The Truth about Achievement Gaps: Massachusetts Psychologist Responds

Dear Greg,

I am a former school psychologist who was a teaching assistant in
Individual Intelligence Testing while I was a graduate student at
Harvard
GSE. I cant speak to all the issues you raise about the situation in
Texas; but i do know something about what does and does not affect
school achievement. Learning is a psychological process and is affected
by any emotional experience with the power to interfere with logical
thinking. The creators of NCLB seem to have simply chosen to ignore
any
basic understanding of how kids learn; in fact, they seem to imply that
it is all a matter of Will Power— a concept as antique as it is
unhelpful. ( In fact, learning is a basic trait. No newborn animal is
going to survive if it does not catch on pretty quick to how the world
works. )

I am now 70 years old and in my lifetime I have seen the discipline of
psychology (and especially psychoanalytic theory) deliberately trashed
in a manner which forshadowed the way Cheney now attacks those who
point
out his lies. We are up against an opponent who believes that the best
defence is a good offense. It is so easy to keep people confused by
publishing lies faster than they can be refuted. Why is this important? Because the average reporter now lacks the tools
to refute current lies, such as that the achievement gap can never be
closed. Orwell was right. We have forgotten even the vocabulary and
concepts which we need . In order to fight the deception, we have to
back
up and reconstruct some fundamental axioms. And this takes time and
worse, people dont know what we are talking about and dont want to pay
attention. It takes the willingness to pay attention to nuance and
qualification, instead of the black and white simplicities we have
been
fed for years.

If you are interested, here are some references that I have found
helpful:


One Little Boy
, Dorothy Baruch. An account of play therapy with a
typical child who was declareded to be of below average intelligence;
after several years his IQ was measured at about 120.


Harvard and the Unabomber
, Alston Chase. Pages 253-80 explain what
happened to psychology after WW2.


The Magic Years
, Selma Fraiberg. A good introduction to the theories
of
ego psychology and how they apply to child development. Very readable
and
a good counter to our current simplistic obsession with the brain. One
lack is that she does not explore what goes wrong when the "average
expectable environment" is dysfunctional.

Much observation about the psychological aspects of learning has been
published in the almost 60 annual volumes of "The Psychoanalytic
Study
of the Child". I dont expect you to read all these, but it is helpful
to
at least know that they exist, even though they have been ignored.

A professional psychologist should know better than to claim that an IQ
score measures what the subject’s intelligence "IS". What it does
measure is the level of intellectual functioning at the time of the
test,
and under those conditions.

Some children are truly congenitally of very poor intelligence, and
will
never catch up, no matter how hard we try. But others thought to be
"retarded" have more probably learned to act in "pseudo-imbecilic"
ways.
Some have been neglected or abused such that they never learned to
learn in academic ways.( Another journal about rehabilitation uses the
term "orthogenics". That is, the process of correcting mis-learning can
be compared to the process of orthopedic rehabilitation.)

The bottom line is that it takes serious money and programs to bring
the
second group up to speed. For some reason, the judgemental ethics of
the
Right lead them to oppose such intervention. Therefore , when asked to
do
the obvious thing, they are touched in the quick and flare up in all
the
absurd arguments that we are now hearing, for instance, in the current
issue of Forbes. Like Cheney, they can not BEAR to be caught in the
act.
I guess they actually have some remnant of shame.

As I write this, I am burning over a new irony. When the right catches
on
that early intervention. social programs, and early childhoood
education
are important, they find a new way to pretend that stone equals bread,
offering us unscientific faith-based programs, superficial "counseling"
rather than sophisticated therapy, and early childhood programs that
incorporate all the abuses of NCLB and authoritarian boot camps.

I hope that this is helpful to you. Our democrary can not survive based
on ersatz education.

"Good night and good luck",

Nancy Rader
Massachusetts


gratefully posted by permission of author

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