[guest post by JVW]
You won’t believe what has been going on in the oh-so-achingly-progressive Boston Public Schools:
As a Boston high school sophomore, Keondre McClay said he was pressured by the head of a district-sponsored youth advocacy program to attend an overnight retreat in Newton, where white adults asked the Black [sic] teenager to wrestle out his emotions on a gym mat with them. They said it would help him purge his trauma from experiencing racism.
McClay fled to his room. Jenny Sazama, the program leader, and other retreat participants chased after him. For more than an hour, he recalled recently, they hugged him on his bed and entreated him to return to the group “counseling” session while he hid under the covers screaming, “Please leave me alone!”
When they eventually left, he locked the door, but someone got the facilities manager to unlock it. McClay called someone to help him get home at midnight.
“I was, for lack of a better word, assaulted,” said McClay, now 21, a former student representative to the Boston School Committee.
This wasn’t some random occurrence that happened after a night of drinking or even an overreaction in the heat of the moment. This assault on young Mr. McClay was part of a particular form of therapy called, in an appropriately Maoist manner, “Re-Education Counseling” which Ms. Sazama had brought to the Boston Student Advisory Council program, the youth advocacy group to which Mr. McClay belonged. More details (all emphasis added by me):
In “RC,” students were encouraged to share intensely personal information in a group, and to cry, yell, or scream, with no professional follow-up. Twice-monthly sessions took place in the basement of Sazama’s home in Jamaica Plain, but the teens also participated in RC gatherings, like the one McClay attended, with adult strangers.
The sessions continued for at least 15 years, with little oversight by the Boston Public Schools, which hired Sazama as an outside contractor to run the council. Sazama, who holds no credentials to provide mental health care, is a lifelong devotee of RC and a leader in the international organization that promotes it.
Jenny Sazama has for nearly three decades run a program called Youth on Board, which in itself is an offshoot of the national YouthBuild USA nonprofit organization. YouthBuild describes its mission as “champion[ing] today’s opportunity youth who aspire to improve their lives and communities by building the skills and resources to reach their full potential,” and it receives taxpayer-funded grants from the Department of Labor. Youth on Board, who recently made its website private, advocates for allowing students to be involved in decision-making within school districts, and aspires to train students for these roles. It’s unsurprisingly big on social justice pabulum as a rationale for “giving kids a voice.”
Incredibly enough, BPS did not have a formal contract with Youth on Board and to the degree which they provided oversight it was merely by assigning an employee named Maria Estrada — who had once briefly worked for Jenny Sazama at Youth on Board — to the task. A concerned staffer allegedly challenged both Ms. Estrada and Ms. Sazama nearly a decade ago on the eccentric practices of Re-Education Counseling being used in student training, but the two women managed to ignore her concerns. If you have as low a view of most big city bureaucracies as I have, you won’t be surprised to find out that nobody at BPS is interested on commenting on the twenty-plus year association they had with Youth on Board. Ms. Sazama has subsequently left the organization.
And Re-Education Counseling is not just some anodyne therapeutical technique readily embraced by a wide cross-section of everyday Americans. Like so much in faddish modern education, it’s pretty controversial to anyone who is not a professional ideologue:
RC has taken root in Boston and nationwide among pockets of progressive activists, who view it as a vehicle for social change. Adherents see the cathartic release of emotion, or “discharge,” as a remedy for healing both personal distress and societal trauma. If enough people and organizations discharged regularly, the thinking goes, the world could end oppression and environmental destruction. That’s why its members often try to recruit others. It’s also why RC theory regards psychiatric drugs as toxic — they interfere with emotional release.
But RC’s emphasis on displaying emotions before an audience, which psychology researchers say increases susceptibility to manipulation, has led critics to deride it as cult-like.
There is more at the Boston Globe article about these manipulative people plying their cultish psychobabble on impressionable young minds, all on the taxpayer dime. Read it at your own peril. It’s in equal measure aggravating and depressing and it serves as a sad reminder that so much of the education of our nation’s youth — especially in large urban bureaucratic wastelands — has been given over to credentialed chuckleheads. BPS has commissioned a report of the fiasco and key administrators are busy insisting that they knew nothing about any of this, so don’t expect any real repercussions just as long as BPS keeps the teachers’ union happy. Maybe some school systems really were better off over the last year when kids were kept away from campus and generally out of the clutches of ideologically-driven lunatics.