Education works for ninety percent of children. Maybe that’s a stretch but we’ll go by those numbers as they are quite common in education research circles. Meaning that roughly ten percent of children do not thrive in a traditional academic setting, they need something different but are rarely provided it. Yes we create special rooms, we modify their learning, etc, but a critical examination will easily demonstrate in the majority of instances that even these settings and activities are only hybrids of the existing model. The common denominator remains, in essence, the same. Why? Because paradigm shifts rarely account for abnormalities. You see it happen in the medical profession all of the time. Once symptoms fall outside the box of common occurrence then a shoot from the hip mentality kicks in. Usually beginning with what we know, working backwards in the hopes that “what we know” will cure what we do not. Also happens in mechanics. For instance, one of my little cars has been sputtering for about five months now. I’ve spent about five hundred dollars and yet still no fix. No one understands the problem although my gut tells me it’s my fuel pump, I’m no mechanic so I naturally trust the ‘supposed’ experts. It’s now at a new shop, in new ‘expert’ hands. We shall see what their diagnosis is. This is oftentimes the case with children who do not fit the common or known patterns of learning, yet this is a fallacy based on erroneous thinking and a flawed paradigm much more so than an abnormality in symptoms.
What we often fail to realize is that a school is fundamentally a business. The only difference is that the students don’t get paid to attend. However you darn well better believe that the administration of the school, including the teachers, get paid by what is produced by their little worker ants. To the point, New York University neuroscientist and author Joseph LeDoux in his seminal text The Emotional Brain makes an academically paradigm shifting statement when he explains, “In times of stress our thinking becomes confused and distorted, and our short-term memory is suppressed”. For years I have been teaching others the power of this finding because it can literally revolutionize education.
For the eighty to ninety percent of children who make it through school with minimal challenge this finding is both predictive and historically relevant. Such a student potentially has a very low historical exposure to stress, trauma, and parental inconsistency. By most accounts he or she has had few academic challenges beginning with kindergarten, henceforth has years of positive conditioning towards the educational environment, learning, and teachers. Additionally, this student has formed continuing and lasting peer relationships which prompt greater ties to the educational environment and in some instances may even trigger a release of the powerful Oxytocin hormone with the thought of another day at school. Certainly the presence of an academic barrier such as stress being present at any significant level is greatly diminished.
On the other hand, there are the children many of us raise, adopt, or work with. These children, in many instances came into the world stressed out and at earlier ages manifesting a variety of diagnosis – RAD, Reactive Attachment Disorder, Attachment Issues, ODD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, ASD, Autistic Spectrum including the more prevalent Aspergers, ADD/ADHD, PTSD, Bi-Polar and more!. Various important critical stages were not accomplished and optimal, neurologic functioning, a remote, very remote, possibility. These children have had conflict within the family, with peers, academically, etc. from the very beginning. Where the more common child has experienced prolonged states of regulation, attuned, consistent care giving, and predictability, these other children have in many instances experienced just the opposite. And what of the child adopted from birth who was subsequently provided prolonged states of regulation, attuned, consistent care giving? It doesn’t matter. My sister was adopted as an infant yet was prenatally exposed, spent seven months in a rejecting womb, and then was in an incubator, alone, isolated, and without vital sensory experiences for nearly three months. BIG, lifelong impact.
The state of education today is challenged because we continue to try to force square children into round ways of education. In doing so we create more stress for the student, the teacher, the other students, the parents, and ultimately the entire school on an energetic level. It’s as Bishop T.D. Jakes exclaims, “If you always do what you have always done, you will always be where you’ve already been”. It’s not complex, it’s actually very simple. It’s just not easy because after all it is a different way of thinking. Nevertheless, if we would only begin to have discussions regarding putting emotional support and security first – and espcially, not because education is secondary, but rather because emotional support and security enables optimal educational achievement, then we may very well begin leading a paradigm that will be useful for all students.
Finally in the words of The Righteous Brothers, “Bring back that loving feeling…oh oh…bring back that loving feeling. Cause it’s gone, gone, gone…oh oh ohhh.”