“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 difficult or negative emotions and the child's cognitive and emotional development may be impaired.
over time, the child will develop other coping mechanisms for dealing with negative or difficult emotions – this often plays out during adolescence, when the child may abuse drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism for the trauma experienced during childhood.” (“ACES Paper for AFC CLE.pdf,” 2014)
The following authors found that: “Nine typologies of childhood traumas: neglect; emotional, physical, and sexual abuse; parental incarceration and binge drinking; and witnessing, being threatened with, and experiencing violence.” (August 17 & 2017, n.d.) “Furthermore, the number of children exposed to traumatic incidents including violence in the United States is staggering. “According to the National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence (NatSCEV), funded by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and carried out by the University of New Hampshire’s Crimes against Children Research Center, more than 60 percent of children surveyed had been exposed to direct or indirect violence during the 12 months prior to the survey. (“Crimes Against Children Research Center,” n.d.)
“Nearly half — 46.3 percent — had been assaulted at least once in the past year, meaning they had experienced one or more of the following: any physical assault, assault with a weapon, assault with injury, attempted assault, attempted or completed kidnapping, assault by a brother or sister, assault by another child or adolescent, nonsexual genital assault, dating violence, bias attacks or threats.
“One in 10 had experienced some form of maltreatment, which includes nonsexual physical abuse, psychological or emotional abuse, child neglect and custodial interference. Other CDC research indicates that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are victims of sexual abuse. However, many experts emphasize that due to the stigma involved, sexual abuse is underreported.” (“The toll of childhood trauma - Counseling Today,” 2014)
Assuming that the above material is accurate and correct, how on earth can we expect children who have experienced the above events to be able to focus attention within the school setting. Might a child who scores 3 or above on the ACE Questionnaire do better in a Public-School vs Charter-School setting? My guess would be neither! As the ACE score increases, so does the risk of social and emotional problems. With an ACE score of 4 or more, things really start getting serious. (“Adverse Childhood Experiences | SAMHSA,” 2017)
So, is there a solution? Research into alternative interventions are beginning to offer approaches that may turn out to be viable options. Among these are RESET Therapy which utilizes a special binaural sound that permits the disruption of the reconsolidation process thereby enhancing the brain’s natural neuroplasticity. Specifically, we can cause the emotional aspects of traumatic memories to ‘drop out’ during the memory reconsolidation phase. This results in immediate, permanent and significant relief. Here’s what we know about memory at the present time as opposed to what we knew twenty years ago: it’s not permanent; it’s not hard-wired; it can be changed; it is updated and most importantly, it can be disrupted during the restoring (reconsolidation) process. Now, is the time to bring this awareness to suffering students, grieving parents, first responders, military service members and others who have become restricted in their activities of daily living due to the effects of trauma. (“Resetting the Fear Switch in PTSD: A Novel Treatment Using Acoustical Neuromodulation to Modify Memory Reconsolidation | George Lindenfeld - Academia.edu,” 2015)
ACES Paper for AFC CLE.pdf. (n.d.). https://ubir.buffalo.edu/xmlui/bitstream/handle /10477/25418/ACES%20Paper%20for%20AFC%20CLE.pdf
Adverse Childhood Experiences | SAMHSA. (2017). https://www.samhsa.gov/capt/practicing-effective-prevention/prevention-behavioral-health/adverse-childhood-experiences
Childhood Trauma, Substance Use Disorder Linked. https://www.mdedge.com/clinical psychiatrynews/clinical-edge/summary/addiction-medicine/childhood-trauma-substance-use
Crimes Against Children Research Center. (n.d.). http://www.unh.edu/ccrc/projects/natscev.html
New charter schools debate: Are they widening racial divides in public education? - The Washington Post. (2017). https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/new-charter-schools-debate-are-they-widening-racial-divides-in-public-education/2017/05 /16/2f324676-0d78-11e7-9d5a-a83e627dc120_story.html?utm_term=.78cc6e590fce
Resetting the Fear Switch in PTSD: A Novel Treatment Using Acoustical Neuromodulation to Modify Memory Reconsolidation | George Lindenfeld - Academia.edu. (n.d.). https:// www.academia.edu/12532059/Resetting_the_Fear_Switch_in_PTSD_A_Novel_Treatment_Using_Acoustical_Neuromodulation_to_Modify_Memory_Reconsolidation
The Neuronal Circuit of PTSD| United States | RESET Therapy. (n.d.). https://www. drlindenfeldresettherapy.com/single-post/2017/06/15/The-Neuronal-Circuit-of-PTSD
The toll of childhood trauma - Counseling Today. (n.d.). http://ct.counseling.org/2014/06/the-toll-of-childhood-trauma/