The Sovereign (Black) Child
A Personal Position Paper
Where there’s no Desire, there must be DisciplineBaruti Damali
To my EP family particularly, let’s really talk about Black Lives Matter (BLM).
I wish these ideas reach you all in the most optimal of well-being, particularly, during these challenging times.
It is also with a heavy heart, that I feel compelled to comment on the status of our profession, in the current context of the outpouring of pain by Black people and the support for Black people from around the world. These times have exasperated my tried and tested stress coping methods, subsequent to my cancer treatment all those years ago. Times made even more challenging when those who can see do not, and those who can do, do not. Now that I have raised my head above stress levels, I felt driven to put pen to paper (so to speak). Please take the time to read this.
Please bear with me.
Many years ago RS Peters, in his wisdom, posed the question – “Must an educator have an aim?” Or why do we educate?
I would guess, that as EPs, this question has little or no resounding effect. After all, we do have our Acts, guidelines and policies to light the way. Such philosophical ponderings, apparently have no practice effects.
Take for instance, this definition of education, taken from an ‘Ofsted Letter’ on the states of mind.org website:
“The purpose of education is to teach and promote an understanding of complex ideas, while guiding students to apply this knowledge to the world in which we live”
This definition, was designed apparently, with the help of young people. Though this is a seemingly improved re-statement of what passes for philosophical ideology on the purpose of ‘education’ over the past decades in the UK, it falls way short of validity for a number of reasons.
Firstly, this definition has nothing at all to do with the child. It is about glorifying the promotion and value of complex ideas.
Ideas that the child must interact with and somehow attain, to then shower upon the world. Who created these precious complex ideas that children must learn and who created the world that these ideas fit into? Learning about one’s self should be made simple and fun. However, it is commendable of young people to address these issues – though led by the nose – indicating a level of concern and understanding of their plight. The same could be said for compulsory teaching in schools for children, to which the vast majority amble to, in high spirits. Both scenarios are based on ‘trust in adults’; for guidance, leadership and scholarship – trust in the analysis of the problem; trust in the solution identification; and, implementation.
Secondly, it is a complete disgrace to ask young people to contribute to a concept of education without giving them the relevant prerequisite information. Playing young people as dupes, for some form of credibility is counter-productive, as the unrest outside indicates. Young people cannot define what they have no awareness of – viz. the agenda of those who control their activities in school.
1.0 Why do we educate?
Or what is the purpose of education? The answer is closer to, ‘If you have to ask … then you really don’t know what education is’. The purpose of education is ‘intra-validation’ – it is its own purpose! We can say “we walk because we can” – but, we also walk because we are innately compelled to do so. It is this desire for self-knowledge that is sabotaged and redirected by the current system.
Ultimately, we can reduce the purpose of ‘guidance and facilitation’ into 2 main factors:
- To meet the individual needs of the child (not with regards to the Curriculum, as that is NOT an individual need, but imposed by constraints);
- To meet the needs of the state (an inflicted, coercive and compulsive framework);
However, a more accurate and working definition can be thus:
1.1 The purpose of education is to bring out the child’s interests, desires and essence, so that she or he can focus on and optimally develop their individuality and potential, within a sovereignty based framework.
The above definition is ALL about the child.
2.0 “Are we there yet?”
A few are guilty, but none are innocent
We’re in the middle (or the beginning) of possibly the worst social upheaval in recorded human history. This will definitely impact the ‘educational’ arena in significant ways. And the reason for this? Simply because we fail to treat some members of the community equitably. Not equal treatment, mind you, but equitable treatment (please note the difference).
Note well: These Black members of the community that are involved in the protests, went to school on our watch and are going to school on our watch. Of course, systems of compartmentalisation mean it’s not down to us. We are just following the Code, right?
2.1 The Virtual child
This is currently the embodiment of our facilitation system – the ‘every-child’ notion, which fits well with the application of the medical model. A point of intervention in creating the ‘norm reference-based’ child. An ‘education’ system designed for the ‘virtual child’ (not a particular child), which the ‘ordinary child’ must adapt towards. A profile of what the ‘required child’ should be. As of this world crisis, the medical model must be assigned as an anathema to Black Children.
2.2 The Manufactured child
This is the realisation. Well, that’s the idea – it’s what we have now. The ‘factory child’ – whose head was opened and filled with information and skills that were designed by someone else, that are useful for particular tasks in the factory. All factories produce an output. We as psychologists have to identify what that output is and what it should be.
