"On The Efficacy of Nose Preoccupation" by Don Wells

Another racy piece by Don - On the Efficacy of Nose Preoccupation - a real perspective on middle schoolers. :) Enjoy!

“The preoccupying motives for most American adolescents revolve around resolving uncertainty over sexual adequacy, interpersonal power, autonomy of belief and action, and acceptability to peers.  The urgency of these questions denotes the weaker desire to acquire competence in mathematics, history, or English composition.  Hence, the school halls exude combinations of apathy and hostility.  This mood is not a recent phenomenon.”[1]

The above quote tells us something about our client.  We need remind ourselves that the student is what we are in business for, not those other murky figures who are frequently scapegoated as the reasons we lose sight of our responsibilities to that client.  We do need reminders, for our schools tend to not hear what their children, in so many ways, are saying.  That might be put another way:  You and I are poor listeners.

It is quite easy for me to wax eloquent on why you don’t hear; more difficult to explore why I don’t.  I shall give some examples of my foibles with middle aged children and perhaps they will help you give some examples of yours.  Each will contain an actual dialogue, an analysis, and what—in retrospect—I learned as I became more a student of the “nose preoccupation cult.”

Me: “Please turn in your math homework.”
Annie: “My best friend and I broke up last night, and because of that I didn’t do it.”
Me: “That’s no excuse!”
Annie: “I know it’s no excuse!  I was trying to give you the reason.” (tearfully)

ANALYSIS:  “To forget a friend is sad.  Not everyone has had a friend.  And if I forget him, I may become like grown-ups who are no longer interested in anything but figures…” The Little Prince

LESSON:  Friendships are a crucial part of Annie’s life that affect her math work.  The precipitous ending of those friendships qualify, therefore, as just reasons to not perform as scheduled.  Most importantly, Annie’s response must be reasoned with by me, and patently not denigrated as an excuse for the avoidance of an assigned task.  For if I denigrate, I demean her value.


Keep reading via PDF

[1] Kagan, Jerome.  “A Conception of Early Adolescence.”  Daedalus, 1971.


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