Re: DSM: People measurers

Teresa Gallagher (hypercog@connix.com)
Mon, 25 May 1998 13:21:41 -0400

> >
> > Statistical data is for OK for measuring new cars coming off an assembly
> > line but not for measuring people and I for one do whatever I can to
> > discourage the practice.\

Well, I couldn't possibly disagree more. A great deal can and has been
learned about the human species and the human condition because of
statistics. For example, without statistics we couldn't track progress
in the economic equality between the races. We would never have found
out about the link between crime rates and the population of teenagers
within a certain age range. We wouldn't be able to isolate
environmental causes of cancer or other diseases. Is there no meaning in
the statistic which show large numbers of kids graduating from public
schools can barely read? How about statistic showing how AIDs is most
often transmitted? Or how old kids typically are when they become
sexually active? Statistics have demonstrated that a lack of B vitamens
can result in a birth defect. This list could go on forever. These
things can't possibly be demonstrated by case studies. I'm astounded
that you believe all of this is meaningless! How can it be so? Sure,
statistics can be used the wrong way, but that doesn't mean they
shouldn't be used. And statistics never, ever mean that every individual
will fit a certain mode, any more than they mean you will never have a
plane crash simply becouse planes are statistically safer than cars.

What if a well designed study showed that SVS graduates were more likely
to go to college, had higher self esteem, lower rates of diagnosed
learning disabilities, were generally more literate, are more likely to
have become experts in one or more interests and those interests helped
them in college and eventually in their careers? I can hardly believe
that you would be against this!

If everyone here was so absolutely positive that this type of schooling
is really better than traditional schools, then I don't understand the
distain for third party assessments. Frankly, I think is it extremely
unrealistic to expect the rest of the world to make a radical switch in
schooling styles based only on 'faith.' At least in the U.S., we are
surrounded by companies, politicians and charities all calling on us to
have faith in their product. Later we find out that the information we
were given was one sided, or perhaps a charity spent 75% of it's
donations on phone solicitations. That's just real life. SVS proponents
must learn to navigate this environment of skepticism by providing solid
facts and third party evidence which support it's belief, not simply
telling people to 'have faith.'

This mindset and fear of third party reviews will hold back the
popularity of the schools.

Almost all scientific studies rely on statistics. Basically, without
statistics or data, science would cease to exist. We would never learn
anything about humans. Is this what you want?

Example: For years researchers have studied highly creative people to
try and find out how they differ from less creative people. While there
are obviously differences from person to person, the researchers did
find that, as a group, highly creative people were far more hyperactive,
less attentive, independent, impulsive, switched from task to task, were
sensation seeking, and highly sensitive. Guess what, these are the
traits of attention deficit disorder. Some scientists now say ADD is
really just another way of looking at a highly creative person.
Statistics were used to show that so-call ADD kids, currently labeled as
having a brain defect, were actually within the broad range of what
should be considered normal. Statistics were absolutely critical in this
example in order to identify certain trends within a subgroup of people,
and to counteract everyone's assumption that ADD kids have a 'defect.'

Also, there are times when individuality is not always the most
important thing (I'm saying this as a very independent person). As
someone with a very different thinking/learning style, I grew up hearing
that I wasn't trying hard enough, lacked character, etc. and I couldn't
remember things or pay attention to lectures. Difficulties have
persisted into home life and work. Finding out about ADD a few years
ago, and later creativity, temperament differences and dyslexia, was
like having a dark cloud disappear from overhead. Mind you, I do not
accept the medical community's assessment that ADD is a disorder or a
defect. But, it is NOT so great to believe you are the only person in
the universe with a consistent history of not being able to do things
that everyone else can. Finding out that there are others who go
through the same hardships, and being able to talk to these people is
really something. Finding out that all these little personality quirks
and difficulties are related and that other people have them as well is
truly amazing to me. And finding out that these problem quirks may be
actually related to a gift of creative thinking is even better. On our
Born to Explore mailing list we compare notes and offer each other
advise based on our experiences. Just lately, a newbie with two ADD sons
and an ADD husband took some advice and recently wrote back that,
without the input from the list, she would have gone mad and blamed her
family for their 'active' behavior. Now she feels at peace with their
"differences." This was made possible by the use of statistics and
generalizations.

Since my son definitely has my personality, only more so it seems, I
have studied positive and alternative books on ADD extensively. You
would probably think that is a waste of time because my son is an
individual and shouldn't be labeled ADD. Well, I'm not having him
diagnosed because I don't like official labels either. However, I have
learn a great deal, starting when he was only one, about how his
personality traits can best be handled. Without having read these
books, I guarantee you that we would be in a meltdown now at age 5.
These books will say..if you're child does X, try Y. These tips often
work. The best thing I read was the Abuse it - Lose it method of
teaching self discipline. Another was The Edison Trait. I truly believe
that my focusing on parenting methods outlined in these books has helped
my son infinitely and we would otherwise be engaged in an endless cycle
of negativity, which is so typical of ADD kids. If I had been closed
minded about the ADD categorization, I wouldn't have learned this
precious information.

Connections are made between phenomena when groups are studied, and that
means statistics. If I had been closed-minded about patterns and trends
in populations I never would have found any of this information which
has changed my life. I have utilized many tips written for ADDers, like
doing certain chores on certain days of the week, having a clock in each
room, and having a special place for the car keys, which have really
helped. If I had said "I'm an individual, and there cannot be anyone in
the universe which shares certain parts of my personality" I would not
have been able to learn from their experiences. We are, after,
ultimately all related to each other and are more alike than we are
different.

I think SVS supporters should look for researcher in the area of
alternative education, psychology or other disciplines and try to get
them to do a study on the effectiveness of the school. As I said
before, I'm not talking about tests so much as subjective information,
or maybe a combination. If 90% of SVS graduates can read at level A,
and only 80% of public school grads (of the same demographics) can read
at level A, that would certainly have meaning. Researchers will use the
size of the study to determine levels of confidence for their results.
Subjective portions would use interviews. Researchers would also have to
take into consideration that a higher percentage of SVS kids might have
different learning styles, and that's why their parents enrolled then at
SVS. If I was a scientist in that field of research, I would love to do
such a study.

-Teresa Gallagher

"No way of thinking or doing, however ancient, can be trusted without
proof." - Henry David Thoreau, from Walden.