2.3 The Sovereign Child
This is the ideal vision for my children. The Sovereign Child is the respected natural child so full of wonder. The nature of the ‘real’ individual child’s ‘soul-urge’, personal needs and preferences are paramount. Incidentally, we all know the origin of ‘psych (soul/spirit) ology’ as an ancient system of ‘soul-tracking’ and more recently within the archetypal genre – a far cry from the practice we have now. This could be a start. According to that system, the child interfaces with self-discovery through interacting with self, through self-selected experiences, including methods of guiding the child to learn from within. Even twin siblings have specific individual needs.
Our greatest yearning, as human beings, is to work out who we are – to learn about ourselves and ALL our actions point towards this. Therefore, a valid system of guided personal development will focus on the CHILD above all else, and not what she or he is prescribed to learn.
2.4 The Black Child
Can such a question be asked – ‘What is the nature of the black child?’
Equal opportunities; Managing Diversity; Impact assessments; and, culture competent systems and other tactics, have all failed Black people. The abject limitations of these systems are for another debate. However, each EPS in the UK needs to have training in the area of ‘Black Lives Matter’.
A black child’s needs are subsequent to its nature, correct?
So, what is the Black child’s nature? Anybody?
3.0 In what way, or to what extent, has our practice as EPs contributed to the social condition, responsible for the current outpouring of concern for the plight of Black people?
This a personal question for each EP. You did the study, you read the papers, the books, you went into the schools, you met some Black children and you did some writing of your own. If it’s about feelings, how do you feel about your work? How confident do you feel that you’re doing something helpful for the Black child and family? Of course, you can answer within the confines of the NC and securing a job to make a living. But, I would also like you to answer based on the oppression of Black people.
However, if it’s about competence. Then put up your hand; because you were there.
Like all of you, I have not done enough. I hold up my hand too. But, I have made a lot of tries and across 5 occupational sectors. Enough tries, I might add, to have made many EPs over the years, render me the cold shoulder. It’s never a nice feeling to have anything but niceness towards one’s self, especially when you’re only trying to help. But hey, that’s what happens when you speak up in truth.
3.1 Some Contributions
3.1.1 What I have done
Here are just a few of my activities sought to improve the lives of Black people:
- Presentation to the Cabinet Office on an approach to meet Black workers’ needs in the workplace;
- I have made a number of presentations to EPSs within and outside Greater London, on a piloting system to support Black learners;
- I designed the training programme for public and private sector business managers with African-Caribbean university students on the National Mentoring Consortium of the University of East London – a role that lasted 2 years as Training Manager / consultant to set-up the programme, including managing UK wide research, training and supervision of Centre staff, business mentors and student mentees, across 15 universities and over 50 businesses;
- Been a member of the ‘Section 11’ staff, supporting Black children as a secondary school teacher;
- Supervision of a Black SENCO, including systems audit and policy develop support, and training for Learning Support Centre staff in a large co-educational comprehensive federation school;
- I conducted workshops on the ‘Black Child with Sickle Cell in School’ presented to primary schools in east London;
- I designed action research, trained and inducted researchers / interviewers / supporting staff and presentation of ‘Refugee Health Needs’ covering 2 East London boroughs;
- Initiated a support project for Black boys at Schools Action stage, to develop small supervised working groups on managing behaviour;
- I ran and worked in my own fashion business designing and making clothes for Black men and women;
- I created a ‘Chess therapy’ approach for Black boys who found it difficult to engage in convention ways;
- I co-founded ‘ACE Damali’, an organisation that explored and disseminated African Cultural Enlightenment, from which my family derived its name;
- Worked as Youth worker-in-Charge, and ran a youth club of mainly Black young people, based on an agreed ‘council of members’, using table tennis, chess and debating sessions to alleviate the social tensions in their lives;
- I have conducted numerous workshops on Equal Opportunities and ‘Celebrating Diversity’ across the occupational sectors;
- I made custom built PC computers for small Black businesses and friends and have used technical drawing, computer graphics and PC maintenance, as adjuncts to learning in my youth club and other semiformal settings;
- I have been a representing independent psychologist and an advocate of Black parents on many occasions, supporting private assessments, representations in schools and employee racial discrimination disputes with employers;
- Been a representative member on the BPS’s DECP sub-division on behalf of the Association of Black Psychologists, and also contributed to a paper on Equal Opportunities and race;
- I have some formal, but more often informal block mentoring sessions with Black boys, arranged either through family members or linked local voluntary organisations;
- I have been the consultant for a women’s political movement based in a large west coastal African country – a role which saw me design and present the political operational infrastructure for the movement, which then led to an invitation to Parliament – I accompanied my client to support her successful campaign presentation to the Select Committee;
- I have worked with over a dozen educational solicitors, as an independent psychologist, mainly on family race relations in schools and disputes on assessment outcomes for Black children;
- I made a presentation to the Association of Black Lawyers at Oxford University on the issue of growing litigation and the assessment of Black children;
- I recently co-wrote a chapter with my wife entitled, ‘What if there were a model of working with the 16 – 25 age group’ for the UCL’s IOE’s ‘Applied Educational Psychology with16-25 Years Olds – New frameworks and perspectives for working with young people’ (2018), which viewed working with Black young people within the wider 16 to 25 age group;
- I held the position of Vice-chair of the Ethnic Minorities Leadership Project for 3 consecutive terms, a project that sought to elicit and engender leadership qualities for Black young people;
In all my endeavours to enhance the quality of life for Black people, I try to picture that line drawn in the sand. For me it means to start where people are at. I don’t walk away, all the time.
