February 24, 2006

Twins rights.

Schools often have the policy of breaking up twins (and triplets, etc.), putting them in different classrooms. The schools think separating them will do them good, encouraging independence, but the other way to look at it is that their special bond is such that the separation causes a special anxiety. If there is some good and some bad in keeping them together and in separating them, who should make the final call, schools or parents? Should there be legislation to the parents the right to make this decision?
Many of [the] parents cite new research that challenges old assumptions. When Heather Beauchamp, an associate professor of psychology at the State University of New York at Potsdam, reviewed literature on twins three years ago, she found that opinions regarding the advantages of separating them were based on perception rather than data, of which there has been very little.

Since her review, two studies — one in the Netherlands and another, a joint project of the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College in London and the University of Wisconsin, that compared 878 pairs of twins from ages 5 to 7 — found that twins separated early were observed to be more anxious and emotionally distressed than those who remained in the same class....

Nancy Segal, director of the Twins Studies Center at California State University, Fullerton, has been a proponent of this new research, writing letters on behalf of parents fighting for legislation on classroom choice.

"In our culture we appreciate uniqueness," Dr. Segal said, "and people wrongly equate twin closeness with a lack of individuality." The insistence on separating twins, she added, flies in the face of what psychologists know about friendship.

"There's research that suggests that when friends are in the same class, they're more exploratory, they cling to the teacher less," she said. "So if we're worried about individuality, why do we let best friends go to school together?"

Psychologists and educators on the other side of the debate maintain that multiples can present themselves as a de facto clique, upsetting the social dynamic of a classroom. It is not uncommon, for instance, for identical twins at a young age to speak in their own private language. It is also not unusual for one twin to act as an ambassador for the pair.

"What we find a lot with twins," said Sandra Bridges, principal of Public School 234 in Manhattan, which has 10 sets of twins, "is that one is generally more verbally dominant; one will do the talking for the other."

Some see the wish of mothers and fathers to keep twins together as an extension of the trend toward parental micromanagement. "They can, in essence, be trophy children," said Bonnie Maslin, a psychologist in Manhattan. "And parents of trophy children are unusually focused on outcomes and the belief that they can control them."

"A huge part of education is not just developing individual difference but learning to be part of a group," Dr. Maslin added.
Lots of conflicting interests here! More in the article too. Parents can ask for too much, and trumping the teachers' judgment with legislation may be overkill. Why don't schools just become more sensitive to the other side of the argument and listen to the parents' requests, consult with them, and then exercise enlightened discretion?

18 comments:

SippicanCottage said...
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Doug H. said...

As an identical twin, I'm grateful everyday that my parents encouraged my brother and I to explore our individuality as children. They never dressed us alike. With one exception we were always in different classes. He had morning kindergarten, I had afternoon. Even in preschool my parents managed to keep us in seperate groups. We were in the same 5th grade class together, and most of the year I felt like the teacher treated us as a single unit.

My personal experience is that living as a twin invites a lot of this "single unit" treatment, and steps taken to avoid it are a good idea.

I also think doing so helps to prevent the natural rivalry that exists between identical twins. Imagine having someone genetically identical to you doing better at something. It invites a lot of questions and comments. I believe fostering independence is the better way, the study notwithstanding.

Even though my parents encouraged this independence my twin brother has always been my best friend. He was best man at my wedding and I was best man at his.

Being a twin is great, with one exception: the stupid questions. I wish I had a dollar for every time someone asked me how to tell me and my brother apart; or if he was hurt if I felt pain; or if we ever switched places in school. If you ever meet a twin, try to avoid asking these kinds of questions. They'll appreciate it :)

MadisonMan said...

At least in Madison Public Schools, there is considerable parental involvement in choosing to keep twins apart or separate, based on my observations in daugther's classes and son's classes. Of the 5 sets of twins I'm aware of, they were split or paired based on the parents' wishes. (I was nosy enough to ask).

