Another year of disappointing educators, children and parents (Star Tribune 7.28.16)
Don’t blame the teachers (it’s us).
The once a straightforward concept of public schools has morphed into a complex institution unable to respond to the double whammy of a massively changed student body and the unprecedented un-building of support for public education (especially science).
Our student body has changed;
First, immigration and the challenges of language and culture have always turned out well. American education has successfully educated millions of immigrants.
Yes, it’s a struggle, but it is what teachers do and they have always succeeded. My grandparents did not speak the language when they arrived – all of their children successfully finished a public school education.
Second and most critical, generally unknown and poorly understood even by those in the trenches of teaching, social work and justice. The rest of us (including legislators) are clueless.
Identifying and responding to the mental health issues shaping this generation of American citizens is decades late in coming and it has overwhelmed our schools, courts and other public institutions.
The explosion of homelessness, suicides, violence among veterans with PTSD have shown us the long lasting and severe damage trauma does to a person. Untreated or undertreated trauma almost always ends badly (80% of youth aging out of foster care lead dysfunctional lives).
As a 20 year volunteer CASA guardian ad Litem removing children from traumatizing homes it’s impossible not to see how children beaten, molested, starved and neglected need way more help than they are now getting to succeed in school or in life.
Today, schools are filled with growing numbers of abused and neglected children many on psychotropic medications and many with serious behavioral problems – sometimes violent. Teaching now demands an understanding of the new student body and the challenges (and dangers) of untreated traumatized children.
Trauma informed care and trauma informed teaching need to be part of the lexicon and teachers (social workers/justice and court workers) need to appreciate just what it means to their profession.
Teaching English, Math and History to 35 children in a room is challenging enough, add two Prozac children one of whom has violent tendencies and the job description changes (and size of a child does not matter – out of control people are simply dangerous).
Between 12 & 18 million children are reported to child protection services in America each year. Our communities are living with the fifth and sixth generation of abused and neglected children (traumatized youth) starting their own new families without parenting skills.
Think single teen and preteen moms with drug habits and violent boyfriends. They treat their children just like they were treated and bad things happen (some of it makes the papers).
It hurts me to watch the poor response our communities have made to badly damaged children passing through their systems each year. When 4 year old foster child Eric Dean died after 15 largely ignored reports of abuse, four of MN’s counties screened out 90% of child abuse calls and social workers were not allowed to consider past reports of child abuse in evaluating new reports of child abuse (think about that).
When 7 year old foster child Gabriel Myers hung himself and left a note about how he hated Prozac it had no impact on the use of psychotropic medicating of foster children (we put 20,000 one and two year old’s on Prozac in 2014 & johnson and Johnson was fined 4 billion dollars for illegally selling these drugs to pediatricians for use on children).
When six year old foster child Kendrea Johnson hung herself in Brooklyn Park and left a note, the community responded by suggesting that it was not suicide and if it was, it was very rare (neither is true).
It is true that very young children rarely succeed, but they do try – untreated traumas and the suicidal ideation from the psychotropic medications that many of them are forced to take cause allot of suicidal ideation and depression (just read the warning label on Prozac)
In a Kids At Risk interview with Don Samuels he told the story of a first grade teacher calling him at the City Council office asking for help with a six year old boy trying to kill himself by jumping out a window. This is something other than teaching and should not be the domain of people without advanced degrees in understanding the issues of trauma and the behavioral problems that accompany it.
Don’t blame teachers when schools fail. Help solve the problem of generational child abuse by demanding proven programs of pre K education, quality daycare, crisis nurseries and other family friendly services.
Once this cycle of generational child abuse is broken, schools will work again and our streets will be safer.