DAVID KENNEDY WHAT SOME SECOND GRADERS SAY ABOUT CONFLICT
Published in Kennedy, David,
Changing Conceptions of the Child from theRenaissance to Post-Modernity: A Philosophy of Childhood
. The EdwinMellen Press, 2006. All rights reserved.
Two kinds of classrooms
If there is one constant, uninvited guest in the typical public school classroom—or indeed inany setting in which children gather in numbers—it is conflict. This is not to say that there ismore conflict in schools than in any adult office, or in some as-yet-undetermined percentage of families. But adults in offices—and, of course, in schools, which are in fact a type of “office”— have learned to handle it, to tone it down, to suppress their reactions. The more common and lessmenacing variety gets siphoned off and developed in different, political directions in gossip, or quasi-confrontations, or it simmers in latency, mostly invisible but felt, and works to slowly blunt—perhaps necessarily—the lived edge of life together. In a collective work setting like aschool, mutual wariness, one might be (but is not) astonished to find, easily keeps company withfamiliarity and even a sort of comfort. Life is flattened out, loses color, but not unbearably—infact it might even help us to know that the workplace is not one’s home, or the place where one’s personal salvation gets worked out, and so to maintain some socially and personally necessarydistinctions. Nor is it hard to imagine a school in which all the teachers basically resent and mistrust or are jealous of or just plain resistant toward the overbearing principal, or coordinator, or anyone elsewith any sort of officially bestowed power over them. They sit in after-school staff meetingswatching the clock, like a weary band of derelicts huddled in the rain. The principal is bright,cheery and decisive, in bizarre but all too predictable contrast to the stagnant emotional chill in