3.1.2 What I have not done
“… and the courage to walk away” – Baruti Damali
What I haven’t done is take it upon myself to massage EHCP reports into something closer to what they should be for Black children. Why not? You might ask. It’s not because of fear of reprisals, but in the knowing that (i) the recommendations would be currently impossible for local authorities to provide, because (ii) such resources don’t currently exist, (iii) it would need ‘top down’ central government action, and (iv) a complete overhaul of the SEN system.
So, in many ways I have been hiding, like you.
3.1.3 The EP Challenge – not a black flag to a bull
Of course, I’m disillusioned at times, but we have to own the by-products of our actions, so we can do better. So we can heal the trauma.
As powerful gatekeepers (we still are), the right establishments do listen to us. Thank goodness for the legalised gate-keeping status, as the way things are now, it would take a rocket scientist to determine what we can do, that SENCOs can’t do for themselves. Whew! For the brave amongst us, it wouldn’t take much research rattling to show any relevant organisation, the literal error of their ways. Just look out your window. (See 9.2.8 below).
4.0 ‘The Elephant in the Room?’
It’s a downright shame that in these ‘enlightened times’, at our current level of sophistication and ample hitherto access to information, that we psychologists acquiesced to children’s right to have a voice, but deny ourselves. Of course, I’m assuming that the required level and calibre of intellect is available within our midst and capable of speaking out, but prefer to be passively covert. Such an assumption could be the proverbial iceberg leading to warmer waters.
We embrace a framework, no doubt contributed to by us, as the proverbial rock. A corporeal rock that morphs and changes in resistance to the enquiring sculptor’s chipping analysis. But, the current protests and growing awareness outside our windows testify to the crumbling of the rock.
“[We can] run to the rock … for rescue, but there shall be no rock”
The ‘rock’ is blocking the truth.
“What is the truth?” They asked.
“Sovereignty” was the answer.
From what I understand, elephants are role models, even for humanity. Please embrace the elephant. Have no fear. The notion that it’s in the room and passive, points to its emotional intelligence and non-disruptive behaviour. It’s an entrapped elephant, like the people or concept it represents, awaiting its exploratory release. The elephant is a phobic issue. When we embrace the elephant we become stronger.
Sovereignty is about owning the individuality. We must own the perceived differences among children. We must work towards these differences, as differences.
“What is that elephant in the room?” They asked.
“You mean that cat?” was the answer.
4.1 Or is it, ‘The Dead Cat thrown on the Table?’
At least, it wouldn’t be so bad if it was just one dead cat …
… As there’s supposedly only one elephant in the room.
Educational Psychologists as a group of ‘expert witnesses’ have been hiding for as long as I can remember. Cold sweats for tribunals (have you ever seen an EP rubbing hands in glee at the thought of an upcoming SEND Tribunal?); apprehension for ‘difficult’ parents; ‘difficult’ settings; and, a cry for help, at the drop of a hat. Are we afraid of our shadows? Where is the courage for independent creativity and pride in our work? Just when an intrepid EP happens to spot the clichéd elephant in the room, someone goes and throws a dead cat on the table. Sigh.
Such distractions are: “All lives matter”
“All children could benefit from that …”
“Isn’t that reverse racism?”
“We don’t have the resources”
“It should be multi-cultural”
“We have to follow the National Curriculum”
“We don’t have the time to develop such a programme …”
Of course, with dead cats around, it’s for this reason we experts in ‘education’ and ‘psychology’, can’t find our trumpets. After all, dead cats are usually overwhelming. I sincerely mean this, who knows what lives could have been spared and livelihoods nourished, over the past 70 years, if we only had stood up? Do the Maths. We still have time, don’t we?
