Dissociation is how children often cope with stress which they are developmentally unprepared to process. When it becomes chronic in their daily environment, it can lead to mental illness, since it impacts their social and emotional development.
The age inappropriate focus on performance and data with age inappropriate material and methods related to high stakes testing, has created an authoritarian environment of fear, intimidation, and boredom for children in elementary schools. This performance based reward/punishment environment is the same punitive classical conditioning (behaviorism) that is used to “train” dogs and zoo animals.
I have observed the increasing symptoms of emotional desensitization in children in Texas elementary schools and spoken up and written articles about it for the past two years. After a time in this environment, many children will begin to look more like prisoners of war than normal healthy children. They lose vitality, spontaneity, and the ability for imaginative play. They have difficulty with scientific thinking and using higher level thinking skills. They become obedient and submissive to authority, and function more robotic. The symptoms of traumatic stress: Regression, Dissociation, and Constriction, are similar in PTSD, BOS, and “Battered Child Syndrome”: In these children’s daily school environment, it is not “post” as after acute trauma, but it is “chronic”, and has high potential to cause permanent psychological damage in the form of personality disorders (mental illness).
What many of us in Texas schools originally thought to be soaring rates of High Functioning Autism (HFA), which also has symptoms of regression, dissociation, and constriction, is now thought to be stress related rather than HFA. For young children who still have a developing brain, being forced to function in a chronic state of hyper vigilance and/or hypoarousal or hyperarousal, will become “hard wired” into the personality. It changes their brain chemistry. CCSS is creating Anxiety Disorders and Depression that many children will suffer for a lifetime.
At best, high-stakes testing is teaching some young children to hate and fear school. At worst, it is damaging their cognitive development. Assuming future generations are still literate, they will look back on this era’s notion of education ‘reform’ and shudder. And they will be right in doing so.