, , ,

The faintest beginnings of a much-needed national conversation about mental health have been appearing in the media lately. More and more, people are talking about the pros and cons of preventative care vs. punitive measures. In Colorado, a state that’s been touched by more than one tragic incident of school violence, some districts are beginning to experiment with universal mental health screenings as a means of identifying troubled students and providing them with early intervention assistance. “By incorporating social-emotional skills into the school day, Aurora administrators are hoping that they can head off problems before they start, creating healthier, more productive classrooms and ultimately higher student achievement.”

Since 1992, when the U.S. Government defined institutes of higher education as including for-profit schools that meet the 90-10 rule (Wikipedia link)–thereby allowing them award Pell Grants and subsidized loans–many for-profits have preyed upon poor students who often don’t have the necessary social supports to complete a degree, much less the ability to pay back thousands of dollars in student loans.

This is from New Zealand, which might make it hard to see how it has any bearing on U.S. schools. Still, I thought the article interesting and worthy of mention here, especially in light of our uniquely American preoccupation with keeping kids safe. I’m not advocating giving up playground rules, not in today’s litigious environment, but I’m old enough to remember (sometimes even wistfully) a time when games of tag, red rover, and blind man’s bluff were recess staples.

During the 2012-2013 school year, the University of Chicago Urban Education Lab did a randomized trial program for 106 at-risk youth in Chicago public schools. The students, who received intense tutoring and behavioral counseling, “learned in an eight-month period the equivalent of what the average American high school student learns in math over three years of school…over and above what a similar group of students who did not receive the tutoring or counseling did.”

“With each passing day, it seems, smoking pot becomes less and less stigmatized in our society.” It’s a confusing time, with public opinion shifting rapidly and local, state, and federal governments doing their best to keep up. Teenagers may be tempted to experiment in ways they might not have before, but “Adolescence is a sensitive time for brain development,” says Matthew J. Smith, a research assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences. “If a teen introduces the abuse of marijuana at that point in their life, it could have consequences for their ability to problem solve, for their memory and for critical thinking in general.”

Sometimes I can be a bit idealistic when it comes to public schools and their willingness to abide by federal and state laws and commensurate antipathy for all forms of discrimination, so stories like this one always surprise me.