haven't seen mentioned in the discussion on this article is that most of the institutions are private ones for high-status people. There's only one public-sector person named. The others are from a private prep school, another private prep school, and a summer camp with a $10,000 tuition.

The war on best friendship might not get far, but that would be despite the wishes and efforts of the parents who are funding the war. (Even if this were a public school thing, the same argument would apply, though more indirectly -- public school practices reflect the wishes of voters, namely of parents.)

If anyone is to push back against this, it'll have to be the kids themselves. Of course, young people have never been more wimpy and well behaved in human history, so this may catch on yet.

For example, who would've ever expected that some day the modal 17 year-old American would *not* have a driver's license? Too much freedom = too much unpredictable behavior. When trust levels are low, parents aren't going to tolerate that and will spend more to keep their kids caged up.

Gary writes:

I agree that these efforts are futile, but I don't follow the "make work" argument you made at the link. Splitting them up doesn't destroy their bond like the proverbial window. They'll still be closer than best friends who don't live under the same roof.

Phil writes:

In my fantasy, we take the administrators who came up with this policy, and forcibly separate them from their own best friends.

Troy Camplin writes:

These things are all part and parcel of what I've decided from now on to call what it really is: the Left's war on social bonds (and, thus, on moral behavior).

Rebecca Burlingame writes:

As someone who was too shy in their early years, I would not wish such circumstances on any young person, as the ability to make friends is not always as easily learned later in life. Taking time to learn social skills only sets people back with other skills that they wish to share.

Ted writes:

They tried this crap on my twin and I in middle school. It didn't do anything except annoy us. It also made us feel kind of awkward as though there was something wrong with being a twin. It made no sense to me either. Maybe I sit next to my brother because my brother is my best friend. What's wrong with that? A lot of people hang out with there best friend. Not to mention, we are just a lot closer than even most best friends are so why's it surprising we would hang out together? Well, come to find out - apparently these people even have problems with best friends now so it all makes sense. Twins are just amplified best friends!

All of this is incredibly stupid policy anyway. Why does a school administrator or teacher know what social interactions are appropriate for children? Humans have been successfully interacting for over 200,000 years. I think we can manage.

Also, is it really true twins are less likely to seek out other friends? Yes, my brother is certainly my best friend and we are really close (being the same age, gender, family, and living in the same room for 13 years tends to do that ...), but we also had a lot of good friends outside from one another. In fact, we naturally tended to do this because as twin brothers you tended to do so much together growing up that as you get older you gradually do want some level of independence from one another. It might be different for most twins, but to me it seems more plausible that you would be just as likely to see out new friends, mostly for the sake of diversity.

Andrew_M_Garland writes:

I wonder, will this "no best friend" policy support socialism or freedom?

I imagine knowing that my teachers are watching me and everyone else to decide if they need to be separated "for their own good".

I think it will encourage rebellion and freedom. The kids know that this is stupid and intrusive. It will destroy respect for the rest of what those teachers are communicating.

NZ writes:

In my experience, people have a tendency to think of twins as one person. My twin brother and I consistently had to share birthday gifts, clothing, friends, and attention. Being accidentally called by somebody else's name for the first 12-18 years of your life is pretty crappy. All this being treated as half of a whole individual had a profound effect on the way I thought of myself and related to other people. I've had to spend the last 8 years toning down the aggressive way I learned to assert my individuality. And this is to say nothing of the impact it's had on my relationship with my brother, which we've spent our adulthoods repairing--and we're still working on it.

I think parents simply need to pay more attention to what their twins want. Just because they look and behave similarly does not mean they are a "set." Some twins will want to stay together, but others may yearn to be on their own. Obviously it should be the parents' call more than the schools', but the needs of the twins should be foregrounded.

Chris writes:

This separation of best friends is already going on and has been for a while.

My daughter has been one of four girls that have been best friends since Kindergarten. They all play on the same sports teams, they are a four girl dance team that has competed together for five years now, and they go on trips together. The parents all do things together because the girls are so close.

They have not been in the same class together since that first year. Going into seventh grade and none of them have shared a class since kindergarten.

We've been given a number of reasons for this. The first was that because all four girls had active parents, they wanted to 'spread the love' and not let one teacher get all the active parents.

The other reason was that the school simply wanted the kids to meet other kids.

Either way it stinks for the girls. They have to work pretty hard just to get together at lunch. Pretty sad.

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