Bird Droppings May 18, 2015
What is normal and can we define it quantitatively or qualitatively?
“Normality in fact has nothing to do with statistics. It refers to a norm, a model of perfection, an example to be followed. It indicates what we should be. Normality is therefore something to strive for, something at which to aim, it is not what most people do. It is what they would do if they lived up to their human potential.” “Normality, defined in relation to a norm, is a model in terms of which we try to shape our characters and our behavior. And this involves living up to our human potential.” Hasan Le Gai Eaton; in a broadcast by the BBC 1989, ‘Living By The Book’
My readings and wanderings over the years of graduate school led me to thinking about qualitative or quantitative research and various components of those topics. It also got me thinking back several years to when I was testing a young man and used a well normed and perhaps one of the best according to most psychological testers and school systems of indicators of emotional and behavior disorders. The test has several components to be used in evaluating a student; one aspect is teacher opinions, another the student’s own self-views, and also parental opinions. A combination of these often differing perceptions gives an over view of the student. This young man I was testing had scored himself totally normal within all test guidelines and parameters.
As I looked at the three or four teacher checklists and answer sheets a different person was being seen. In his classes this student had A’s and B’s and seldom if ever did he do anything that was considered wrong. Occasionally this student would jump up and act bizarre and then sit quietly and do his work. Other than that everything was in order and perfect, he never yelled out or called people names. He did not interact in the hallways and or cause trouble ever, not one discipline referral. He was a prefect student by most teachers’ opinions his own and even his grandparents.
When called on he would not answer except in a whisper or he would bring the correct answer to you and point to it on his paper. He would never look you in the eye. He never used hand gestures while talking often fidgeting with a pencil or some other object in the room as he paced occasionally. He never talked to other students and when he did it was in a monotone a nearly flat pitched voice with little emotion. It was seldom that he would smile. When he would laugh or attempt to make a joke it was neither understood by others or no one even heard or perceived humor in his words.
I wondered as I sat with this young man so enclosed and encased in himself and so very intelligent. He would go through school never looking at anyone, always alone even eating lunch alone. However because we placed our standards on more than not interfering, not misbehaving and getting good grades this young man slipped through the cracks emotionally. With additional testing he was found to have Asperger’s syndrome a pervasive developmental disorder or by some standards and definitions a nonverbal learning disability.
So I ask what is normal. For so many teachers normal is fitting into the plan that they developed for their class, the guidelines of the school and classroom. Deviating from that is not normal. It was several months back I heard an administrator for the first time advocate for a kid, in quite some time. This was a student who has so much against him; he is living within a virtual prison of disabilities, Tourette’s syndrome, bi-polar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and numerous other diagnoses’. In a heartbeat he can get in trouble and he did again on that day. An observant administrator noticed things out of the norm, his clothes hadn’t been changed, as he was being told his mother would be called he jokingly said you won’t get her, and then said under his breath she was in surgery.
I thought back further to a student many years ago and saw similarities as my memories flooded back. We so often limit our perception to the moment. Were his misbehaviors at that moment because of his disability, were they symptomatic of the fact his mother was in the hospital in critical condition and in surgery, or were his misbehaviors simple our inability to look beyond the class disruption and our own lack of awareness of what is normal, often being our own limitations on normal.
The quote I used today in its entirety is an article on seeking perfection given that we will never reach it. It is written about Islam and perfection being Muhammad. In all societies and cultures and religions we seem as humans to establish a model of what we consider to be normal, and or perfection, and then we strive for it. We also seem to build in stop gaps for our own inadequacies but tend to forget others. In another article this morning I read adultery is normal if we consider the trends and numbers, yet most people would still say it is wrong. I wonder as I sit today how many times each of us has declared someone abnormal because they did not meet our standards.
Coming back to my graduate classes and the concept of Mind Sets, far too often we are in a fixed mindset and do not have the provisions for or ability to bend or flex when needed. Often I joke about the day a space ship lands and a super intelligent being with nine legs and twenty toes on each of its feet steps out and declares humankind abnormal, what then? Perhaps we can norm a new test. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.
My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
(We are all related)