Summary of the Systematic Mistreatment
of People as Learners

These are some of the situations that have interfered with our natural learning ability:

1.  Installation of “passivity recordings” with regard to learning and taking action.

2.  Interference with discharge of tension and distress feelings.

3.  Mistrust, lack of confidence in self and others caused by:

     a.  disrespect of young people and their perspectives;

       b.  misinformation about human beings;

       c.  evaluation of learning from the outside.

4.  Systematic invalidation of our intelligence.

5.  Systematic presentation of learning as merely a process of “copying and filling” (memorizing) rather than as an active, complex process of integration, construction and constant re-evaluation.

6.  Manipulation of young people into pretending about their learning and what they know and about their feelings, through criticism and ridicule.

7.  Interference with the cooperative relationships we would enjoy with one another by using success in learning and ability to “perform” as a condition for love, affection and recognition.

What others would you add?


We have found some approaches that work well in counseling on the above types of hurts. They are summarized below. Remember they are guidelines to keep in mind, not rigid rules.

1.  Passivity
Use a variation of the “three-step technique,” asking the client:

       a.  How were you made to be passive in your learning?

       b.  How did you stand up against it?

       c.  How do you still go along with the passivity recordings?

       d.  What are the next steps for you in regaining your full power to learn?

2.  Discharge

Scan how you were stopped from discharging, particularly when you didn’t understand something that you were trying to learn and do or that you observed.

Scan memories of what happened when someone cried in school.

3.  Mistrust

       a.  Remember pleasant memories of your “world” as a very young person, for example: a favorite hiding place, toy, game; something “magical” you believed in.

Recall explanations you had for certain events.

Remember random pleasant memories of good learning experiences.

Remember upsetting experiences, for example: times your explanations were belittled, you were rushed, your explorations were hindered, you were criticized.

       b.  Use early confusion method, “a time you were confused about . . . “ (See Classroom 7, pp. 21-24)

Learn about people’s history by reading and asking people questions about your own intelligence, about others’ intelligence, about people loving each other, about the possibility of recovering from distress, oppression, etc.

       c.  Scan memories of being graded or criticized.

Scan times when you know that you understood something.

Scan memories of developing a skill by yourself.

4.  Invalidation

Take pride in all that you have learned (talking, walking, tying your shoes, riding a bike, etc.)

Tone of voice is important. Counselor needs to be a good model, persistent, interrupt sarcasm, etc.

Appreciate yourself and your intelligence.

Express the joy and excitement of discovery you experienced as a young person before the chronic learning distress was set in. (See Classroom 5, pp 10-16)

5.  Rote vs. Active Learning

Scan times you were made to memorize by rote and how you felt (counselor’s light, alert attention important here to maintain balance of attention).

Scan times you figured out how something worked by yourself.

Scan times you learned something step-by-step.

Scan times you helped someone understand something beyond the rote aspect presented by the book or instructor.

6.  Pretense

Tell how you pretended (“faked it”) when you were young about what you knew and didn’t know, about how you felt, etc.

How do you still pretend in this way?

What does a counselor or group need to do to enable you to take more risks in showing your real feelings?

Ask the basic question that you feel afraid to ask in any area.

7.  Cooperation

Counsel on internalized student oppression:

Memories of best friends and learning or studying together;

What you like or liked about being a student;

What you like about other students;

Take pride in yourself as a student or learner;

Practice giving total support for another’s achievements;

Memories of competition in school or at home;


What you hated about being a student;

What you hate about other students.

One method for counseling on internalized student oppression in pairs is described in Classroom No. 7, pp.14-20. Another is to have each person ask the other in turn, “What do I need to do in order to be your ally?” Another is to have each person ask the other in turn, “What do I need to do in order to be your ally?” and then listen. Repeat the question as appropriate. Keep attention focused on the present and future.

AND REMEMBER . . . a method that seems to contradict almost all learning distress is to learn something or explore the environment with the loving attention of a Co-Counselor or a group.

Julian and Theresa Weissglass
Santa Barbara, California, USA

Last modified: 2015-07-21 17:39:37+00