If not for the cat, we wouldn’t see the elephant. The cat is the harbinger.
5.0 Education is … Not Training!
So, the answer to “Why do we educate?” is – “we don’t!”
“We provide training in skills”
In the beginning, when stories of lines being drawn in sand was high, the Latin terms ‘educo’, ‘educere’ from which ‘education’ was derived, pointed to methods that “drew out”, “brought out”, “from out of”, “take out”, the essence-preferences of the individual child. Methods that allow the child to be themselves; and that discovered self, supported for development and enhancement.
Education proper would inevitably be FUN. Its programmes are based upon the extraction of the child’s inner core essence. Education would then be about THEMSELVES, and where that might lead their interests.
We learn because we must – we are programmed to do so. But, that learning is self-learning predominantly.
This is what has been usurping the glory of true education. Methods of moulding the child into a particular requirement or ‘pigeon hole’. It is really “skills training”. And, who doesn’t need skills? Well, I’m afraid, it’s those who don’t have a choice in what skills they learn.
Skills training is not about holistic development – It is about learning specific skills to maintain the status quo. A status quo that resulted in our current upheaval of Black deaths, brutalisation and disenfranchisement.
Of course, a child through vicarious pursuits can and will adhere to external stimuli. A casual glance at the number and level of intensity of technological distractions, could easily exonerate the unprotected child.
‘Training in skills’ becomes ‘education’ when the child personally selects such experiences, independent of external influences and encouragement.
6.1 EP Training
A profession by definition is self-regulatory. But where are these bodies? I would have guessed that since Mr Burt, enough has happened to shed light in all nooks and crannies. What about the BPS and its ‘relevant’ divisions? They have the resources, right? Where are these policy makers, with regards to overseeing activities that benefit the Black school child?
I guess everyone’s hiding, right?
What about the training universities? I don’t have the correct skill-set to comment, but I would guess it’s not rocket science to devise experiences for Black children that would make them love themselves, with full knowledge that their destiny is in their own designs.
Heaven forbid, an EPIT comes up with an original idea, with no supportive references. So much for originality. The fear is there, like onion layers.
My EP training was decades ago. And, even before that, we knew Black people were about in the UK. Having said that, we also know that we have to come to the real conclusion, that to prioritise and endorse an adequate module on working holistically with Black children and their families, was and is, tantamount to rocket science, for UK EP training universities and UK EPSs.
But, don’t feel disheartened, for as far as I’m aware, there’s an association of Black psychologists. Such a body would be the leading light on working with, assessing and designing appropriate intervention for Black children in the UK. We await their emergence, creative statements and novel directions.
But, since we’re having this conversation, I’m afraid the question must still be asked.
6.2 “What do you think, could have possibly blinkered the eyes of over 12000 EPs since Galton/Burt, with regards to the Black child issue?”
Hold on, I’m sorry, please don’t knee jerk “institutional racism” as an answer, or even a response.
For one, none of you reading this would say you’re racist.
So, racism should be out. Something else is in.
It’s good to talk.
7.0 ‘Exams’ & ‘Assessments’
The concept of exams or systems of ‘seeing whether a child gets it’ was never really the problem. It just magnified the original problem of going against the child’s individual or innate preferences, aided by the medical model contingent. We take it for granted that ‘norms’ were created for children eons ago, in a bid to realise a particular social condition. It’s whether the assessor ‘gets it’, that’s the problem.
“Assessment for pigeon holes?” They asked.
“Which came first, the hole or the peg?” was the answer.
“You ever heard of a psychological EHCP report that actually differentiated a Black child from any other child of the same profile, in terms of school-based needs?” “Well, I never!”
There is still the question – How are Black children different? Differences need a reference. To be different from what or who?
Different from a White child? Different from the teacher? Different from Black adults?
For Black people the difference would be a difference in levels of self-determination – sovereignty.
“So … what are we assessing for?” They asked.
“We’re not changing the hole” was the answer.
You ever heard the answer to “what is specifically different about a Black boy, in order to determine what tests to use?” You ever heard such a thing?
7.1 How do we Assess Black Children when we don’t know who they are?
Start with the appropriate identification of their learning needs. We know they must have commonness with other children because they are human. But have the similarities overshadowed the differences we’re looking to identify?
How should a psychological EHCP report look for Black children, as opposed to any other?
Well, at the very least, we ‘know’ Black children are not the same as any other. But, how are they different from any other? Now, that’s a start, right?
