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date: 16 September 2019

Introduction: On Such a Full Sea and We Continue to Flounder

Abstract and Keywords

“Science is built up of facts, as a house is built up of stones, but a accumulation of facts is no more a science than a heap of stones is a house” (Poincare, 1905, p. 101). The continual plea for scientifically based practice that affects measurable outcomes is laudable. However, with little or no consensus regarding the relationship between outcomes, the definition of an educated and psychologically healthy student is consequential in that there is a concomitant lack of noticeable incremental gains in educational and school psychological practice — a lack of accumulated knowledge (Kehle & Bray, 2005). If school psychology remains a discipline void of clear dependent variables other than the treatment of pathologies, we really do not know what defines an academically and socially competent student.

Keywords: school psychology, academic, social development

An obvious, but rarely publicly discussed, observation is that children are not appreciably better educated nor better behaved than they were 50 years ago. As a matter of fact, it could be argued that they are products of an educational system that is less efficient and substantially less civil than it was 50 years ago. It would seem that the phenomenal technological innovations over this period of time would have influenced the acquisition of knowledge and psychological functioning—it does not appear so. Further, the fields of education and psychology have done little to reach a consensus on what defines an educated and psychologically healthy individual (Kehle & Bray, 2005). It is not sufficient to say practice should be firmly based on the scientific method when one does not know the goal of that practice other than to address pathology.

In a very real sense, the most intellectually challenging task in life is to understand the functional relationship between oneself and one’s environment—or, simply stated, to know where you are going. Similarly, institutions, including the discipline of school psychology, must either grapple with this complex task, or leave its future to what Trachman (1981) characterized, almost three decades ago, as the bandwagon effect, faddism, and ill-conceived and scientifically anemic, politically motivated legal mandates. The latter do more harm than the fads, which eventually die out and in so doing lead to future abuse by what Hyman (1979) called the “panacea mongers” that have doomed education to be perpetually under reform. However, the passage of federal or state laws often seeps into the educational and school psychological mindset, where they are interpreted as moral and best practice.

The notion that the Gaussian curve and individual differences do not exist is fanciful. We believe that to make real and measurable progress in the education and psychological development of children, a cumulative knowledge must be built that is based on the scientific method and that embraces goals that are universally and culturally acceptable to all individuals, across all socioeconomic statuses, ethnicities, religious affiliations, and political ideologies.

To define an achievable goal that would be applicable to the broad diversity of students, socioeconomic status, psychological variables, ethnicity, (p. 4) gender, and other factors on which they differ, is a daunting task. We would like to propose the following, which is simply based on asking mothers what they would want their children to have as they are developing throughout the life span. Originally, this question was asked to mothers living in over 32 cultures throughout the world. Their responses were translated and factor analyzed. Obviously, there was considerable error when translating even across the Romance languages; further, there is subjective error when labeling the factors. However, this same question has been asked to students and others for over 30 years with remarkably similar results.

Based on this inquiry, we believe that our R.I.C.H. theory provides a definition of an educated and psychologically healthy person that has been shown to have broad cross-cultural acceptance. It appears that mothers want their children to grow up and have essentially the same four characteristics: Resources, Intimacy, Competence, and Health (Kehle, 1989; Kehle, 1999; Kehle & Barclay, 1979; Kehle & Bray, 2004; Kehle, Bray, Chafouleas, & Mcloughlin, 2002; Kehle, Clark, & Jenson, 1993). Furthermore, and of utmost importance, all children, regardless of their life’s situation, can, in a relative sense, achieve the R.I.C.H. goals. Providing a clear definition of an educated and psychological healthy person that is universally and cross-culturally based, applicable across the life span and ability levels, would substantially promote goal-oriented research and ultimately result in a cumulative knowledge base to facilitate both further research and practice. Stated again: without doubt, the most challenging and complex task in life is to understand the functional relationship between oneself and one’s environment, or, to know where you are going.

The acronym R.I.C.H. stands for these four characteristics: “R” for resources, “I” for intimacy, “C” for competence, and “H” for physical health. The four characteristics are interrelated to the extent that each can be defined by the other three (Kehle & Bray, 2004).

Resources. The appropriate allocation of resources results in a feeling of independence or professionalism, which is defined as being synonymous with a sense of individual freedom, or a sense of control over one’s time and daily life.

Intimacy. Intimacy is defined as friendship. It involves empathy, appreciation, enjoyment of a friend’s company, and ultimately the mutual learning that friendship allows.

Competence. The individual has feelings of competence. These feelings are, in fact, the consequence of being competent relative to some societal or personal standard. Competence is attributed to one’s own abilities. The feeling of competence, in addition to being the consequence of some competent behavior, is also specific. Consequently, one may feel competent in some aspects of life, but not in others.

Health. In addition to being physically healthy, to the extent possible, the individual is aware of practices that are conducive to physical health and also has allegiance to them. (Kehle & Bray, 2004).

It is our belief that if schools embraced the R.I.C.H. characteristics by allowing students more individual freedom for what they want to learn, more opportunities for friendship formation, honest acknowledgement of competence, and increased time devoted to practices conducive to students’ physical health, there would be a noticeable and enduring improvement in academic and social functioning. Allowing the student greater independence to assume responsibility for his or her decisions to learn would also promote the remaining R.I.C.H. characteristics. Ultimately, students should have a sense of “not working” in that they intrinsically enjoy their selections of school environments and their choices of what they learn relative to the R.I.C.H. characteristics.

What is implied here is that progression through life requires a series of decisions and, if made properly, students’ decisions would promote movement toward the R.I.C.H. characteristics. The validity of the R.I.C.H. characteristics is evident in that they assume all possible human reinforcers—simply stated, one cannot envision a fifth characteristic to improve the four R.I.C.H. factors, since a given reinforcer promotes movement toward one of the characteristics and, therefore, also the remaining three. The R.I.C.H. characteristics appear to concur with Bertrand Russell’s definition of happiness (Russell, 1930)—at least, that is our interpretation of his Conquest of Happiness.

Without a definable and measurable dependent variable that is achievable across the diversity of students, a cumulative knowledge base will probably not be realized, and 50 years from now we will still be asking whether or not our children are better educated and better behaved than they were in the 1950s. To the degree the reader considers the content of the Handbook relative to the R.I.C.H. characteristics, the more probable will be the formulation of a cumulative knowledge base to focus research and promote the practice of school psychology.

The chapters of this Handbook provide state-of-the-art knowledge relative to more than 43 areas that are germane to the science and practice of (p. 5) school psychology. We are immensely grateful to the 105 outstanding scholars in school psychology and related disciplines who contributed to this Handbook. We would like to express deep gratitude to our colleagues in school psychology, along with the Department of Educational Psychology within the Neag School of Education at the University of Connecticut, for providing a supportive scholarly environment conducive to inquiry and intellectual risk-taking. Our heartfelt thanks to our editor, Chad Zimmerman of Oxford University Press, who provided encouragement and support throughout the long process needed to bring the Handbook to completion. Finally, and most importantly, we thank our spouses, William Bray and Gretchen Kehle, and families (Adeline, Will, Clark, John, Kit, and Joe Bray, and Matthew Dwyer) who provided a safe haven and honest feedback.


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