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Education Reporter

Book of the Month
Book of the Month

Shifting Roles, Education & Psychology, Psychology & Education, Ann Landell, Ph.D., 1998, Commonwealth Education Organization, 47 pps., $8

Dr. Landell has written an informative, easy-to-read booklet that demonstrates the serious consequences of mixing psychology and academics in the classroom. She writes that the "shifting roles" of teacher and psychologist have evolved over the past 25 years, and have reached the point where "academic teaching has been all but ousted" in favor of "psychologized education that turns students into patients who can neither control themselves nor learn."

Dr. Landell compares the very different professions of psychology and education, and points out that only some children need therapy while all children need education. She shows how the practice of psychology in the classroom can be harmful, putting at risk "the very personhood of the child."

Shifting Roles examines the pitfalls of six aspects of psychologized education, including:

Confidentiality - While classroom therapy sessions deal with major life issues such as suicide, sexual activity, death, etc., teachers and counselors often tell children not to talk about these sessions outside of class, "creating a mind-set that serious issues are discussed with classmates and teachers, not with parents."

Decision Making - Models used in many classrooms offer children both the pros and cons of undesirable actions, i.e., taking drugs, having sex, committing suicide. Dr. Landell explains how the pros are "far more powerful as motivators," because the class discussions give them "reality and validity."

Higher Order Thinking - Children are asked to make serious moral decisions without being taught abstract moral principles.

Bibliotherapy - Classroom psychologists routinely conduct therapy through books such as Elie Wiesel's Night, about Nazi concentration camps.

Self-Esteem Education - How it fails to teach children to manage "the give and take of everyday life."

Dual Roles - The ethics code of psychologists cautions against wearing two hats with patients because of the potential for harm to the patient or the therapy process.

Shifting Roles can be a powerful tool for parents, teachers, school board members, and education activists. Contact the Commonwealth Education Organization, 1330 Freeport Rd., Suite 1A, Pittsburgh, PA 15238 (412) 967-9691, fax (412) 967-9694.

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