To the Editor:
Thank you for publishing “Who, Really, Was Bruno Bettelheim?” by Ronald Angres [October 1990]. During my early training, Bruno Bettelheim’s writings, particularly The Empty Fortress, filled the shelves of college bookstores. I, like many others, read them voraciously and learned that parents were to blame for their children’s severe behavioral, cognitive, and social impairments; savior-counselors, under the guidance of the all-knowing, all-powerful “master,” alone could rescue them. Perhaps the appeal of this message lay in its utter simplicity unfettered by careful scientific observation.
As a young teacher in a pioneering day-treatment program for preschool children with serious disturbances in development, I soon learned that the concepts Bettelheim promulgated so widely and so powerfully were wrong, that they bore no resemblance to the reality before me. In the course of my own interaction with children and parents, I daily saw parents from all walks of life who nurtured and deeply cared for their children in need, parents who struggled to overcome enormous difficulties to help their children, parents whose dreams had been shattered, and who deserved respect and support as they began their long journey. . . .
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