Aracelie_Reflections_6 Apr

Posted by on April 13, 2010 
Filed under Reflections

During last week’s class, we discussed an article I selected on veterans going to Queensborough Community College after having been deployed as a servicemember to either Iraq or Afghanistan in a time of war.   The article covered several aspects of transitioning back to civilian life – Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), substance abuse, and “reverse cultural shock” (as I refer to it) to name a few.

It was rather powerful article because it contained many quotes from the servicemembers.  In our discussion, we raised a lot of questions regarding the point of self-reflection in class.  In a typical practice of SoTL, the teacher will ask his students to do some type of self-reflection assignment.  Without knowing the particulars of a servicemembers’ time overseas like those mentioned in the article, it is difficult to know what those requirements might signal.  For some, it might be something they prefer or even cannot do.  For others, it may be a therapeutic experience, an outlet they may have needed to get their thoughts out.  How then does the teacher determine which case it is?  Without any prior experience of combat and without a clinical psychology background, time and exposure  would probably be two of the key components – time to learn more about the individual student and exposure to issues related to combat veterans.

PTSD is a dominant feature of the two wars.  It is all over the news.   It dominated the article and its bibliography entries.  Ted brought up several questions about it in class, too.  How can we do better when there aren’t enough medical resources out there to help?  How do we encourage vets to seek the help they need?  All are good questions, and they are even being raised in focus groups at Mason (I attended one on the 8th).  The answers are not simple nor easy.  Similar to the question of how to change and expand SoTL by focusing on changing the cultural mindset, that is what will be required for vets.  There is a large stigma still attached with asking for help and the services, from the highest-ranking to the lowest-ranking person, need to stop behaving as though requesting help is a horrible thing to do and detrimental to doing one’s job.  As educators, we have to try and present the opportunities for assistance, somehow opening the doors without making it too obvious.  Taking a more incognito approach, perhaps by using different language.  A cheesy suggestion, perhaps, but after awhile and depending on the audience it might actually work.  (Example:  the old Army slogan “Be All That You Can Be” met a great deal of resistance from those who were already serving.  However, “An Army of One” brought many new people in just as it was supposed to do.  A change in phrasing, but serving the same purpose.)

One other thing about last week’s class that I realized is that it would be very easy to 1) get overcome by how many topics are related to the initial research question (i.e. “scope creep” in business terms), and 2) it would be very easy to want to switch to topics that have more literature available, in my case, PTSD.  (Luckily, I know my limits, and am not ready to tackle that on such a deep level just yet.)


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