The nearest we have to a personal support testing system is Dynamic Assessment. Though the format of the support asks Black children about a possible life outside their own (usually about the assessor’s life) and about the expectations of the test designers, against an ‘arbitrary’ criteria. As opposed to assessing the Black child about her or his own life. To some extent, and particularly for parents, some basic human comparative referencing and gauging is useful. However, in the context of respecting a child’s sovereignty, ‘assessment’ would inevitably, be forms of broad ‘self-evaluations’ towards an individualised personal end.
Yes, of course. I know we have a problem. We have a readymade society, er … community, which the child must fit into. Please don’t let this be another dead cat on the table. If we EPs stand up for the sovereignty of the child, correspondingly, the structures of society will have no choice but to bend and weave accordingly, creating ‘best-matches’ for Black children. There’s loads of ‘glitches’ in the structure. One, is the given ability to speak (out). It only appears to be scary, because of our learnt behaviour. The current trend amongst Black activists in my home area is that ‘the Black middle-class sold out to the system’. And, judging by what we know, who can blame them for saying that.
Even within the ‘complex ideas’ paradigm, there are cracks – similar to the ones made by the PHSE programmes in the Curriculum. Where ‘alternative’ concepts and understandings can be made.
Anywhere you place Black children they will accumulate additional needs, like in a school. But, these needs though ‘surface-level’, stemmed from an interaction with the Black child’s base needs. These Black children’s base needs are not school-based needs. School based needs are engendered on the Black child. Therefore, some needs are created.
Very fortunately, any such programme that delineates the specific needs of the Black child should also be sensitive enough to support children of all creeds and cultures.
8.0 Black Lives Matter – The ‘Missing Link’ in Educational Psychology?
Like the name sake, in terms of its function within the light spectrum, could Black children have a heightened collective emotional repertoire, based on generations of oppression?
For myself personally, it took me decades to work out what effect domestic violence had on my personality and lifestyle. Even though I lived through it as a child and worked with countless individuals and families with similar experiences, it never dawned on me that we had something in common. Such can be the subtlety of the sublimation. I am saying that because the ‘devil is really and truly in the details’.
As psychologists, we must not miss the opportunity to carry all our eggs in one basket. The opportunity to work with a human species who has undergone generations of ongoing torture on all physical levels and mental oppression to echelons of genocide, like NO OTHER, and at the same time, can shower the world with the beauty of their creations, like none other; can surely be a worthwhile venture.
9.0 Visioning a
New Real Education System
As Bob Marley said – “Tell the children the truth”
We have never had a real education system in the last 6 000 years.
It is my contention that the world of tomorrow will be one of personal sovereignty – where people exercise their individual freedom towards selected activities. Of course, there will always be people who would like to work in fields of interests that can be exchanged for needed resources. Life skills must be taught, right? Of course! No child is an island. But, the question still remains – “Which life skills?” Here commences the task of ‘teasing out’ their inner self in relation to what they need or want. Not that prescribed by the state. Tell young people the truth. If we don’t know it, we have to find out. They will then “… lead the way”.
We must hold our noses tight, and ignore the dead cat – it’s the elephant that dunnit.
This is not about professional competence particularly, but of valour. One doesn’t need to be able to repair something, to point out that it’s broken. The notion “We need to teach children, not content”, as a sound-bite, is going some way towards child personal sovereignty. However, the issue is ‘teach’ – what are you going to teach Black children? The content? Let Black children indicate what they need. Then we do our very best.
9.1 Politics of Our Practice – What politics?
What do they know? Look out your window. Black people have been here for centuries. Now the pain has reached unendurable heights. And, even now, the politicians cannot get it right. That is why we are here.
And yes, I believe there’s such a thing as a generic EPS ethos. I would say it’s ‘moving in slow motion’, like in a dream.
If we desire a non-moulding system – ONLY psychologists can front this to the world. Only WE have the ultimate credibility, the skills, knowledge and experience to make this happen. Let’s not be missing.
Of course, to create ‘paradise for children’ will take steps. The size of these steps depends on us psychologists. There are many ‘black box’ theories in our work (pun intended), where the calculation of probabilities are left mainly to our statistical cousins and those hell bent on standardised tests. We wouldn’t know whether the cat is alive or dead, unless we ‘let the cat out of the box’.
9.2 Partners in Cream?
This viscous policy making and learning environment, where the left hand is a stranger to the right hand, resulted in a form of ‘professional muddling’, where the wellbeing of Black children are concerned. Accordingly, the following are recommendations for a SEN ‘Black MOT check’, to make it fit for purpose, with regards to Black children.
