Infantilization & the Rise of Therapeutic Education

Paul Dean

The rise of therapeutic education is reflective of a culture absorbed in self and should frighten us all in terms of the worldview that is being foisted upon our children and future generations. Even the secularists are concerned with the what is now termed the infantilization of students.

According to Timesonline, “Schools and universities are producing a generation of ‘can't do’ students, who are encouraged to talk about their emotions at the expense of exploring ideas or acquiring knowledge, academics claimed yesterday. The strong focus on emotional expression and building up self-esteem in schools and colleges was ‘infantilising’ students, leaving them unable to cope with life on their own, according to the authors of a new book, The Dangerous Rise of Therapeutic Education. Dennis Hayes and Kathryn Ecclestone, of Oxford Brookes University, argue that this ‘therapeutic’ approach to education is at odds with the acquisition of knowledge because it views the emotional skills associated with learning as more important than subject content or criticism. ‘Turning teaching into therapy is destroying the minds of children, young people and adults,’ Dr Hayes told Times Higher Education. ‘Therapeutic education promotes the idea that we are emotional, vulnerable and hapless individuals. It is an attack on human potential.’”

Indeed it is, but, it is more than that. The reality is that we do live in a fallen world and we do have problems. However, it is not therapy we need, but Christ. When an individual is born of the Spirit, not only does he have a new nature but his thinking and response to the world can be transformed through the renewing of his mind. Growing Christians don’t need therapy (as distinguished from biblical admonition/counseling). They have the attitude that God has put us here for a purpose and we as an individuals are going to fulfill that purpose by pursuing the tasks God has given us to the best of our ability with His empowerment and for His glory. They have a “can do” attitude. Therapeutic education militates against that “can do” attitude and causes us to be a culture of constant whiners.

A focus on emotion and self-esteem misses the point. Emotions are valuable and point to something going on in our hearts. At that point, we must shine the light of the Scriptures into our hearts to determine what the root issue is. Self-esteem becomes irrelevant as we recognize ourselves as sinners, see our need for a Savior, and find Christ to be that all-satisfying and sufficient Savior. We develop a proper view of ourselves before God, use our emotions as prompters to examine our hearts, and then bring our hearts and emotions in line with God’s will. To stay focused at the emotional level will create undesired actions and life patterns. Staying sad will produce depression and despair. Staying angry will produce deep-seated bitterness and rage. Staying self-centered will produce an “everyone owes me something” mentality.

With a therapeutic emphasis, educators are trained to probe students for emotional problems when there are none. The upshot is the creation of those problems as students are taught and conditioned to think that way. Again, the social implications are mammoth as our culture increasingly becomes obsessed with therapy, litigation connected to a victimization mentality, and a growing dependence on government to fix all that is wrong in our lives. Indeed, the infantilizing affect creates a culture of helpless cry babies. Such a society will collapse under its own weight.

The fact that secular researchers have stumbled upon this reality is owing to God’s common grace and the fact that a vestige of the image of God remains in them. We can be thankful for such research, but, we must realize that we are the ones who have the only worldview that does in fact explain these things. That means we have a message for the world regardless of the issue. And, the issue here is not human potential but human potential under God as we continue to subdue the earth in accordance with His command. Let us proclaim this life-giving message for their good.

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