I'm not sure why New York Educators think they know what's better for kindergarteners than the parents. I read the article as saying that administrators frustrated with some parents asking for twins to be paired when they plainly shouldn't be. The administrators then decide none should be paired just to make administrator lives easier. After all, if it's policy, well, then you don't have to think about it.

But I'm a little cynical when it comes to administrators.

Jim Gust said...

We split up our twins, and the result was positive. The school encouraged us to do so, but did not demand it, which is the better way. My impression was that they would have readily allowed the twins to be together for kindergarten, not so much for first grade.

Our school district is not large, so the twins had many classes in common in later years. By then their indepedence was pretty well established.

I do think that ultimately this should be the parents' call.

Soo said...

I, too, am a twin and we were often kept in separate classrooms. I can't speak to the merits of this as my brother and I were still extremely competitive.

What the separation did do, though, was it usually forced one of us to be in a less well-regarded teacher's classroom.

In third grade, he had a wonderful teacher while I had a strict, disciplinarian marm for a teacher.

In fifth grade, I had a great teacher (to this day, still my favorite teacher) who put on all of the school plays and musicals while my brother languished away in a less popular teacher's homeroom.

Freeman Hunt said...

Why don't they just place twins the same way they place all the other kids? I don't see why being twins needs special consideration either way. There isn't special consideration for best friends as to whether they should be together or separated.

Doesn't treating twins as a unit for special consideration fly in the face of individuality?

stealthlawprof said...

Neither being a twin nor the parent of twins, perhaps I am not qualified to jump into this. Nonetheless, I have two children who have struggled mightily with anxiety issues at school. To create or exacerbate anxiety for twins by splitting them in the primary grades against the parents' wishes strikes me as unwise social engineering.

I do understand the other side of this. I remember the twins in my college dorm who appeared never to have been separated for any period of time. I always questioned whether they would be able to adjust to life.

It comes down to the age-old question -- at what point do we believe that parents are so incompetently handling their parental responsibilities that society (through the government) must intervene? In this situation, I am not fully convinced the parents of the college twins crossed the line. Grade schools should certainly follow the wishes of parents of younger twins who want them to stay together.

Ruth Anne Adams said...
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Dave said...

Freeman Hunt's comments are astute. Both the parents and administrators end up looking rather asinine

P. Froward said...

... twins separated early were observed to be more anxious and emotionally distressed than those who remained in the same class...

Anxiety and emotional distress? Sounds like what we used to call "childhood". If you make kids wait until they're 21 before they start learning to be human beings, they'll never learn.

And no, that's not a good idea.

Johnny Nucleo said...

Twins have telepathy, so separation is not an issue. What educators should be concerned about is identifying the evil twin early, which can be tricky with boys because they are unable to grow beards. With girls it's easy: The evil twin has black hair and the good twin has blonde hair.

SippicanCottage said...
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JimNtexas said...

Because we in the U.S. have a one-size-fits-all school system there are hundreds, maybe thousands of cases that share the identical fact pattern:

Some parents of some kids think X is the correct way to teach kids Y.

Somebody else thinks that Z is the correct way to teach kids Y.

Some others think that Y should never be taught in schools at all.

Since there is one school per taxpayer, the system will dissatisfy two out of three parents.

In my area arguments concerning administration of the public schools in the last few years include but are not limited to : food, hair, teaching evolution, dodge ball, class segregated by sex, class never segregated by sex, boys may wear dresses, boys may not wear dresses, students address teacher by first name, students address teacher as Mr/Ms/Dr, students may cuss in class, students not permitted to cuss how many students, how many teachers, and now should twins be in the same class. I'm sure the twins in the same class problem will come up at a school board meeting soon.

The answer is that we need school choice, and we need it now.

Our Soviet system of top down command, one size fits all, take or leave it public school system we have is killing education in this country.

Grandma_Jo said...

