reviewed by Dorothy M McGeoch - 1964
The newspapers report daily attacks on teachers by unruly pupils. Parents are hauled into court for beating defiant children. The police report constantly increasing numbers of juvenile delinquents. And the social problem of misguided and undisciplined youth becomes ever larger in the public mind.
In such a situation, preventive and remedial measures are not lacking. Community organizations and social service groups provide recreational programs and homework helpers. Social workers deal with family problems, and welfare agencies attempt to supply the essentials of existence. Schools set up guidance services, special classes, and extensive referral systems to deal with both symptoms and causal factors. And multitudes of bewildered, confused, and desperate parents and teachers search frantically for support and counsel.
The group of concise manuals reviewed here represent one publisher's modest attempt to meet this need. The major authors of earlier booklets include an eminent professor of educational administration and a recently elected state superintendent of public instruction. Each is the father of three children, none of whom, according to Dr. Rafferty, "has wound up in a reform school." More unexpected, probably, is the involvement of these educators in the production of cartoon pamphlets of good advice for parents and teachers.
The advice is not only good; it is attractively presented with admirable brevity and a softening dash of humor. Its obvious good sense helps it to slide smoothly into the conscious acceptance of its readers. Listen a moment.
Make as few rules as possiblebut stick to them! Too many parents have households that run like the legislature .. . when a law is broken, they make ten more.
Don't expector demandperfection. Be satisfied with improvement. Because, if your children were perfectwhat would they think of you???
Motivation is a teacher's first problem. Many people have asked: "Why can't Johnny read?" The first question is "Why doesn't Johnny 'want to read?" Because if Johnny doesn't 'want to read, all the king's horses and all the king's men will have a difficult job teaching himno matter what method they use.
Skin Your Own Skunks! This may be strong language but classroom discipline is primarily your job. The principal will helpbut seek assistance only when you really need it.
Use Common Sense. If you are uncertain what to do in a particular class situation, use your common sense. Have confidence in yourself. Trust your judgment. If you do, your children will.
While the veracity of such exhortations is hard to refute, their effectiveness is less clear. Probably intelligent and knowledgeable parents and teachers with a solid understanding of psychological principles could find both support and reinforcement in these pleasant little volumes. For the vast majority, however, something more than didactic prescriptions is needed. Acceptance is not automatically translated into action, and knowledge of desired goals must be supplemented by understanding of the slow and often difficult steps toward their achievement.
It is perhaps the attractiveness and surface simplicity of these manuals which causes the greatest concern. It is easy to imagine school administrators and PTA boards enthusiastically buying copies for distribution to parents and teachers and then settling back with the illusion that their problems are now solved. Since everyone now knows what should be done, peace will reign.
The latest addition to the series, however, presents no recipes for administrative repose. In a 6o-page monograph titled Understanding the Problem Child, Louis Raths and Anna Burrell define eight basic needs of children, list some common symptoms of unmet needs, and provide concrete illustrations of ways of dealing with problems. Plans for analyzing observed needs and recording classroom procedures suggest the involvement of the teacher in exploratory action and evaluation of results. With the addition of a carefully selected basic bibliography, it is easy to see how this brief introductory treatment could provide a challenging and fruitful framework for initiating further study by busy teachers and parent groups.
The Economics Press is a newcomer in educational publishing. Its first ventures have apparently been financially successful. Further exploration of the type of study guide represented by the pamphlet by Raths and Burrell might well result in a valuable contribution to the field as well.