Childhood Trauma and School Choice

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(Guest post by Greg Forster)

Opinion leaders in Oklahoma are orchestrating a full-court press to use remediation of “childhood trauma” as the next narrative under which they should get big, indiscriminate spending increases without accountability for results. As someone who had a traumatic childhood myself, I’m all in favor of expanding access to effective services in this area. That’s why I’m against big, indiscriminate spending increases without accountability, and in favor of school choice, which actually helps kids with traumatic experiences.

OCPA carries my article:

The usual reply to concerns such as this—other than “you’re cruel and heartless for asking whether the money we spend on helping people actually helps people”—is to lament how hard it is to have a positive impact on such intractable problems. When children are abused or mistreated, or have mental health disorders or other traumatic problems, they lose their proper chance to grow in their human potential. Getting wounded people on the road to recovery and growth is very, very hard.

That is all true. It is not, however, a reason to spend large amounts of money without accountability. It is a reason to look for more promising policy approaches.

There follows a recitation of findings on how school choice decreases rates of childhood trauma and provides a more supportive and effectively nurturing school environment.

I’m also unscrupulous enough to remind everyone of how poorly the Oklahoma government school system handled some notorious cases of childhood trauma just last year:

Last year, a number of cases came to light in Oklahoma in which minority students were being targeted by racist bullies. One family was finally given permission—permission!—to transfer their child out of the school where he was being constantly persecuted. Untold thousands more children continue to suffer in their assigned government schools, whether because of racist bullying or whatever other adversity they experience, because they didn’t happen to catch the attention of the media and make the system look bad.

Why on earth should one family get permission to choose, and not everyone else? Why should even that one family have had to go begging to the powerful and get permission to protect their own child? Did we lose a war?

Yes, by all means let’s throw more money at the unaccountable government monopoly system as the only permissible defense for children experiencing trauma!

I promise not to be traumatized if you let me know what you think.

9 Responses to Childhood Trauma and School Choice

  1. Martha Bradley-Dorsey says:

    Jay,

    Thank you for posting this. My learning in the last year or so has reminded me of just how dangerous it is to give indiscriminate money toward an idea without *at least *employing Hippocrates’ advice to “first, do no harm”. There are a lot of snake oil salesmen out there, and a lot of harm is done in the name of educational “helping”.

    I have a strong hunch this is what you were telling me about a year ago. I misunderstood you, and for that I apologize.

    Thank you ever so much for all that I am learning in the program!

    Best, – Martha

    On Mon, Sep 9, 2019 at 9:06 AM Jay P. Greene’s Blog wrote:

    > Greg Forster posted: ” (Guest post by Greg Forster) Opinion leaders in > Oklahoma are orchestrating a full-court press to use remediation of > “childhood trauma” as the next narrative under which they should get big, > indiscriminate spending increases without accountability for r” >

  2. Michael Shaughnessy says:

    I agree with almost all of what you have to say- I would just like to differentiate between “mental health disorders” which could be of a psychiatric or psychological nature ( childhood schizophrenia, pervasive developmental delay or autism) and children who have been sexually, physically and emotionally abused. All these children need specialized treatment and not all should be “mainstreamed”. My heart does go out to children who have experienced trauma and I sincerely hope they receive the treatment and care they deserve.

    • Greg Forster says:

      Yes, that is an important distinction. Nonetheless, people on both sides of it (children and adults alike) may benefit from mental health services.

  3. Bonnie Hausman says:

    I agree totally with Jay Greene’s critique of the proposal for indiscriminate funding for trauma cases, as sympathetic as I am for trauma. I also believe every parent should be able to exercise school choice. But all spending decisions should carry the obligation to demonstrate accountability. So long as everyone does not have school school, this particular proposal should carry the obligation to demonstrate outcomes per case. Since each case is a special case, then each outcome decision is a special, data-based decision.

  4. Bonnie Hausman says:

    I agree totally with Jay Greene’s critique of the proposal for indiscriminate funding for trauma cases, as sympathetic as I am for those who have experienced trauma. I also believe every parent should be able to exercise school choice and that all spending decisions should carry the obligation to demonstrate accountability. So long as everyone does not have school choice, this particular proposal should carry the obligation to demonstrate outcomes per case. Since each case is a special case, then each outcome decision should be a special, data-based decision.

  5. […] blogs at Jay P. Greene’s Blog and his Twitter handle is @jaypgreene. A recent provocative blog post about philanthropic failures […]

  6. […] blogs at Jay P. Greene’s Blog and his Twitter handle is @jaypgreene. A recent provocative blog post about philanthropic failures […]

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