When teachers become psychotherapists
By Dr. Samuel L. Blumenfeld
Most parents of public school children are unaware that teachers all across America
are now practicing psychotherapy in the classroom without a license. Not only do
they not have a license, but they haven't even had adequate training. In fact, many
teachers don't even know that they are practicing psychotherapy. They think that
what they are doing has something to do with education. For example, sex education,
death education, drug education, decision making, transcendental meditation, sensitivity
training, values clarification and other such programs are now considered a legitimate
and important part of education. But they are not. They are forms of psychotherapy
intended to affect the emotions, beliefs, values, and behavior of the students.
All of this is very well explained in a booklet of 49 pages, which I recently
received from the Commonwealth Education Organization. The booklet, written by Dr.
Ann Landell, clinical psychologist, is entitled, "Shifting Roles." It deals with
the heavy-handed intrusion of psychotherapy into education, which has turned students,
who supposedly go to school to acquire certain academic skills, into patients whose
emotions and values become the school's major concerns.
Dr. Landell asks three basic questions, which she answers in the booklet: 1)
How do the professions of psychology and education differ? 2) Do all children need
therapy in the same way that all children need reading, writing, science and math?
3) Does the practice of classroom psychology always help children, or can it harm
There is no doubt that there is a big difference between education and psychology.
When I went to school back in the 1930s and '40s, teachers taught academic subject
matter exclusively. My teachers were not in the least interested in my feelings,
or beliefs, or values. They only wanted to know if I was learning what they were
teaching. I was a student, not a patient. As a result, those of us who attended
school in those years came out of the system pretty well educated. We fought in
World War II and won, and many of my colleagues went on to build the foundations
of what is today our high-tech economy. Tom Brokaw has called us the best generation
in American history, all because we knew how to read and write, defended the U.S.
Constitution, and adhered to biblical moral principles.
Psychologists deal with mental and behavioral disorders. They deal with deviants
from the norm, and therefore require highly specialized training. Teachers are supposedly
trained to teach children academic skills and a body of significant knowledge. The
children they teach are generally considered normal. But behavioral scientists have
targeted normal children as those requiring radical change. All you have to do is
read Prof. Benjamin Bloom's definition of education in his "Taxonomy of Educational
Objectives" -- the bible of progressive curriculum developers published in 1956
-- to understand where this intrusive concept of psychology comes from.
By educational objectives, we mean explicit formulations of the ways in which
students are expected to be changed by the educative process. That is, the ways
in which they will change in their thinking, their feelings, and their actions.
(Psychologist Gordon) Allport (1954) emphasizes the basic reorganization
that must take place in the individual if really new values and character traits
are to be formed.
The evidence points out convincingly to the fact that age is a factor operating
against attempts to effect a complete or thorough-going reorganization of attitudes
The evidence collected thus far suggests that a single hour of classroom
activity under certain conditions may bring about a major reorganization in
cognitive as well as affective behaviors.
The behavioral psychologists divided education into two domains: cognitive and
effective. The cognitive domain supposedly dealt with academic instruction, while
the affective domain was the cover under which psychotherapy was to be introduced
into the classroom. Note that the aim of effecting a "complete or thorough-going
reorganization of attitudes and values" implied that the attitudes and values of
the normal child had to be changed. These were values, often religious, that the
child had acquired at home from his parents.
Charlotte Iserbyt, author of "The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America," writes
in her Preface,
I have always found it interesting that the controversial school programs
are the only ones that have the word "education" attached to them! I don't recall
-- until recently -- "math ed.," "reading ed.," "history ed.," or "science ed."
A good rule of thumb ... is to question any subject that has the word "education"
attached to it.
To prove her point, Iserbyt quotes from The School Counselor of May 1977, which
dealt with the subject of death education:
An underlying, but seldom spoken, assumption of much of the death education
movement is that Americans handle death and dying poorly and that we ought to
be doing better at it. As in the case of many other problems, many Americans
believe that education can initiate change. Change is evident, and death education
will play as important a part in changing attitudes toward death as sex education
played in changing attitudes toward sex information and wider acceptance of
various sexual practices.
Which means that when they teach "sex education," they are really just teaching
sex. When they teach "drug education," they are really teaching drugs. But even
the so-called cognitive domain has been contaminated with psychotherapy through
the use of bibliotherapy. Dr. Landell writes,
Bibliotherapy, as the word implies, is a method of doing therapy through
books. ... (For example): Third graders studying slavery spend one day as master
and one day as slave in the classroom. What did the children learn from this
intense lesson? After "feeling the pain" of being a slave to classmates relishing
their master role as only third graders can, one child said, "It's really important
to be top dog!" Creating committed overlords was not the intent of the lesson,
but it was the result. If you spent a day as slave and a day as overlord, which
would you choose? And choose with gusto, because of the emotionally manipulative
Emotional manipulation is used throughout the curriculum to produce politically
correct young adults who may not know how to read, but will know how to respond
correctly to an assortment of stimuli. If the young adult does not have the intellectual,
psychological, philosophical, or theological maturity to deal with the stimuli thrown
at him, he will respond emotionally, like any primitive, superstitious individual.
On the matter of decision making, Dr. Landell writes,
Decision making models used in sex education, drug and suicide prevention
programs often lead children to list the pros and cons of these actions. Each
pro listed whets the appetite for the action, stirs interest and creates motivation
for the action. As one sixth grader said to her father, "Daddy, you better get
me out of that DARE program. It makes drugs look interesting." ... Weighing
the pros and cons of such behaviors changes them in students' minds from "weirdness
out there" to "things I could do."
Dr. Landell also discusses the psychotherapeutic issues of Self-Esteem Education,
Higher-Order Thinking, Dual Roles, and Confidentiality. If you have a child in a
public school, you owe it to yourself to get hold of this booklet. You can do so
by writing: Commonwealth Education Organization, 1330 Old Freeport Road, Suite 1A,
Pittsburgh, PA 15238-3112, or phone: 412-967-9691, fax: 412-967-9694.