By guest bloggers Amanda Nall and Teather Sanders from the Family Life class
(Part one of two)
Maggie Scarf writes about level 3 families as a stable, nontyrannical form of governance with an unresolved problem of intimacy. With the range of families on the Beavers scale stretching from “severely disturbed” (level 5) to “optimal” (level 1), it seems that level 3 might not be the best, but it is definitely a step up from the confusion and control that are found in the lower levels. Rules for a family are the glue that holds the family out of chaos. According to www.parentleadership.com, “every healthy family lives by a set of rules in the home, some high standards for attitudes and conduct directed toward the welfare of others.” Rules also let each member of the family live in the environment with a set role that comes with a set of specific rules about how to perform that role. In a level 3 family where rules are abundant, there is no confusion about where each member fits or what their responsibilities are for the family. Everyone’s behavior is effectively regulated and there is predictability, order, and control built into the family system. With letting rules dominate the family, an important sacrifice is made: intimacy.
We would like to suggest that Scarf’s Beavers scale can be used as a model for more than families. All interactions within a community can be fit into these five levels with the dominating characteristics seen as the norm within that community. Centre College, the wonderful institution that we attend, is just like a level 3 family. Not purposely, but the relations among the students are defined by rules, or as we like to call them, social commandments, leaving little room for intimacy.
The social commandments of Centre College:
1. Men and women are not to consume food at the same table in Cowan
2. Do not show affection for the opposite sex in public. This includes:
a. Holding hands
d. Eating together
3. If you’re in an actual relationship, hide it from the general public until it is considered serious
4. “Hooking up” is okay while intoxicated, but this does not change the rules of sober interaction
There are a few circumstances where the above rules may be set aside temporarily:
1. Athletic teams may eat together and communicate with any gender as long as it is in direct conjunction with a practice or sports event
2. “Wingnuts,” who sit in the outer wings of the hall, do not follow the Cowan seating rules
3. The Cowan seating rules may be set aside during Saturday/Sunday brunch or during breakfast
4. Drunken interactions may or may not follow the rules
The Cowan seating chart is the most obvious place to view Centre’s display of the level 3 rule-bound family. Freshmen first enter Cowan thinking they can sit wherever they want and with whomever they want. They soon learn that this is not the way Centre works; there are certain rules that must be followed. Men and women are supposed to sit at separate tables, with the women sitting on the inside of the circular main room, and the men sticking to the outside tables. Looking around the outside of the room there are tables for each of the fraternities, with the inside tables designated for the sororities, freshmen women, and sports teams. Sports teams are the only ones that are allowed to sit with the opposite sex, but only if the interaction is in conjunction with a sporting event or practice. The rules are sometimes set aside during weekend brunch, when topics of conversation concern only the events of the past night, or during breakfasts, when everyone present is studying for the same upcoming test. The only way the rules can be broken during weekday lunch or dinner is if you allow yourself to be considered a “wingnut,” which is basically defined as those who prefer to sit in the wings, rather than the large main room of Cowan.