Or is it a theme from “The Missingers”?
9.2.1 Central Government
“Are you the doctor?” they asked.
“No, the gift-horse” was the answer.
The evidence outside my window indicates that there has been a free run on resources by government education offices, since Burt, or is it Galton? Either way, a great deal of financial resources were saved or squandered in maintaining a substandard system for Black children. The result is a total curriculum shamble that disenfranchises and impacts on Black children’s well-being. Current evidence indicates a re-training of all LEA educational psychologists, as a first stage in a complete overhaul of the ‘educational’ system, giving EPs a lead role in the undertaking (similar to having Lead Professional roles, as I had, in the CAF system):
- The work of a psychologist is ‘science’ not administration – assessmentandrecommendations only, please (according to the 4 categories of need, or to LEAs’ particular remits) – we’re not admin workers (30 years ago I did the lot, from classroom identification to writing the draft statement). Enough is enough. Writing essays on children’s backgrounds and the duplication of information within the EHCP report formats and across professionals are killing EPs’ creativity, which could be better spent supporting Black children. Such tasks impede the motivation to look beyond the Code and the LEA’s reporting formats. Yes, an EHCP report should be able to stand alone, but how lonely? A reduced minimum, that points to the full EP’s contribution is sufficient! The child’s assessment is not just one EHCP report;
- Please give the child 1 (one) ‘universal’ reference number that links all involved to her or his personal and administrative details, including the child’s other supporting information within the relevant SEN department;
- Psychologists must make a ‘Standard Professional Declaration’, in order to interface and work with Black people. This MUST be part of our Code of Practice. I shall insist on this and liaise with local interest groups accordingly. We must be open and transparent. We must tell our clients what our belief systems are. We must tell Black families what type of training we had and the model of psychology that drives our work. It’s never been a real dialogue, our relationships with Black clients – they never knew (‘what was coming’) the professional, on whom they depended. Black people need to know each psychologist’s belief system and the model each of us subscribes to, and why such an approach is appropriate to recommend invention for Black people. Informed Black parents can decided on suitability. Let’s practice the vision we hope to realise.
The nature of Black children in the current UK formal training system is self-evident, with respect to the ‘consult – plan – assess – review’ model, for those with genuine senses to perceive. We can work together to clarify these obstacles;
- A significant and separate qualification in the study of the ‘The Black child in UK’, as a distinct component in EP training that requires a ‘mini-dissertation’ level, action research based report. EPs who had no inclusive research training in their Master’s Degree, must be entitled to such training and qualification;
- Master’s Degree EPs who successfully complete this research and training qualification in ‘The Black child in the UK’ and have 10 years accumulative practice in the UK, must be awarded the ‘Top-up Doctorate’ in Educational Psychology to equalise the profession;
- Tenure of Research into areas of appropriate practice support for Black children’s spiritual and social disposition, behavioural determinants and competence / performance enhancements, as part of the job design, security and satisfaction;
9.2.2 The HCPC
“He who learns but does not think is lost; he who thinks but does not learn is in great danger” – Confucius
What really is the Health Council’s quality assurance framework for psychologists? Or is it just a matter of ‘pass the baton’?
As such, you would share in the responsibility and accountability, for endorsing professionals who in hindsight are clearly not fit for purpose.
- Acknowledge to Black CYP and Black parents, to what extent is the responsibility of the Health Council in matters concerning statutory assessments;
- Ensure that health professionals working in the UK, can show successful work experience or qualifications indicating a capacity to appropriately support UK Black children;
9.2.3 The AEP
“Strong unions require solidarity and solidarity in turn demands that workers must forego some degree of individual freedom in order to take advantage of the greater freedom they can win when they act as one” – Joseph McCartin
I have never heard a decent word or sentiment spoken about the AEP in over 30 years as an EP, including personal experiences. Has something gone wrong? Did I enter the profession at a low ebb? Do they contribute to EP training in any meaningful way?
- Right now, Black EPs, Black CYP and their families are the main stakeholders;
- There has been poor presiding over the protection and security of AEP registered EP for issues of rates of pay across the board, including locum EPs’ daily rates (which has been frozen since around 2010) through a lack of fight for EPs against central government’s RS35 salary outrage;
- Lacking representation on the capacity of EPs to provide an appropriate service for Black families;
- Step up or step down;
In my last 100 EHCP cases, I have not met a single parent who knew or understood their rights and entitlement under the Code. Yes, yes, some have their leaflets and some are even supported by the LEA’s parent support system.