I am the grandmother to fraternal twins. One thing I have realized is that with twins there are three separate personalities. Twin 1, Twin 2 and the Twins. My grandsons have different personalities; while both are active boys, one can be very quiet and contemplative and likes to observe the world before joining it (at which point he seems to do everything right). The other, who had a harder time early on (both weighed 2.5 lbs at birth) is more impulsive and never wants to sit still. When both are together the quiet one never gets any quiet time. I love spending time with both together, but I make sure to spend time with each individually, when each gets to express his own personality as T1 or T2, free of having to be one of TWINS. Whether or not twins should always be separated is way beyond me, since I only know these twins this well. But it is clear that these boys will do best where each can develop based on his own personality and talents and not be held back back by his twinness. Note: I did not say he would held back by his twin--they still have a twin bond that will be important to them always--but being defined by twinness is not good for two such different boys.

Robin said...

I'm a twin and I still live with my twin and I'm in my mid-forties. I suppose that makes me something of a freak to some, but I do think I can speak with authority on twin issues and since I work in the public schools I have some knowledge there. I agree with the decision by schools to separate twins, in most cases. There are always exceptions, but my experience is that twins can be come extraordinarily interdependent which does not bode well for their future independent lives. If you think about all the events in life that singles must face alone--the first day of kindergarten, the first sleep over party, the first night at camp, the first day on campus at college. There are skills involved with being alone and doing something that you have never done before. Twins who go through school together don't get those alone times which help them to develop interpersonal skills and problem solving skills. In addition, when my twin and I hit our mid-teens; I was fed up to the back teeth with being a twin and all the dorky questions people ask twins. I wanted to make my mark and be an individual, I felt my twin held me back. Consider, I felt that way AFTER my mother made sure we were separated in all our classes. Even still, my twin and I ended up with many friends in common and many interests in common. Twins may end up extraordinarily close even after being separated, but what is the reaction of twins who are forced by parents to be together for everything? Maybe, instead of being grateful they feel cheated. I have twins in my program at school and their parents insist that they should be together, but one twin is clearly a weaker student than the other. How does the stronger twin feel having to constantly help his twin through the day. Children shouldn't be put in the position of having to help a sibling constantly. It's easy to demonize the school for having policies that are "one-size fits all" but for pity's sake do you seriously think it is financially feasible to provide every single student with an individualized education that perfectly fits their needs? Even Bill Gates' money couldn't subsidize such a system.

Finn Kristiansen said...

Althousefan seemed to touch on the essential truth, that there is evil involving twins.

However Althousefan errs in even assuming one twin is good. They are both evil.

Of course the many twins posting here will deny, but doesn't pure evil always deny? Does Satan appear as Satan and say, "I am taking you to hell?" Of course not. He appears as something lovely and mild, and then grows into something hideous and intense over time.

Watch the twins.

abc21101 said...

I am the mother of twins and I am also a teacher. I teach children with special needs. In our field we use terms like Cognitively Impaired or Autisitc. Each term comes with some type of sterotype, however we as teachers know that each of our students is an individual with different problems. Just like my twin daughters. Have to deal with being stereotyped as a twin. "Oh they are tiny because they are twins." "They look alike because they are twins." "They act a lot a like." Let me tell you all one thing. My children are tiny because I am only five feet tall. The girls look a like because they are sisters. They act a like because they live in the same house with the same rules.
All my daughters' lives they have been together in the whomb, same bed, same bedroom, and even same pre-school classes. I make it very clear to everyone that my children are sisters, not just "twins". So next year when they enter kindergarten and are anxious about a new school, It should be my family and the preschool teachers that choose if my children stay together or are separated. Not the government.

shelbyisms. said...

My name is Shelby, and I have a twin sister. We're sixteen, and not a day goes by that I don't have to disprove an ignorant remark about twin telepathy or something equally foolish.

All through grade school my sister and I were in the same classes. We looked remarkably alike until third grade when our parents divorced and she began to gain wait while I dropped it at an unhealthy rate.

We are two completely different people. We have our own sets of friends, we take different classes in school, and we live with different parents.

My independence continues to grow stronger, but my sister wishes to follow me to college and be neighbors. Is it selfish for me to want my own life expeierences, free of the taints a sibling would present?

Has anyone else ever had this problem?