Barrett L. Dorko, P.T.
Perhaps you remember the very popular movie, "Kindergarten
Cop" starring Arnold Schwarzenegger that came out a few Christmases ago.
It followed the exploits of a hardened inner-city undercover policeman
who suddenly finds himself teaching kindergarten in an idyllic little town in
the Pacific Northwest. To find out
how this happened, you'll have to watch the movie.
Even without my telling you, many will foresee the comic possibilities
in this. Believe me, every one of
them is exploited, and I found it pretty funny myself.
But I go to a lot of movies, and I knew that something else was coming
that, as a therapist, I don't find nearly so entertaining.
It was the method that Schwarzenegger used to finally control the 5 and 6
year olds whom he admitted were "walking all over" him.
He brought with him to class one day two things; a whistle, and a new
attitude. After scaring them with a
blast from the whistle (Arnold can really blow that thing, after all) he
announces that from now on they will immediately respond to a series of signals
from the whistle indicating that they do something other than what they're doing
at the moment. It is made perfectly
clear to the first little girl who objects that any deviation from this herd
mentality will not be tolerated, and that her tears have no effect on the
program, or her large teacher.
Soon Arnold has them marching everywhere, exercising vigorously, and
competing with each other in tests of strength and endurance.
The camera depicts order in the classroom where chaos was once the rule.
I can still see Arnold's face light up as he watches his little herd
moving as one, saying to himself, "It's vurking, it's vurking!"
Of course, it's only a movie, and no kindergarten teacher in their right
mind would actually make their students abandon their desire to move freely,
uniquely, and expressively just to satisfy their desire for control.
Would they? I mean, in the
absence of an especially large vocabulary, and virtually no writing or reading
skills, kindergarteners have little left aside from their bodies to express what
they think or feel. I imagine that
their immature nervous systems are regularly trying out new positions,
attempting to find comfort or a variety of patterns of use to accomplish the new
tasks being thrown at them. Certainly
their teacher would understand their need for freedom in bodily expression and
not castigate them for simply shifting in their seat.
That would be criminal.
We can forgive Arnold, even cheer him on as he whips these kids into
shape. In fact, I remember the
audience doing so. But he's just a
cop used to working with the dregs of society, and his methods are really more
appropriate for a jailer, not an educator.
He doesn't understand that movement that follows thought is inherent to
our being, that it is reflexive in nature and that we sublimate it at our peril
(see "Without Volition"). He
doesn't know that the correction of painful mechanical deformation and a return
to a soft and pliable, parasympathetic dominant system depends upon our self
acceptance and self expression. In
fact, he wants those around him to constantly seek his approval.
He wants them to fear movements he might not understand though others
desperately wish to do them. He likes hard, erect bodies ready to snap to attention in his
presence. Of course, no real
teacher would ever ask for this, and no parent in their right mind would want
their child in that class. Would
they? Well, of course not.
You could make the argument that a society trained in such a manner would
have an epidemic of chronic pain. Imagine
But I know that such things do actually occur, and that people remember
their time in that class to the end of their lives. I know this because I've had hundreds of patients in their
eighties tell me about it. Isn't it
a good thing that we know better now? Isn't
it a good thing that therapists understand how to help those who have lost
themselves, who have learned not to trust their own inclinations to change and
Of course, I once heard of a PT department that closely resembled
Arnold's classroom. Though people
came for pain relief, they were judged harshly if their posture deviated from
the ideal and made to exercise in ways that actually increased their pain.
Their tears had no effect on those in charge, and the protocols of
movement were pretty much the same no matter the unique nature of the
individual. Of course, money poured
in. Kind of like most of Arnold's
But maybe that place doesn't really exist. Maybe it was just a movie somebody saw, and I heard only part
of the account. I mean, we wouldn't
actually do that. Would we?