Distinguishing "the routine turbulence of adolescence" from "ominous, socially-disruptive behavior" should be the prime task of adults in dealing with adolescent problems, said Dr. Norman E. Zinberg, assistant clinical professor of Psychiatry yesterday.
The University failed in this task by treating the Dow demonstration last October as a disciplinary problem, rather than as a problem in the relationships between generations, Zinberg said. He was speaking at the Conference on Higher Education in Chicago.
"The differentiation of normal development crisis from emotional disorder, this ability to pick out disturbance but to avoid potentially weakening or infantilizing interference must be the concern of every educator and mental health worker," he said.
Using the Dow incident as an example of the generation gap today, Zinberg noted the complete misunderstanding between the students and the administration. "The lack of understanding became most evident when President Pusey called the incident disgraceful, and said that no one had learned anything of importance from the episode," he explained.
Many students, on the other hand, felt that participation in the demonstration was one of the most important events in their lives. Describing the decision of a student to turn in his bursar's card at the risk of being severed, Zinberg said, "He had, in that moment when he know he might have sacrificed what was of such importance to him, grown up."
The Dow incident taught the student the meaning of commitment, "even if it turned out that his commitment wasn't to a cause that may have been best," Zinberg said.