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They Can But They Don't

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As many as 20 percent of American public school students may be work inhibited, that is, unable to complete assignments. They have the intellectual capability to understand concepts and have no discernible learning disabilities, yet they cannot work on their own. Burns reports on several studies he made of such children, describing their characteristics and family patterns. He concludes that low self-esteem and passive aggression are primary causes. He also finds many subjects to be guilt-ridden, fearful, apprehensive, and shy. Illustrating his points with case studies, he explains what educators and parents can do to help. This book should be required reading for education students, teachers, counselors, and parents of work-inhibited children.-- Shirley L. Hopkinson, SLIS, San Jose State Univ., Cal.

Bruns's notion that ``work inhibition'' is an identifiable medical syndrome seems a bit inflated, but in this small volume, nevertheless, he presents a common-sense explanation of why some children do poorly in school. A teacher and school psychologist, he suggests that many students don't do their work, or don't do it well, because they lack self-esteem and a sense of who they are apart from their parents. Acknowledging how hard it is to establish whether their low achievement is the result of learning disabilities or of the cultural factor she writes about, Bruns attempts to show parents, teachers and counselors how to sort out the various issues involved. If they conclude that a child is work-inhibited, he suggests ways in which they might build the child's confidence and instill better work habits. Occasionally Bruns's advice takes on an oddly Victorian tone, seeming to place adults on a pedestal high above their errant children. But his admonitions to parents to listen attentively and to positively reinforce desired behaviors, while not new, are sound. (Aug.)

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