Learning-Disabled Adolescents' Difficulties in Solving Personal/Social Problems
Joanna P. Williams Teachers College, Columbia University
Our society is not providing its young people with the skills they need to face their problems. Over the past two decades, the suicide rate has climbed steadily in the United States, with the greatest increase in rate occurring among children and young adults ( Statistical Abstracts of the U.S.A., 1987, p. 79). The overall crime rate among young people has been of serious concern over the same period and shows no sign of declining ( Short & Simeonsson, 1986, p. 159). The incidence of violent crimes in schools has increased enormously, and the number of juveniles held in custody in public or private facilities has also grown steadily ( Statistical Abstracts of the US, 1987, p. 170). A recent report of the Carnegie Corporation ( Hornbeck, 1989) noted the turbulence and heightened vulnerabilities during the adolescent years and urged large-scale modification of the organization and curriculum of the schools, in a major attempt to curb some of these disturbing trends.
What is responsible for this increase in aggressiveness and destructiveness? Why are our young people so troubled? According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress ( 1985, p. 2), many adolescents show "little evidence of well-developed problem-solving strategies or critical thinking." Ennis ( 1987) defined critical thinking as "reasonable reflective thinking that is focused on deciding what to believe or do," and Baron ( 1985) pointed out that adolescents (as well as others!) often do not act in their own best interests specifically because they do not do such reflective thinking.