30 years ago

20th January 2006 at 00:00
A cri de coeur, not dissimilar to those heard today, came from Patricia Craig, a teacher in a List D school (for troubled pupils), in The TESS of January 23, 1976:

"A few weeks ago, I was assaulted by a 13-year-old girl and was told no further action would be taken about this as the child was disturbed at the time. While I am very willing to accept and understand her disturbance, this was by no means the first time such an incident had occurred, and I question whether we were doing the right thing in accepting that sort of behaviour.

"Will her future employer accept it and excuse it, simply regarding it as a manifestation of a disturbed background? I hardly think so, and I think the sooner we help a child to realise certain types of behaviour are not acceptable, the easier it will be for that child to be accepted again in the outside community.

"I am by no means advocating a return to a punitive system, but I feel the time has come to stand back and assess honestly whether or not we have become too obsessed with psychology, or indeed whether or not we are over-compensating for what may be years of deprivation. Psychology has its place but I do not believe it should be allowed to become the great panacea. It is very comforting to feel you can find an explanation for all behaviour and it is much easier to accept and excuse deviant behaviour if you feel you know the reason behind it. But it is not always very honest.

"There really are some children and adults who, although well-adjusted, are basically bad... We must resist the temptation to become over-obsessed with psychology and work too many mystic meanings into simple happenings.

"(Many) non-experts use techniques and analysis they do not really understand, with very little benefit and indeed sometimes with a great deal of damage."

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