Traumatizing Children in the Name of Education Reform

I’ve written previously about the harm high-stakes testing is inflicting on children. Tragically, we read this from a mental health professional in Texas (boldface mine):

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.

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4 Responses to Traumatizing Children in the Name of Education Reform

  1. Min says:

    “They have difficulty with scientific thinking and using higher level thinking skills. They become obedient and submissive to authority, and function more robotic.”

    How do you create an underclass?

  2. albanaeon says:

    I’m thinking “feature” not “bug” for at least a few “reformers.”

  3. Newcastle says:

    Someone is doing something wrong but I’m not at all sure who. My kid spent a ridiculous amount of time taking the new SAGE tests in Utah. He wasn’t stressed in the least, he was bored out of his skull and all his friends were bored along with him. No one was complaining about the tests being difficult or stressful. They complained because it tied up the library for a month and cut down on their computer access. Did I mention that they thought the tests were boring? Because the kids kept mentioning it. Daily. For a month. The really sad thing is we have never seen the results. No scores, grades or any other feedback was given to the kids or their parents.

    The kids sure did not see it as high stakes anything. Just exactly what was the stake here – they got exactly ZERO feedback. No grade, no you did well or you need to do better. Nothing. So no, there was no trauma, no stress, just boredom from taking computerized tests because some mysterious government person said they had to.

    And from all the practice tests they have learned how to game that particular testing system and they learned the “tricks” of the types of questions being asked. Riiiiight, that is a useful life skill that should take up about half the third grade school year.

    I don’t know what other places are doing but the testing here seems to be an epic waste of time and money but wasting time & money does not cause the apocalyptic damage that they were referring to in that article. None of the kids that I know experienced anything even remotely like that.

  4. Answering Min’s question as per my best current information : Charlotte Iserbyt on The Perils of Common Core

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