Some educators encouraging groups of friends over one best friend
Is a "best friend forever" an outdated societal trend? Should kids be discouraged from having that close relationship where finishing another person's sentences is habit?
According to Hilary Stout's New York Times article on June 16, a growing number of adults who work with children are attempting to restrain the personal social interactions between two bonding kids in effort to break down bullying and encourage general social group friendships.
While teens acknowledge the good intentions of this theory, most favor its opposition: best friends are important in life.
"It's an important relationship to cultivate," said Tyler Loucky, a senior at Siegel High School in Murfreesboro, Tenn.
Besides that, George Washington High School junior Yvonee Chueh is skeptical about the effectiveness of the practice. "I don't think it's a good idea for schools to discourage best friends since it would never work. If two people share common interests and genuinely appreciate the presence of one another, the friendship would not be faded just by schools discouraging it."
An argument in favor of banning best friends is that having one special friend creates possessiveness and can lead to social pain.
But Loucky contended, "If relationships are intervened in and nothing ever happens, then people can't learn how to make up and work through their problems to become friends again," behaviors that are thought to be necessary life skills.
"People are going to make best friends anyway," he said. "And we all need someone really close to us that we can talk to about anything. You can have a lots of good friends and still have a best friend."
The idea of "many good friends and a best friend" is a happy medium that professionals seem to be in tune with as well. Several teachers quoted in the New York Times article say they support special bonds between young people, but do mediate when pain to one party or others in the classroom is noticed.
Kelsey Ferguson, a junior from Cleveland Heights High School in Cleveland believes that professionals should not get carried away, however.
"I don't believe that schools should discourage best friends," she said. "I do think they should advocate joining as many social groups as possible so that you have more friends and the friendships you make will last.
"But you can't force people to be friends, and some people are just drawn to each other," she added.
One reason some schools are discouraging best friends is to try to break up cliques. However, all teens interviewed agreed this is ineffective.
"There are going to be cliques no matter what school you go to," said Ferguson. "Schools can't break up cliques. Cliques happen. People become friends."
Her opinion is shared by Molly McCahan, a graduate of Plymouth Regional High School in Plymouth, N.H. "A clique, by definition, is really just a group of friends. As long as it's not a mean group of bullies and the group doesn't exclude other people, there really shouldn't be a big problem."
Windfield High School senior Kristina Steadman and Elk Valley Christian School junior Kalea Gunderson agree that cliques and best friends are not the same issue.
"Best friends are just two people and a clique is a group of general friends, so how discouraging best friends helps break down cliques is unclear," Steadman said.
Gunderson added, "Two best friends don't make up a clique, so if there is a group of friends, that is the clique."
When schools have friends, they have cliques, but Steadman notices a difference with bullies. "Bullies usually have one follower, so a bullying group is also different from a clique."
Chueh believes that friendships should not be disrupted in the process of stopping bullies. "There are surely other ways to prevent bullying," she said.
Though the intentions of the professionals are good, teens such as McCahan believe that others should not try to change the course of a friendship.
"Whatever happens between two friends should happen. It will make their friendship stronger in the end, and how else will any of us ever learn to rebuild our bonds?"