Normalization in Schools: Foucault & the Mental Health Crisis
Around half of Americans will suffer from a mental health disorder within their lifetime. The American Psychological Association's DSM-V recognizes 297 mental health disorders, deemed disorders because of their universal ability to severely disrupt individuals' lives. Given the extensive number of cases and different disorders with the ability to impair lives, finding causes behind mental health disorders proves crucial. Examining Michel Foucault's idea of normalization using his text Discipline & Punish, I propose normalization may serve as an underlying cause for some mental health conditions, particularly with children. Examining the effects of normalization in schools on students' mental health, I argue that normalization affects students' mental health through socializing students into fitting in with societal norms and promoting the judgement of other students; as such, normalization in schools should be minimized. Analyzing the school system through Foucault's work, I argue that normalization is present in schools through class schedules and grading systems. These systems seek to strip students of their individuality and conform to societal expectations to promote social order and stability. In the process, normalization strips students of the ability of choice and creates a fear of being viewed as different and being outcast. Enforcing norms creates a duality between the existence of a right and a wrong way to live, encouraging individuals to judge one another for failing to fit into the norms. This standard of perfection is truly impossible for students to achieve. The participation of schools in normalization practices exacerbates mental health problems in society.
Feutz, Jennifer, "Normalization in Schools: Foucault & the Mental Health Crisis" (2019). Symposium on Undergraduate Research and Creative Expression (SOURCE). 848.