Some LEAs even have SEN departments that actually dictate to the EPS. I thought we did interdependent but different jobs. The thing is, an Educational Psychologist is an independent expert witness. In a court of law, the same SEN department is speaking on the side of the LEA. And, guess what? The employed EP, is supposedly speaking on her or his own behalf. Let that sink in for a second. Let us be advising SEN department on how best to manage the graphical and hierarchical resource needs of children, and definitively not the other way around. We’re either employed as experts in what we do or we’re not.
- A system of orientation and induction for all Black parents supporting their children through the EHCP process – workshop based, ‘Zoom’ based and / or individual arrangements. This would include information on the psychologist and other professional involvement. A two-part training for EHCP, which is pre and post the assessment. Understand that it is personal – Black parents are personal with their children, like most parents, so resources must become personally familiar;
- Specifically ask Black parents, and without them having to know to ask, what resources they need at home to support their children, through and particularly in the event of a successful EHCP. Let them know specifically that this could be funded through the EHCP annual budget;
- Wherever possible (and in most cases this just depends on good will and established national finances), Black children should be assessed by Black psychologists to optimally reflect their culture and heritage and to best engage and elicit their highest potential. I don’t need to argue this point. It would be ludicrous in 2020. Who would argue against having the best assessment setting for Black children?
“A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer” – Bruce Lee
I was a school teacher once, and many times after that. Of course doing ‘supply teaching’. One of the things that struck me as interesting, was that the whole supply-substitute teacher business, is based on teaching without having to know the child. Interesting, right?
- Please, could we teach Black children in the way they learn best? Sounds like a more than reasonable request. Please get to really know that Black child;
- If you think you have to exclude (particularly a Black child with an active EHCP), please don’t – it means you’re doing something wrong – get help;
- If you don’t know how, please find out the supporting resources and seek out training for ALL staff on the premises on BLM – there’s really NO excuse;
- Remember, it’s got to be something new, where all else has failed Black children;
9.2.6 Educational Psychology Training Establishments /EPiTs
“Teaching is subsequent to learning – you only know you’ve taught something if someone has learnt something”
– Baruti Damali
As far as EPs are concerned, training universities are in the front line. Now there’s finger pointing and egg on faces.
“Who didn’t prepare who adequately?
“Who didn’t’ use their intellect, post training?”
“Who didn’t take the initiative?”
Here is one example where ‘keeping-up-to-date’ has no value at all. Who would have thought? All the old methods for education liberation are still there for interested and invested parties to find.
- Training universities to overhaul their EP training programmes to accommodate a substantive BLM core module within the 3 year programme (please see 9.2.1);
- Training institutions to have a representative number of Black tutors on EP training courses – basis for representation could be based on an established quorate, i.e. per cohort or per national statistics;
Training establishments are on the front line so they must be the vanguards of change.
9.2.7 Principal Educational Psychologists / EP Services
In my experience, pressures on Black psychologists in the service paint an abysmal picture of ‘negligence’ and assumptions that the training and supervision provided is appropriate for them and for assessing Black children. It goes without saying that Black people can learn anything, particularly under duress. But, skin colour is not an indication of awareness.
PEPs must have the insight, foresight and valour to do what is right.
- Specific training for staff suspected as being ‘indifferent’ to the plight of Black children;
- Create budgets for research projects and INSET training regarding Black Lives Matter;
- Insist that each EPIT take on an aspect of BLM research in your service, as a condition of the EPS involvement;
- Identify with Black psychologists what support they think they need;
- And, to tackle this vast concern – INITIATIVES MUST BE NEW!! All else has failed Black children and the Black community, including themselves.
9.2.8 Educational Psychologists
“Have you ever come across a …?” They asked.
“Doctor, heal thyself” was the answer.
- A Quest for Valour – I believe that, in terms of their research training, the last 10 cohorts of trained EPs are more than equipped to be creative in finding solutions to the accumulative outrage which points to a lack of meeting the Black child’s needs in UK schools. What I think is the concern, is a lack of courage. We need to be brave. I could easily say, that EPs are a microcosm of ‘society’, and have done with it. Then I can point to the levels of perceived ‘control’;
- Did someone mention peer review? Of course, but as an expert witness we each stand alone. However and furthermore, in the context of BLM, ‘peer review’ is dead! These ‘peers’ have gone missing while policies are made and accepted that have clear evidence trails contributing to the detriment of Black children’s well-being. Individually, you have adequate research skills and in combination, there is realisation potential. Be independently creative – Have a go! Who is going to say anything? What do they know? What have they done that worked? Where are they anyway?
