The Communication Lab: A Strategy to Improve Self-Concept and Interpersonal Skills
Contains Illustrations, Bibliography
Carolyn Bett was President, CEBET Bibliographies.
Books like this scare me. The aim of the lab is to show children and adolescents how to communicate more effectively and also (unsaid) more intimately. The organization and exercises for conducting the lab are a neat distillation of the Pfeiffer and Jones Handbook of Structured Experiences for Human Relations Training, which is listed in the bibliography. Arrangement of material is under the following headings: purpose, procedure, processing, and our experience — referring to the facilitators’.
Words like “non-threatening,” “safe medium,” and “comfortable” are used; however, not until Chapter X is there any indication of the profound threat, insecurity, and discomfort that these exercises may induce. I have seen adults devastated and in tears over similar exercises given in the context of discovering job skills. Should we then expose children to them in the more ponderous context of communicating? The instruction to “reassure participants that tears are okay” (p.65) is unrealistic and insensitive. Everyone knows that in this society tears are not acceptable among strangers, schoolmates, or office colleagues in the normal course of communication, but are a deep embarrassment. While the aim of the lab may be more effective and appropriate communication, the group chosen from schoolmates is by definition an inappropriate setting for the display of intense emotion.
Before condemning outright this attempt to alleviate alienation and depression in youngsters, we must question the people who have extended the powers of “in loco parentis” and even pressured the school system to do something. Where does the responsibility for children’s emotional and social development really lie? Appropriately or inappropriately, the school system seeks to fill the gap.