Widgets The Good Place (Michael L. Umphrey on gardening, teaching, and writing)

"Peace is not an absence of war; it is a virtue, a state of mind, a disposition for benevolence, confidence, justice. - Benedict Spinoza."

Master narratives that shape our schools, Part 2
     I own myself

Therapy has displaced education as the dominant rhetoric of public schools. This has left many young people with too few resources to escape the demands of the self, and it has left the future of public education in danger from the medicalization of schooling.

“Man cannot stand alone in the face of eternity: he needs the comfort of purpose, the peace of forgiveness, and the confidence of truth.?
Eric S. Cohen

Failing to teach Jason

A few years ago while teaching at a psychiatric hospital where nearly all the troubled adolescents were diagnosed as “oppositional-defiant,? I made a routine classroom request, “Take out your work from yesterday.?

Jason, a 15-year-old boy, angrily began shouting obscenities. He stood up and threw his desk at me, screaming violent threats. To protect myself and other kids, I restrained him and dragged him to the floor. Several other staff members rushed to help. Later, other staff members and I met with him. He had stopped swearing and begun crying.

“It’s your fault,” he said. “You’re supposed to fix me–” he pushed out his lower lip–“and I’m still like this.”

No doubt the kid had problems. “Needs,” he’d been taught to call them. He was searching, albeit ineffectively, for something beyond the self. He covered his notebooks and forearms with gang insignia, dreaming of belonging to a group that would provide an identity.

I wish the sort of problems he faced were rare, but the truth is that most teachers face at least some young people like him. Some teachers face a great many of them every day–kids who demand that we cater to them and blame us for all their failures. We only exist, in the story we have told them, to provide services to meet their needs. But try teaching someone who has been systematically taught to blame you for the consequences of his conduct.


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2005 Michael L. Umphrey
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