Social education is defined as learning the skills, techniques and competencies that enable one to form mutually satisfying and gratifying relationships. While it is true that “individuals with a wide range of physical, mental and behavioral differences – people with disabilities or unusual sexual preferences, criminals, substance abusers – regularly form close relationships with typical people” [Bogdan & Taylor, 1987], it is also true that children with externalizing antisocial behaviors often find such relations to be the exception rather than the rule. Often rejected by their typical peers, they form relations with deviant peers who support and maintain the antisocial behaviors. In the process, the socialization process is skewed, since the opportunities for peer conformance experiences are limited.
In a similar manner, children with internalizing and withdrawing behaviors often reject the peer group and along with the above group of children miss the “most pervading and important of all the affectional systems in terms of long-range personal-social adjustments” [Harlow, 1974]. Institutionalized social and emotional skill learning is not an adequate substitute for learning through natural peer affectional groups; but is often the only recourse.
Since one valued setting for all children is school, and since the functions of school is to teach, it is natural to cite schools as the most appropriate institution to teach social competence. If the problems are identified early enough, it is possible that students will be able to re-qualify their status with typical peers and benefit from natural social development.
It is not unusual for parents and other significant adults to identify children with social deficits as early as three years old. They stand out like “sore thumbs”. The genotype in its most simple form involves the characteristics a person was born with. Some children are simply more active than others. This may appear to other toddlers as aggression and soon becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Active, strong and intense toddlers quickly gain a reward for their actions and get what they want, increasing their apparent aggressiveness. Actual aggressiveness probably takes a cognitive understanding that I am using a might makes right tactic to get my own way. Nonetheless, even without such understanding, the behavior tends to be both rewarded by getting your own way and punished by rejection. Unless some actions are taken early on, the child will probably be rejected before social and creative play aspects ever really develop.
In order to have a consistent approach to the provision of social education, a school will need several components:
- Identification and baseline data: although children with learning and behavior problems generally are more at risk for social skills problems, normal achieving children may als0 have poorly developed social and emotional skills. Schools must identify students who will benefit from instruction by using assessment approaches that will identify the skills required. Such specification will further enable you to seek parental permission for developmental supports without exaggerating the concern or labeling the child as well as limiting the parameters what needs to be addressed.
- Identification and implementation of appropriate curriculum: although there are innumerable curricula available, the school will be required to determine the scope of its own involvements and the appropriateness of its approach. Further, it will need to develop a wide range curriculum that covers both interpersonal and intrapersonal skills so that selection of appropriate skill teaching can be individualized for each child.
- Identification of benchmark data: The idea of outcome data is to evaluate progress while in process and to monitor progress afterwards. Outcome is a complex construct composed of several independent dimensions. In human service systems, these commonly include morbidity and mortality, symptomatology, social and occupational functioning, self-sufficiency skills, quality of life, use of support services, adverse clinical events or complications, relapse or recidivism, and consumer satisfaction. Thus there needs to be a determination of what to measure and how to measure it. Without high quality outcome data, there is no way of determining value of the services offered. Value is often defined as the quality divided by the cost; but there can be further divisions into:
- Appropriateness: Did we do the right things?
- Effectiveness: Did we do things right?
These final dimensions of value can only be determined by understanding the summon bonum [greatest good] of the organization.
By identifying ‘sore thumbs” and others with a lack of social or personal competence through accurate measurements, we can select an appropriate curriculum participation. If implemented well and in concert with the greatest good, we can determine appropriateness. By measuring other factors, including satisfaction we can determine quality. By dividing quality by cost, we can determine value. Where appropriateness, effectiveness or value is not as expected, we can adjust the program to meet the full range of criteria. Thus we become a learning organization. Cognitive Science is the study of intelligence and intelligent systems. Social education is a cognitive science technology. It addresses two of the intelligences of human beings as defined by Howard Gardner: an understanding of other individual and an understanding of ourselves. Finally, it addresses the development of an intelligent system that is in a process of continuous quality improvement.