One of my favorite quotes is the historian Hugh Kingsmill’s observation that, “Friends are God’s way of apologizing to us for our families.” I love that so much I’ve joked that I want it on my tombstone-though, since I’ll await the final trump surrounded by my relations, it might not be quite right. But you get the point: Friendship is one of life’s great gifts.

Children learn the great art of friendship through trial and error-there will be friends who love us and friends who, alas, betray us. We will be better for having had both kinds of friends. Kids, especially those from tough family situations, need friends. So I was utterly appalled at the New York Times report that some educators are “increasingly” questioning the need of having a best friend. Worse, these educators often zero in on good friends and separate them by putting them on different teams (teams are okay).

Here Jonah Goldberg’s take on what is wrong with this latest social engineering fad to hit our nation’s schools:

It’s not quite the sort of thing cult leaders and North Korean prison guards do, but in principle it’s not too far off either.

Goldberg adds:

Why lie to kids that they can be friends with everyone? What about the damage to shy and introverted kids who particularly benefit from having a kindred spirit?

All good points, but it is a bizarre symptom of our hyper-rationalist age that people are forced to articulate why best friends are valuable to kids. For the record, I think removing best friends from childhood is a barbarous and inhumane act, akin to amputating a limb from an athlete. You can still have a childhood without a best friend, just as you can still be an athlete without a leg. But why would you voluntarily make someone’s life so much harder? Having someone with whom you can share the joys and discoveries of early life is a gateway into not just adulthood, but humanity.

I find it ironic that American educators often can’t accomplish the basics (those would be fostering literacy and math skills, to cite two examples that spring readily to mind) but can undertake a kind of utopian meddling in private aspects of a child’s life that were heretofore off-limits for anybody outside the immediate family.