I’ve neglected the rites of passage issue on this blog for a little while. Malawi has stimulated my thinking on questions of entrepreneurship.
Not that I haven’t been thinking about r of p at all. In fact a couple of weeks ago I gate crashed an after school Christian club and had an interesting chat with about thirty teenagers about questions of growing up in Malawi. More on that to come.
On rites of passage, I think three things are important:
1. That the activity engaged in is ‘meaningful’.
2. That there is recognition (probably for the completion of the activity) by the community.
3. That a period of coaching or mentorship by ‘elders’ occurs.
It seems that r of p are principally about transcending the self. After all this is what adulthood is about isn’t it? Finding that there are responsibilities which tie us inevitably to a wider community?
Perhaps the word ‘transcend’ brings up connotations of a middle class guy ‘finding himself’ in the third world, but it’s about the feeling we have when we work in a team, care for people around us, see a great film or listen to a great piece of music… It’s often in the things that societies do for no productive purpose, but it can also be when we are at our most productive.
Schools must, I should think, respond to the primeval instinct to transcend the self. They sometimes do – maybe sports days, concerts, maybe some lessons, maybe even some assemblies. But the very structure of the school year should be built around opportunities to realise we are a part of something bigger.
And let’s not forget that the majority of pupils who cause problems (some of whom later fill our prisons) are invariably the least able to get beyond a self centred, child-like response to the world. Our very role as educators should be that they become (young) adults.