A Note on Education

As gleaned from NeuroTribes:

In 1911, Erwin Lazar founded the Children’s Clinic in Vienna. Instead of seeing special children as flawed, broken or sick, he believed they were suffering from neglect by a culture that had failed to provide them with teaching methods suited to their individual styles of learning.

He viewed each child as embodying a particular archetype and when he characterised children with one word, it was the clearest possible way of describing their particular abilities, talents and future prospects. He understood the child’s problems and the way in which they were the natural consequence of his or her personality. He knew which side of the child’s personality needed to be handled with care, what challenges he/she could face and how his/her future path could be shaped.

He aimed to turn his clinic into a more humane society whereby children could learn to interact in a context of mutual respect and appreciation. He said “It must give every child a chance to find a comrade like himself.”

Also, he believed that only by watching a child in course of his/her daily life could the true dimensions of the child’s condition be gauged and not though a battery of tests. It was a looking with open eyes, open minds.

Importantly, the standards of “normal” conduct was open-ended. The criterion for classifying behaviour as normal or abnormal was the challenges that it created for the individual child, not whether it strayed from an idealised template of psychological health.

Beyond the formulation of diagnosis, the clinic sought “to determine the innate capacities of the child, the alterable components of his personality, the causes of his pathological behaviour, what will best assure his personal happiness, security and social welfare, what his right place is in the family, society, what are his personal goals and ambitions, and how these can all be realised.”

The open-ended approach to educating children, especially those with special needs, is invaluable. Often, the education system tries to fit all into a straitjacket of perfection, suppressing individuality and ensuring performance. Arguably, this is a system that does not respect personhood or appreciate natural development. It is unfair to place children under a tyrannical system of stress upon stress, disregarding their personal needs and wants.

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