Even if you believe, as I do, that American educators see themselves more as therapists than as pedagogues, the evidence still shocks.
And even if you believe that schools are wasting money on bureaucrats and pseudo-therapists, seeing it in action still doesn’t feel quite real.
How, you ask yourself, can someone who is charged with educating a child exploit that child for sociocultural ends?
How can they rationalize the fact that their victims are most often poor and disadvantaged children? You know, and I know, that wealthy parents would never tolerate what is going on in the seventh grade of the Berendo School in California.
Heather MacDonald has the story. If you want to know why American schoolchildren cannot compete, this tells you more than you wanted to know.
At first, it feels innocent. The children attending this school live in a neighborhood that is infested with gangs. The school has chosen to combat this problem with… you guessed it… group therapy.
MacDonald described the scene: “In 2006, I visited Berendo’s Violence Intervention Program for children who show signs of gang involvement and their overwhelmingly single mothers. The students’ siblings often came from a dizzying array of different fathers. The Violence Intervention Program’s listless group therapy session did not inspire confidence that students were better off parked there than in front of a math textbook. “
Trying to combat the pathology of non-existent families with group therapy seems worthy of Candide. Taking such an approach seriously tells me that those involved are disconnected from reality.
More recently, the Los Angeles Times reported another therapeutic initiative: “On a recent morning, Trina Greene, manager of Peace Over Violence’s Start Strong program, faced a class at Berendo Middle School in Pico-Union and dived into matters of love and control.
“She took students through an exercise in which they had to decide whether to leave a relationship. Under one scenario, a girl pinched a boy for looking at another girl. The students said they would end the relationship. But when she bought him a gold chain for his birthday, a number of them wavered, saying they might stay.”
The point is almost too obvious, but apparently it needs to be emphasized. These twelve-year-old children do not need to learn how to conduct relationships. They need to learn algebra.
If this type of classroom exercise was coupled with rigorous training in math and science, it would be less offensive. But, a school that thinks that group therapy is going to cure gang violence is not going to promote rigorous academic standards.
In MacDonald’s words: “Only 35 percent of Hispanic seventh-graders at this overwhelmingly Hispanic middle school were deemed proficient in California’s English Language Arts test in 2010-11, and only 43 percent were deemed proficient in Math. Yet Berendo’s students are spending precious class time role-playing dating scenarios rather than studying the grammar of dependent clauses or poring over algebra work sheets.”
Now, of course, the school district is thinking about expanding its Peace Over Violence program.
You might have guessed that the program is designed to address a real problem: domestic violence and abusive relationships.
No one is surprised to learn that a household where one woman is bringing up several children, each of whom has a different father, contains more than the usual quota of conflict.
The administrators believe that they are striking a blow against domestic violence, especially violence against women, by taking a bunch of 12 year olds and teaching them how to take a stand against abuse.
Given these children's home lives, what concept do you think they have of caring and loving relationships?
It’s the kind of message you throw at middle class coeds, not because it is going to prod them toward greater self-respect, but because it is going to make them better feminists.
It is good to learn how to walk away from an abusive relationship, but how many girls and young women are taught to behave with men as though they respect themselves? How many of them are being taught not to hook up?
Since the point requires further emphasis, MacDonald points out that “relationship” difficulties in poor and minority communities do not derive from a lack of empathy, but from the breakdown of the family.
If social workers have been trying to produce better family environment, perhaps they should start thinking that they have gotten it all grievously wrong.
She explains: “Schools have been piling on social services for decades, yet the illegitimacy rate continues to rise, most cataclysmically among blacks (73 percent) and Latinos (53 percent). (Teen birth rates have gone down since the early 1990s, though they are still magnitudes higher than in Europe and Asia.) The social dysfunction that results from this spiraling illegitimacy rate provides the pretext for further increasing the school social work bureaucracy.”
Those who support these therapeutic interventions must believe that they are doing God’s work. Were you to ask them, they would tell you that they have been called upon to compensate for what these children do not have at home. They would say that their fondest wish is for children to learn these things at home. Since they don’t, this army of do-gooders has been called into action.
MacDonald asks us to look at the question of causation here. When schools usurp parental functions, are they solving a problem or aggravating it?
MacDonald asks: “Isn’t teaching about dating the family’s responsibility? The all-purpose justification for the takeover of schools by the social work bureaucracy is: ‘Parents are not doing their jobs.’ But the causality here works both ways. The more that schools purport to take on the functions of parents, the more marginalized those parents become and the less class time is devoted to the academic material that could help propel students out of underclass culture.”
I would take it further. If parents are marginalized, and if their judgment is overruled by school counselors, this must tell young people that their parents are incompetent and are not deserving of respect or obedience. All children, those with good parents and those with bad parents, are being taught not to respect their parents' authority.
They are also telling these children parents do not need to create strong families or to provide children with a moral education. They are also telling these young people that parents need not become good role models for their children.
These programs send a clear message to these children. They tell the children that when they grow up they need only reproduce; the state will take care of the rest.
In this pedagogical dystopia, children do not belong to their parents; they belong to the state. They do not grow up in families; they are brought up by academic guardians to believe in politically correct values.
These practices enact a philosophy that many people embraced when it was presented in a more anodyne form in a book called: It Takes a Village.
The programs are now promoting a value system that is more likely to produce broken families.
MacDonald explains: “The dominant ethos of the social service lobby guarantees that it will fail to stem family breakdown, even if it had any hope of serving as a viable surrogate for parental oversight to begin with. The lobby is obsessively value-neutral about promiscuity and family structure. It’s fine for teens to have sex, so long as they do so in a nonsexist, non-heteronormative, condom-using way. It’s also fine for women and girls to have children out of wedlock; to suggest otherwise violates the first principle of feminism: ‘Strong women can do it all.’ Children don’t need fathers; they just need good ‘support systems’.”