Here’s my sixth extract from the book ‘Noah’s Children’ by Sara Stein. Here she talks about the decline of communities where people (including children) feel that they belong and experience a sense of common purpose:
‘Several times I’ve run into an interesting statistic in the books I read: the people we count as friends- those with whom we comfortably share meals and other forms of visiting- number no more than 150 (and usually fewer)…we seem to be biologically limited to a smallish circle of those whom we can know in a more familiar sense and who we feel know us. The number is about the upper limit of any group that can be sustained by a hunting/gathering economy and not much less than can be sustained by a subistence farming community.
So it may be that, in addition to the fact that residents of a tract development or a block of apartment houses are not assembled in common purpose, the sheer scale of the community may stand in the way of our sense of belonging to it. We seem to realize the importance of social scale for children when we call for smaller classes and smaller schools within the neighbourhood. The trend to gated communities, neighborhood gardens, pocket parks, and local streets closed to traffic indicate our urge to safely congregate where we can consult the social mirror. But for many of us, and possibly for most, the urge is thwarted or was extinguished before it had much chance to grow.
Aware of that difficulty, many have proposed that we teach community and family values in school. The proposal is as hopeless as teaching children what an apple tree is without their experiencing the tree or instructing them on how to fish without going fishing. A sense of community is absorbed through experience of the actual community, just as family values are incorporated within the actual family. So we are left with our good nature flapping raggedly without the pole that once lifted it aloft, and we are lonely…’