Students Who Don’t Feel Comfortable In School

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Students Who Don’t Feel Comfortable In School

In many cases, Covid created new problems for humans to deal with.  In other cases, it exacerbated pre-existing problems.  The latter is the case for the increasing prevalence of school avoidance among students in the United States. To begin with, school avoidance must be distinguished from truancy.  Truancy represents the conscious decision of a student to skip school in order to do something else.  In other words, truancy is committed on the basis of free will.  School avoidance is based on an uncontrollable anxiety with regard to in-person attendance.

Now, for students who were already uncomfortably anxious with regard to going to school, Covid gave them a rational excuse not to go.  Students who before Covid maybe skipped school just a couple of days a week, maybe had trouble getting to school on time, or maybe just skipped classes in the afternoon were put in the situation of being able to avoid attending the physical facility of school entirely.  Their avoidance of school did not show itself as abnormal during a period when no students were actually attending school.  Now that the epidemic has subsided, and schools are open for in-person learning again, the behavior of school avoiders stands out again, and parents as well as school staff are worried.  Particularly because the avoidance behavior is based on a crippling anxiety.  And because the problem displays itself so differently in each student, attempts to establish general patterns of causality have been frustrated.  Obviously, it becomes more difficult to deal with and treat such a problem, unless one can develop an understanding of where it is coming from.

I believe that as students today immerse themselves in all the modern technological devices with screens – movie screens, television, video games, computers, tablets and smartphones – they become numb and paradoxically incapable of properly absorbing the organic stimulation that they so desperately need as mammals.  However, at the same time, their nervous systems become subtly remolded to absorb up to a certain point the abrasive stimuli that emanate from all the noisy grinding machines that surround them as well as the action scenes, murder scenes, war scenes and steamy sex scenes on movies and television, video games in general, and pornography, hate group sites and cyber-bullying on computers, tablets, and smartphones.  But it is only up to a certain point that this kind of stimuli can be absorbed.  For when all is said and done, this kind of stimulation is not a natural kind of stimulation for humans.  Even the steamy sex scenes in movies and television and the pornographic material on computers, tablets and smartphones represent a way of packaging sex that is very overstimulating and abrasive, on the one hand, and at the same time, because it occurs behind a screen, very numbing as well.  It is simultaneously overstimulating and understimulating.

What is being said here is that no matter how hard people try to remodel their nervous system to accommodate technological stimuli, they will never be able to absorb them as comfortably as organic stimuli.  Because the bottom line is that humans are mammals and not machines, and there is no way that they can evolve fast enough to keep up with the evolution of modern technology.  So, humans will always be somewhat like misfits in the modern technological world.  At the same time, the more that humans do try to accommodate themselves to a technological field of experience, the more they lose their capacity to effectively absorb organic stimuli.  So, it is as if they end up caught experientially between two worlds, and no longer feeling fully a part of either.

So how does all this apply to school avoidance.  The more students have tried to accommodate to consumer technology for recreational purposes as well as for student assignments, and the more they have experienced the effects of Covid, as a result of which computers replaced in-person classrooms for all of their school experiences, the more they lost their capacity to absorb the external world organic stimulation of classroom interactions.  And paradoxically, students began to experience the organic stimulation of classroom interactions as being more abrasive than the abrasive stimulation involved in the interactions with consumer technology.

Of course, I guess that in the future, if humans find a way to effectively merge with machines and become cyborgs, then all the discomfort that I have just been talking about with the dealings of humans with modern technology might disappear.  And then we won’t have to worry about problems of student avoidance, because then we won’t be fully human.  But I’m not counting on something like that happening in my lifetime.  And anyway, I myself would prefer to drag students in the opposite direction: finding a way to create more organicity in their living environments, so that they can feel once again like mammalian human beings.

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Acerca de Laurence Mesirow

Durante mi estadía en la Ciudad de México en los años setenta, me di cuenta que esta enorme ciudad contenía en sus colonias distintos "medio ambientes vivenciales", que iban desde muy antiguas a muy recientes; desde muy primitivas a muy modernas.Observé que había diferencias sutiles en la conducta de la gente y en sus interacciones en las diferentes colonias. Esta observación fue fundamental en la fundación de mis teorías con respecto a los efectos de la tecnología moderna sobre los medio ambientes vivenciales y sobre la conducta humana.En México, publiqué mi libro "Paisaje Sin Terreno" (Editorial Pax-México), y luego di conferencias para la U.N.A.M. y la Universidad Anahuac. También, presenté un ensayo para un Congreso de Psicología.Ahora que mis hijas son adultas, tengo el tiempo de explorar mis ideas de vuelta. Le agradezco mucho a y en especial al Sr. Daniel Ajzen por la oportunidad de presentar mis ideas.

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