Prisons of the Mind, O.L.Shaw, Allen & Unwin. 1969 [SBN 04 157005 7]
For those readers who wish to know about the workings of Red Hill School, Maladjusted Boys published by Allen and Unwin in 1965, would be of help.
The school described is a grammar boarding school, recognized by the Department of Education and Science for the treatment and education of maladjusted boys of superior intelligence, whose traditions have been built up over a period of more than thirty years. Without external rules and discipline, law and order has been successfully maintained by the children’s own disciplinary court and social committees. It tells also of the special relationships which exist within the community not only between children and staff, but between all the different groups. We have been singularly fortunate in always being able to attract good people for our staff who, having once come to work at the school, appear to find satisfaction in the continuation of their work for many years.
Various homes and different kinds of maladjustment are mentioned and I gave descriptions of the many types of child whom we sought to help. Questions of parentage, religion, sex and the general influence of mass media were all discussed and the book concludes with a note upon the educational aspects of our work, contributed by my very old friend and colleague, Mr Ivor Holland.
An understanding of what is to follow in these pages does not depend upon a reading of Maladjusted Boys, but should the reader care to borrow, or, better still, buy the book, he will find the understanding of the rest of these pages made easier.
Case histories are given in this book and, to some, this might seem an invasion of the privacy of treatment offered and given at the school, but the case histories described are disguised in such a manner that no identification could ever be possible, and thus the privacy is fully regarded. Some cases which are mentioned in this book are most disturbed and in a very severely confused condition. Taking as it does fifty-five boys, the school will only accept two or three of these markedly disturbed children at any one time and, remembering therefore that any given moment more than half the children who are living at the school are cured, the pressure upon staff may not be as high as it might otherwise be assumed to be. The cure of children is much helped by the example and activity of the more stable pupils already at the school.
In Maladjusted Boys a statistical statement is given as to our cures and failures. Naturally we would prefer that all our geese became swans, but, alas, some of our geese keep to their species. We have been most fortunate in our successes, but our good fortune must reasonably be qualified by the fact that unlike other schools, we choose as pupils whom we agree to take, children who would be most likely to benefit from our treatment and who are not likely to upset the children already at the school. If the same precaution were taken in approved schools, for example, results in such institutions would be better. Perhaps one day we may hope for that improvement.
In those we describe we have purposely used many old cases, the better so to test the permanence of what we regard as a cure. It will be very noticeable to the reader that wherever educational or cognate issues are mentioned we refer to the very high intelligence of our children. Pressure upon our vacancies is enormous and one result of this is the tendency to take children of higher and higher intelligence. Consequently some of our children are within the genius group and with children of that and only slightly less intelligence, it is possible to hope for more co-operation than is likely to be the case where those of dull or only average intelligence are concerned.
Emphasis must be laid upon the fact that in the very intimate details disclosed in these pages, these details are completely private to the adult associated with a particular boy, and in our experiences so far, have never formed the butt of conversation between boys. The preservation of a good and kind atmosphere which respects the privacy and actions of others is one that at all times we seek not only to preserve but to improve. A kindly critic once described us as an oasis of culture in a desert of cupidity. We do not yet deserve that compliment, but one day, if we persevere, we may be able to say that we have earned that high praise.
OTTO L. SHAW