Suggestions on dealing with professional patronizers, with Diane Divoky and Peter Schrag

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Note: Diane Divoky once gave me permission to post these excerpts at a website I did, so I think it's still okay, and that the book she and Peter Schrag published was done so in 1975. Well past the 17 year limitation, to my understanding.If Icarus managers think this is still problematic in terms of copyright, do please contact me about your beliefs, either before or after you take it off of here! Thanks! The piece that follows is an excerpt from a book whose title attacked prevailing conceptions about hyperactivity, but whose subtitle realized the importance of a broader analysis. It was located in the Appendix between pages 230 and 235 of a book entitled Myth of the Hyperactive Child: And Other Means of Child Control, by Diane Divoky and Peter Schrag; Pantheon, 1975. Since it’s so hard to find now-a-days, I’ve taken the liberty to share a short excerpt, below. Enjoy!“There are no assured means of resistance…Even the most comprehensive formal regulations assuring due process…are no guarantee against violations of privacy, subtle forms of manipulation or overt intrusions into the lives of children and their parents. As the techniques of control become more complex, “scientific” and “humane” –and as they become less overtly [noticeable]–resistance will become that much more difficult. Where the institution (school, police, court) acknowledges that the objective is punishment or deterrence, formal modes of defense –lawyers, trials and hearings –are regarded as necessary and proper; where the objective is said to be “treatment,” resistance becomes more difficult and the potential for manipulation more extensive. The rationale of therapy, education and rehabilitation almost inevitably clouds due process and individual liberties. It creates great opportunities for obfuscation (deceit) and mystification: claims of expertise and the invocation of special knowledge (or the use of sophisticated technology) are no less intimidating than naked authority. [imagine if they really were naked, heh!]“There are, nonetheless, certain techniques and resources which have been used successfully in the past:

  1. 1. The beginning of almost all resistance is demystification. Ask dumb questions, and be bold. What do the words mean? Is the person behind the desk talking about a real disease or is he merely using pseudo-medical terms to describe subjective impressions of behavior, to excuse [ideological] failure, or to conceal institutional biases or demands [sometimes known as interests]? …What, if anything, does the test or screen really measure?…is [its] validation based merely on the biases of other “professionals” in other institutions?…What does the therapist ([or] teacher, counselor) know about the instruments he is using and why is he really using them?…Will [your] information lead to genuine…help, or will it merely produce [more] labels…[and] serve as a rationale for failure in the future? A series of such questions may quickly indicate that under the guise of the kindly counselor there is just another administrator concerned about order and management or a beureaucrat protecting his own flanks. Such a revelation may not be very reassuring…but it will at least alert all concerned parties about the nature of the “problem” they are dealing with.
  2. 2. Don’t let the old feeling of being a child take over when dealing with authorities… Don’t be brushed off or patronized. Agents of public institutions –welfare, police, schools, hospitals, courts –are often adept at patronizing or intimidating clients and at taking advantage of some primal feeling on the part of the client that he is The Child and that the [adult] sitting across from him is The Principal. (Or criminal and cop, patient and doctor, examiner and applicant, IRS agent and taxpayer.) If you are sitting in an office waiting for someone to interpret a record, open the file and read it. [but be careful, some administrators have been known to call the police when they've found a parent reading her own child's file--maybe that's not so bad if you don't want your adult looking at such things...]
  3. 3. Get everything in writing –laws, regulations, directives. Do not take the explanations of adminstrators as gospel. Take notes, insist on seeing everything in writing and keep copies. A [negative] confrontation may not be necessary –nor is it [good for] the best relationship with [those who have power over you]–but it is important to remember that it takes two parties to create such a confrontation, and that the client’s fear of offending authorities is precisely the thing that many administrators count on when they try to patronize and intimidate Some school adminstrators seem to have a natural tendency to treat everyone as a child; in general the weaker their position, the more they will be tempted to bluster and bully.
  4. 4. Have as many [tools] available as possible. In [many places] there are [independent] community groups with some experience in dealing with [institutions]… The important rule here is to disregard ideology; the [ACLU] and the John Birch Society may sometimes be fighting the same battle…[and each may be able to assist you]