- Do the Right Thing – By now you know it’s all speculative theories at best, and abject horror at worst. Just look out your window. Solutions are all ‘up in the air’ now. We know something’s not right about our work, that it’s broken and in need of fixing. We know ‘within child’ pathologies are just constructs. Therefore we know the medical model is holocaustic! Another thing we know, is that standardised tests are controversial at best, and for Black children … well nuff said. We must take charge and lead and be champions for the Black child – it’s the same as taking great pride in our work. Leaving no child behind.
I have heard EPs saying many times – “Oh well, I’m not really an expert in this …. or that or the other” Sigh. Truth is, children and families depend on us. So, step up. Be what they think we are.
Innovation means innovation – not “where’s ya references?” Goodness help us all if Nickola Tesla or Elton Musk had to produce references for their inventions. Please don’t misunderstand me. If there were those out there who could point to intervention which solved Black children’s traumas in state schools, I would be the first in line to learn at their feet. So, have a good go. But, be accountable – If you’re not prepared to formally justify your use of psychometric tests on Black children, then you should be creative otherwise. You don’t need references for your professional observations;
- A Brief Note on ‘Mental Health’ – This is another game played on Black people, but Black children particularly, being more vulnerable (if that’s possible). The savvy amongst us have seen the mountains of evidence indicating the ‘mental health’ misnomer. We know full well how the autonomic and homeostatic functions of executive elements of the human system respond to (undesirable) stimuli.
It’s like saying:
“My petrol car isn’t working perfectly, since I accidently put diesel in its tank”
9.2.9 Educational Psychologists who identify as Black
Now, is a great opportunity to be that ‘single-issue’ psychologist. We must now raise our hands and say ‘that’s us’. No point saying we were inadequately trained. Of course we were. But now we can ‘put intellect on it’ – it’s really not rocket science. We lived the life. Now we have shadows of methods and strategies we can build upon and use. Our people are dying in the streets. I am referring to the UK, not just over the pond or worldwide. If we don’t understand why, then who can?
If not you, then who? If not us, we get cuss?
Would you rather a White psychologist devise an assessment infrastructure for our children? If we weren’t here, like if a Black child had no parents or Black carers and no Black fostering or adoption applicants in sight, then of course the community must do their best. But, we’re here.
Are we not the ideal professionals for Black children?
Are we not better placed?
Are we not?
Be the champions for Black children!
The world is watching us – No more hiding.
10.0 Call to Real Action
That elephant? It’s a range elephant. We know its profile – it’s a manifestation of ‘indifference’ at best, and ‘stark fear’ at worst. But, its main quality is deception – blue smoke and mirrors.
Just imagine the gall of using personal construct theory with Black young people to get them to make sense of what was happening to them – like ‘blame the victim’. Adults have no explanations for what’s happening in our world at the moment, but some of us think that exploring Black CYP perceptions without true information would somehow elicit the truth from CYP.
That’s like studying a caged animal to determine what its wild relatives might be doing
We need a brand new psychology, based on collective reality and truth. Those who resist have to be left behind.
OK, who’s got the blinkers? Hands up!
Please, we must not be afraid. Moreover, there’s no sand left for the ostrich at the multi-disciplinary beach. The rock consumed it all. In the end, whether we live to see it – psychology will be about supporting individual sovereignty.
Why should we educate? Because we must. If we don’t, that innate drive for stimulation needs a path of release. We need to guide the urge for discovery into harmonic sovereignty for each child, particularly the Black child.
To what extent are we accountable? To the extent of what doing very little produces.
There’s a place for training with children, of course. Humans are curious, to say the least; and children will venture out. In the future, training will be educational, as with real freewill choices, children will only choose what they like; and, liking comes from within. An assessment or examination will be rated on how much the child enjoys the tasks.
And, what is specific about Black boys to inform testing tools? Simple, an instrument that asks about the world through the Black boy’s life spectacles.
Of course BLM is the missing link in EP practice. The reason black people are disadvantaged, hence our children too, is because something is missing or has been diminished out a popular culture. When we identify that factor we shall have critical mass.
But, help is at hand. I am ready. Black people appear to be now ready. Young people are definitively ready. And so must we all.
Let’s work together. Let’s do this!
Let’s use some steps – scaffolding steps.
“What happened to the messenger?” They asked
“Who?” was the answer.
Please, let’s not be missing.
Blissings and Love
22nd June 2020
CC – Undeterminably protracted