Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Blame Game

Why do we put so much on our children's backs? 

I've read a lot of things, but some things are just so p-r-e-c-i-o-u-s, you just never forget. 

ABFH made a comment on one of my posts, about 2 Wrights making a wrong...When I think of Wright, I think of Peter and Pamela Wright, who gives us Wrightslaw...and changed a nation, if only in a legal sense.  You can't legislate morality, you know.  (The other Wrights had something to do with AutismSqueaks, or some damn idiotic notion--They collect guilty dollars to live in the lifestyle they have become accustomed via poor parents of autistic children.  Think of Pat Robertson.)

I will never forget reading on Wrightslaw the advocacy article on school culture, specifically as witnessed by school psychologists. Listen to what they put on the backs of kindergardeners...let alone their parents. I'm going to quote parts of the article, to give you a good taste.
Dr. Galen Alessi, Professor of Psychology at Western Michigan University, conducted a fascinating study on school psychologists. Dr. Alessi’s study illustrates why so many parents have problems dealing with schools. Dr. Alessi’s article is "Diagnosis Diagnosed: A Systemic Reaction" published in Professional School Psychology, 3(2), 145-151:
The primary role of the school psychologist is to evaluate children to determine the reasons for learning and behavior problems. According to Dr. Alessi, when a child has trouble learning or behaving in school, the source of the child's problem can usually be traced to one or more of five causes.

First, the child may be misplaced in the curriculum, or the curriculum may include faulty teaching routines.

Second, the teacher may not be implementing effective teaching and/or behavioral management practices.

Third, the principal and/or other school administrators may not be implementing effective school management practices.

Fourth, the parents may not be providing the home-based support necessary for effective learning.

Fifth, the child may have physical and/or psychological problems that contribute to learning problems.
School psychologists from different areas of the country were interviewed and asked to complete an informal survey. The school psychologists were asked if they agreed that the five factors listed above play a "primary role in a given school learning or behavior problem." (Page 148) The school psychologists agreed that these factors, alone or together, played a significant role in children’s learning problems.

The school psychologists were surveyed about the number of children they evaluated during the past year for learning problems. The average number was about 120 cases (or kids). These numbers were rounded to 100 cases for each of the 50 psychologists for a total of 5,000 cases.

Alessi asked these psychologists how many reports they wrote in which they concluded that the child’s learning problem was mainly due to curriculum factors. "The answer was usually none. All cases out of the 5,000 examined confirmed that their schools somehow had been fortunate enough to have adopted only the most effective basal curricula." (Page 148)

Next, he asked how many reports concluded that the referring problem was due primarily to inappropriate teaching practices. "The answer also was none. All cases out of the 5,000 examined proved that their districts had been fortunate enough to have hired only the most skilled, dedicated, and best prepared teachers in the land." (Page 149)

Then, he asked the psychologists how many of their reports found that the problem was due mainly to faulty school administrative factors. "The answer again was none. All cases out of 5,000 examined demonstrated that their districts had hired and retained only the nation’s very best and brightest school administrators." (Page 149)

When asked how many reports concluded that parent and home factors were primarily responsible, the answer ranged from 500 to 1,000 (10% to 20%). These positive findings indicated that we were finally getting close to the source of educational problems in schools. Some children just don't have parents who are smart, competent, or properly motivated to help their children do well in school.

Finally, I asked how many reports concluded that child factors were primarily responsible for the referred problem. The answer was 100%. These 5,000 positive findings uncovered the true weak link in the educational process in these districts: the children themselves.

If only these districts had better functioning children with a few more supportive parents, there would be no educational difficulties. (Page 149)

Let me reiterate that:

If only these districts had better functioning children with a few more supportive parents, there would be no educational difficulties. (Page 149)

Once again:

If only these districts had better functioning children with a few more supportive parents, there would be no educational difficulties. (Page 149)

To be clear:

If only these districts had better functioning children with a few more supportive parents, there would be no educational difficulties. (Page 149)


Uhm...once again psychology proves it isn't abuse when it comes from them.


ebohlman said...

These psychologists need to review Fundamental Attribution Error, if indeed they ever heard of it in the first place.

Club 166 said...

LOL! If this wasn't so true, it might be truly funny.

At least our local school district is a little more upfront with their biases.

On the forms that are sent to parents after their children are "written up" for bad behavior, there are categories for things like "attention seeking behavior", "child acting out violently towards others", and other child centered causes. There are no categories for such things as "child ignored by teacher until he over-reacted", "child placed in over stimulating environment", "IEP not followed", or even "child defended himself when restrained by staff".


r.b. said...

It really surprised me that siding with the kids was so foreign a concept. I've never forgotten this. It was over 20 years ago, but some things don't change.

Suffer the children...But only the ones who don't fit the mold.

The A-B-C (antecedent-behavior-consequence)or functional behavioral analysis equation can at least be an attempt to see through the eyes of a child. God bless those teachers who can.

VAB said...

It is funny and true, but at the same time, I doubt the psychologists were actually tasked with evaluating the schools. To do so they would, for example, have to review the curricula, observe the classes, etc. I doubt they were given the opportunity to do this. That makes this study a bit like asking people who work at McDonald's to list the ways in which potatoes can be cooked and then mocking them for only making french fries.

r.b. said...

ebohlman: care of Wiki:

Reducing the error's effects
A number of "debiasing" techniques have been found effective in reducing the effect of the fundamental attribution error:

Taking heed of "consensus" information. If most people behave the same way when put in the same situation, then the situation is more likely to be the cause of the behavior.
Asking oneself how one would behave in the same situation.
Looking for unseen causes; specifically, looking for less-salient factors.
Additionally, it was found that if the participants in a study were told that there were ulterior motives for a writer to take a particular position, such as a professor holding a certain view point on the topic, they were less likely to fall victim to the fundamental attribution error.

Synopsis: Try to see it from the other person's eyes.

VAB: Logically, I think the fry cooks see all potatoes as french fries--even if they are baked, boiled, au gratin, or raw. They try to cook them in the same oil, and sometimes it just makes a gol darn mess!!!! I know it isn't easy, so it's left untried to adapt.

Many times, alternative schools are started by parents for love of their baked potatoes.

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