“Trauma & Education." Is public vs. private schools a straw-man argument.

This brings me to the lead focus of this blog: traumatized people don’t do well with verbal ‘talk therapy’ because their brains shift into a ‘protect & defend’ mode shutting off prior curiosity, openness and focused learning. To understand this neuronal network alteration in reaction to trauma, take a look at an earlier blog. (“The Neuronal Circuit of PTSD| United States | RESET Therapy,”)

So, I’m taking a jump now to a current issue that’s hot in this country pertaining to Charter-Schools vs Public-Schools. I contend that if you place an emotionally damaged child into either of these settings, his/her educational progress will still be limited unless the trauma-induced effects are fully remediated. Unfortunately, at this time, we still don’t have a well-known, broadly utilized intervention to accomplish this objective. So now, let’s get into this ‘sham’ issue.

“As the charter school movement accelerates across the country, a critical question remains unanswered: whether the creation of charters is accelerating school segregation. Federal judges who oversee desegregation plans in Louisiana are wrestling with that issue at a time when (politicians) wants to spend billions of dollars on charter schools, vouchers and other ‘school choice’ initiatives. (“New charter schools debate: Are they widening racial divides in public education? - The Washington Post,” 2017)

I began my career (1970’s) as a public-school Industrial Arts (shop) teacher instructing male junior high school students. At that time, girls took Home Economics. By this point in their development, boys were separating in the school setting to groups inclined toward an academic focus as opposed to those who were drawn towards the development of manual skills. Aside from an introductory class to the use of tools to all of the boys, those who struggled with academics were encouraged to specialize in ‘shop classes’. Consequently, many of the boys who were ‘kicked out of Math, Science, etc., found themselves drawn to Automotive, Wood-working, Electric, etc., classes. As I came to know many of these boys, I found that a great number of them were troubled souls with unresolved childhood issues.

At that time, and indeed extending into the present time, the contribution of trauma and its consequential impact to a child’s developmental period has been seeming ignored. This has occurred within the context of our educational systems whether they be charter or public schools. In this sense, I believe that we are ‘missing the baby within the bath water’. Indeed, I believe that the early experience of trauma is the ‘great divider’ in regards to those who academically thrive in school as opposed to those who find it to be a frustrating and demeaning experience.

To put it succinctly, I don’t believe that the Public-School vs Charter-School debate is the real issue related to how best to help children learn. Rather, it is our ‘head in the sand’ attitude regarding early exposure to trauma among those who struggle with learning in the school setting. Also, as exemplified in the school shooting event at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, I am concerned with the after effects on the student’s ability to learn following direct or indirect exposure to trauma.

Unfortunately, our society is inclined to ignore events that occur in early childhood and thereafter until they reach a level that is so glaring that it simply can’t be ignored. In this sense, as a nation, we are motivated to intervene at a juncture that is far disconnected from the point that damage to the developing personality has taken place. We pay a tremendous price for this denial of the effects of early trauma as exemplified in the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study.

Adverse Childhood Experiences were first identified in an extensive research initiative by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Kaiser Permanente in 1995. They studied the connections between childhood maltreatment and family dysfunction and adult health and mental health outcomes among over 17,000 people. This original ACE study drew several conclusions:

  • when children are exposed to these ‘adverse childhood experiences’, the stress of this exposure may affect or disrupt the chemical and physical development of the child's brain and nervous system.

  • when development of a child's brain and nervous system is disrupted, this affects the child's ability to cope with diffic