In the Steps of Dinosaurs

Dr. Matthew Pate
9 min readJul 8, 2021

In this essay, I’m going to deviate a bit from my usual cop talk (there is a little near the bottom). Instead of waxing poetic about the police, I want to discuss the other hat I wear: College Instructor.

Having taught college courses for more than two decades, I have seen a lot of unusual student behavior. Part of this is doubtless due to the process of college kids figuring out who they are, testing social boundaries and just plain old youthful zeal.

That said, one of my dearest friends, a professor at a large public university in Tennessee, relayed comments made by that school’s head of Counseling and Testing Services. This official attributed the spike in disruptive student behavior to the “increased admission of students with mental illnesses.” This same psychological prognosticator also used the term “crazy” in the elaboration of her theory.

Even on face, this is one of those contentions that smacks of bigotry and ignorance. First, her statement is impossible to vet. While disability assistance programs have flourished, who knows whether the true number of mentally ill students has increased. Being able to more readily identify students with particular disabilities or special needs in no way equates to an increase in students who have those qualities. Moreover, using single, broad, judgmental characterizations to label thousands of different medical conditions under one grand umbrella of behavioral issues is just plain prejudice.

For the sake of argument, let’s just go with her idiotic contention for a moment and let’s carry it to the absurdist extreme of not just disruptive behavior but violent behavior. In the DSM-V, there is broad discussion of “personality disorders.” Personality disorders are grouped into three “clusters” (A, B, C) based on similar symptoms and behavioral characteristics. As a narrative choice, I don’t want to get too deep into discussions of each cluster (Mayo has an excellent general description of them here). In research from 2000, Johnson, et al. state, “Adolescents with a greater number of DSM-IV cluster A or cluster B personality disorder symptoms were more likely than other adolescents in the community to commit violent acts during adolescence and early adulthood, including arson, assault, breaking and entering, initiating physical fights, robbery, and threats to…

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Dr. Matthew Pate

Criminal Justice Researcher. Erstwhile Detective, Author. Mixed Media Artist. Habitual Line Stepper. Loves Dogs and Cats. Holds Doors. Wishes for Better.