Truancy and Failure
In Studies Seen as
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
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
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
In entering school the child em
barks upon a new and much more
complex experience, he said in his
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
“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.
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
“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
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
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. Moriarity, chancellor of
Alpha Mu Chapter, Sigma Delta
Kappa legal fraternity, at Colum
bus University, announces plans are
being formulated for the fraternity’s
spring activities, including initia
tion of new members.
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