The Impending Collision of National Standards & Trauma Informed Care
Within the glimmering light of the dawn and the shadows of the dusk there appear two beckoning images, two run-away trains of increasing velocity. The first is the train of National Standards; the second, the train of Trauma Informed Care (TIC). Both internal and external to the education community there appears to be an ever increasing call for National Standards whilst both internal and external to the youth residential care community there appears to be an ever increasing call for TIC. The call for National Standards, an extension of the test and standards driven No Child Left Behind legislation, has as its goal an end to the hodgepodge of state curricula, state standards, and state testing mechanisms which are meant to drive classroom instruction. Accountability would become standardized across the nation, an essential facet of Merit Pay and, or teacher evaluations based upon student test scores. The intended result would be to have standardized pedagogy across the nation; the current Secretary of Education allegedly bragged while overseeing Chicago Public Schools that he could walk into any classroom & know exactly what any Kindergarten-12th grader was working on in every subject area. Uniform practices would arguably decrease student achievement gaps by subjecting students to precisely concurrent pedagogy. In Sociological terms, the education system would become streamlined under the supervision of the federal government, to better serve its function of meeting the needs of a global economy with growing technological demands. The national curriculum would be directly linked to perceived present and future job requirements with the goal being to better compete globally. While educators and the public at large are familiar with the term No Child Left Behind the same may not yet be said for TIC. TIC is the concept of working with children in the context of their traumas. Previously, “trauma has not been recognized as a part of the daily, regular, experience of many individuals, including children and adolescents. Nor has the profound linkage between trauma and child development been fully recognized” (Hodas, 2006, p. 5). The finding is that ignoring childhood trauma grinds many of our student’s academic growth to a halt. This cessation runs the risk of becoming permanent over time. All the national standards in the world are meaningless without direct action to deal with the pervasive long term issues associated with trauma. Preceding academic goals must be a transition to a system that “At the most basic level, trauma informed care involves the provision of services that do no harm- e.g., that do not inflict further trauma on the individual. Thus, for children, trauma informed care is applicable to education” (Hodas, p. 6). The first step is individualizing/differentiating instruction and more importantly beginning to gain an understanding of each student holistically.
Individualized/differentiated instruction is the antithesis of a one size fits all national curriculum or set of national standards. TIC implies that rather than a one size fits all approach to education we would be better served by a policy of one size fits one and only one. Given that the effects of trauma are cumulative (Hodas, 2006, p. 9) individualized instruction has the further advantage of potentially breeching the development of traits becoming affirmed in the psyche of the student. When undeterred, the cumulative effects of trauma often create an oppositional trait commonly seen amongst “at-risk” students; their vocal hatred of school is one external, visible symptom of this permanent trauma driven trait. By approaching school from the holistic TIC paradigm teachers are less likely to re-traumatize students and begin to break the chain of traumas, thereby slowly opening the door to the healing process. Subsequent brain development and