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Truancy and Failure
In Studies Seen as Child's SOS Dr Ewerhardt Warns That Signal Indicates Need of Understanding This is one of a series of weekly articles discussing activities ot the Community Chest agencies. This article is based on the fourth of six lectures to be given by an executive of a Chest agency on "A Mental Hygienist Looks at Life." School teachers and parents should learn that truancy, misbe havior and failure in school work are "distress signals” in children who need understanding more than punishment, according to Dr. Paul J. Ewerhardt. executive of the Washington Institute of Mental Hygiene, a Community Chest agency. Dr. Ewerhardt’s talk was the fourth in a series of six which he is delivering before nurses of the Dis trict Health Department and the Instructive Visiting Nurse Society. His talks so far have covered early Infancy and preschool ages in chil dren from the standpoint of a men tal hygienist and later will treat with older children and young adults. In entering school the child em barks upon a new and much more complex experience, he said in his lecture yesterday. Meets Demand for Conformity. "Until that time the child has been under the protective influence of his home, his activities for the most part have been concerned with free play and he has not yet felt the impact of the pressures from the outside world, which from now on will increase in number and com plexity. He experiences reality in a very vital way. He cannot do as he wishes but must conform to stand ards of conduct and personal effort that have been set up by society. "School is not a place where he merely learns the A. B, C's. It is also a ‘school’ in which he is mould ed in ways that are extremely im portant. He is aided in establishing good work habits, in accepting ob jective authority demands and be coming an integral part of a social group. In such a process the in dividual becomes relatively sub merged in favor ef the greater power and prestige of the group. This is what is implied in good citizenship." Good citizenship, Dr. Ewerhardt brought out, is not taught by word of mouth: it emerges out of the manifold experiences of a child as he grows up and becomes more able, with assistance, to fit into the world as he finds it. In this important aspect of growth and development the school plays an extremely vital part. “No longer is the school exclus ively preoccupied with the three R s, ’ he said. “It has taken over a considerable share of the respon sibility of turning out youths bet ter prepared to meet the complexi ties of modern life. Departures Signal Distress. “Flexibility in treatment is a by word in modern pedagogy. There are so many variations among children that no hard and fast educational rules can be laid down. Failure to observe this leads to less than satisfactory consequences. Mis behavior, failure in school work, truancy, etc., are self-evident sig nals that all is not going well. “Teachers and parents have an obligation to understand the mean ing of these signals. Aggressive or challenging behavior is annoying and disruptive. Mere suppression of it is not, by and large, sufficient. An understanding of what is in volved in it, and constructive ways of meeting it are just as essential.” Mental hygienists believe that in many instances the entirely obedi ent and submissive child—the so called “good child”—may be in a much more unhealthy situation than the child who reveals his in itiative and his desire to come to grips with life, according to Dr. Ewerhardt. Failure to make expected pro gress in subjects is based upon many factors that have to be under stood, he made clear. “Some children are bright, others average, still others less well en dowed. Naturally this can be easily recognized by standard tests skill fully applied. Proper school place ment should remedy the situation. Blame Shifts to School. “On the other hand, it may be a source of pain to parents to ac cept the inevitability that their children are not potential profes sors. Their inability to eccept this fact so often leads them to blame the school, and in this state of affairs the child comes out second best. “If under those circumstances he begins to show symptoms of mis behavior or nervousness it should not be difficult to understand the importance of the parent being helped to accept the basis for the trouble.” The relationship between home and school is exceedingly important, aaid Dr. Ewerhardt. but often these two areas cannot adequately come together. Out of this situation has developed the so-called visiting teacher. She is a woman having the broad point of education, having perhaps been a teacher herself; and who in addition is an experi enced social worker. It is the visit ing teacher who provides the means of bringing home and school to gether, to the end that a healthy, understanding, co-operative rela tionship can be achieved, Dr. Ewer hardt stated. Truancy should in most instances be regarded more seriously than just a lark, he pointed out. Barr ing those instances where it has no particularly great significance, truancy as a general rule is an in dication that, study and careful in vestigation of underlying factors Is strongly indicated. Truancy may be a sign that the child is breaking down in his ad justment, which if uncorrected, may lead to other and possibly serious consequences. Under no circum stances should it be disregarded, any more than persistent physical or nervous complaints.” Maps Spring Program James E. 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