Wednesday, April 17, 2013

"Greed is good", preschool style...

I saw this on "Good Morning, America" today, and I am appalled.

Apparently a number of preschools are going to a "no sharing" policy, in which the children there are not forced to share anything, the theory being that the children who are shared with will develop a sense of entitlement and the belief that they will get everything they want, when they want it.

The problem, as I see it, is that they are instilling a sense of entitlement not in the kids who are shared with, but in the kids who are not forced to share. By not teaching that sharing is a good thing, something they should do, they are teaching those children that once they have something it is theirs, and those who don't have that thing are SOL*, that the possessor of the thing is entitled to it and too bad for all the others.

As far as I can see, it's a variation of the other golden rule: "He who has the gold makes the rules", in which the have-nots can only have things when and if those who already have them decide that they can. And this has implications far beyond the sharing of toys in a preschool classroom. In a wider sense, it gets to the all-too-prevalent idea today that if someone doesn't have something they need, then it's just too bad for them.

As part of the story a purported "parenting expert", Po Bronson, explains that what he wants is that children learn "giving for the right reasons", but I didn't really see any definition of what those "right reasons" are. I worry that "because it's the right thing to do" will not be included in those right reasons, and limited to things like "when that person has earned it" or "when that person has proved that they are worthy" to be shared with.

Maybe my reaction to all of this grows out of the fact that I was taught to share as a child. In fact, because I am an only child, I was taught that if I did not share, I would be seen as spoiled and selfish, and that no one likes a selfish child or a selfish adult. Which, of course, puts me out of step with many in today's world, where being selfish is seen as a virtue, where "looking out for number one" is seen as the highest, sometimes the only, good. I think of that attitude as the Gordon Gekko school of selfish thinking. If you don't know what I'm referring to, here is a clip from the film "Wall Street":

It is not a school of thought that I subscribe to.

Certainly, I'm not saying that you should give up everything you have, or that you should have no ambition. Not at all. I'm just saying that while we all need to take care of ourselves, we should keep others in mind as well. And that that is what we should be teaching our children from as young an age as possible.

Learning to share seems to me to be a key part of that.

*"Shit out of luck", for those not familiar with that acronym.


jen said...

I was taught to share. I internalized it so deeply that I am still trying to let it be okay to keep some stuff... to want things that I have... etc.
I would definitely have appreciated a lesson somewhere that it was okay to choose not to share everything.
AND... what a horrible reason to "not share". The children will feel entitled? How does that even make sense?

I'm with you on feeling appalled. I would much rather the world be full of people that share too much than to live in a world where no one shares.

littlemissattitude said...

Thanks for the comments.

I totally agree that the "entitlement" rationalization makes no sense at all.