Friday, January 21, 2011

Sir Ken Robinson Sets Us Straight On What Is Wrong with Education

This Doodlecture (another of my portmanteau's) by one of my favorite writers and thinkers, Sir Ken Robinson - hits on everything we know is wrong with education. In this video, a master doodler does an incredible job of putting a picture to Robinson's words...almost like a live Prezi - AMAZING!

In the video you'll see and hear some of my favorite concepts by Robinson like:
  • The problem with production line teaching
  • How nonsensical it is that we group students by date of manufacture
  • The misconception that Academic = Smart and Non Academic = Not Smart
  • Schools are designed to squash creativity and divergent thinking
  • Outside schools cheating is called collaboration
and my favorite...
The ADHD myth (at 3:45) which he notes has grown with the increase in standardized testing. . ." For more on the ADHD myth, check out the links below the video.

Here is a collection of resources I gathered in a new post Cure ADHD without Drugs with These Resources from Doctors, Educators, and Parents.

Here's a round up of articles on the ADHD Myth from the "Say No to Psychiatry and Drugging Children" site.
Ritalin: The Drug Time Bomb In Our Schools - educational pamphlet.
The Myth of Attention Deficit Disorder by Dr. Mark Barber
The ADHD Industry by Dr. Mary Ann Block
It's All About Drugs by Dr. Mary Ann Block
America's New Learning Disease by Thomas Armstrong, Ph.D.
A.D.D.: Now You See It, Now You Don't by Thomas Armstrong, Ph.D.
Why A.D.D. Is A Simplistic Answer To The Problems of a Complex World by Thomas Armstrong, Ph.D.
Suppressing The Passion Of Children by Peter Breggin, M.D.
Abandoning The Children by Peter Breggin, M.D.
Saving Your Child From The Label (ADD, or ADHD) by Katherine Taylor Wanamaker (Advice for parents to battle the school system trying to label and drug your child)


  1. ADHD is hardly a myth for the many people who suffer from it, children and adults alike.

  2. The funniest part of all of these links is the footer at the bottom of each page that reads "Say NO To Psychiatry!"

    That's a bit like exclaiming "Say NO to Oncology!" or "Say NO to Immunology!" or "Say NO to the Pathology!".

    And when I say funny, I mean uneducated, destructive and ignorant.

  3. @Mungo Says Bah!, the hosting site has that on the bottom, but the articles they link to were not created by the site authors and have valuable information.

    I don't believe it is ignorant. There are many who believe that if possible, it is best to provide alternative treatments to drugs. That is the bias, obviously, of that site. There are many who agree that in America we're often to quick to drug or operate for the quick fix rather than looking at alternatives.

  4. My son struggled for years with ADHD. He's bright but couldn't focus or start or finish anything. He had a wonderful personality but started to dislike himself. Unlike people with ADHD who use the adrenaline rush from looming deadlines to get motivated my son would fold. Once he started on Strattera everything changed for him. ADHD is real. It may be over-diagnosed and medication over-prescribed but it exists. Google "comorbidity and ADHD" - The connection between ADHD and depression, anxiety, LDs, tics, etc is well documented. As a Special Education Teacher - I've seen two things. One - Often Mom or Dad has similar symptoms as their child. ADHD has a very high genetic link. Two - Especially with teenagers with ADHD - if they don't medicate, they self-medicate - drugs, smoking, caffeine, gambling.
    Just like the Autism - Immunization link has be destroyed - the doctor disbarred, the "study" debunked - I say trust yourself. If you or your child has ADHD, you can't function, you can't focus etc. don't immediately eliminate medication. If you had diabetes you wouldn't say "I don't want to take medication" why would you do the same with ADHD?

  5. @Anonymous, whenever people post anonymously and then list a brand name as a magic cure, they usually work for (benefit in some way from) the brand they tout. Perhaps, that is not the case for you, but it is suspicious that you are touting a particular drug and hiding your identity. Regardless, you make a poor case, with an analogy that lets me easily shoot it down.
    Let’s say I have a kid with type 2 diabetes and I know that the best way to treat my child is with a healthy diet and exercise. However, schools usually have crappy food and don’t value or emphasize exercise. Your solution…drug the child so he can fit into the school environment. My solution is the school environment NEEDS TO CHANGE.

    Your child couldn’t focus, but maybe he was like me or Aaron Iba. ( We were diagnosed as “multiple problem children” with hyperactivity disorder (ADD was not an available condition back then for me). Rather than drug us, perhaps instead we could fix the boring, irrelevant, cookie cutter, sit on our butt all day listening to crap we didn’t care about…and let us think, and live and play and help us find stuff we loved and cared about. Perhaps rather than deadening and anaesthetizing kids you could help us love life.
    If in your comment you had shared your efforts in doing so, and not shared the magic drug, I would give your solution more credence.

    For me, I thank god I wasn’t drugged and hey, Aaron Iba’s parents didn’t drug him either, even though it would have been easier for the adults and today he’s a 20-something multi-millionaire who is very happy and focused…thank you very much.

  6. I wrote a very similar post on another blogger's praise for Mr. Robinson's performance, but it would appear that I should share it with you as well.

    I think we all can agree that the misdiagnosis of a neurological disorder would be a serious problem. Assuming, arguendo, that there is rampant misdiagnosis of ADHD in the USA, it would seem to me that the more appropriate response would be to advocate for better discipline in terms of diagnostics.

    Instead, this fellow has elected to pander to the conspiratorial and anti-corporate amongst us, asserting: (1) that the alleged problem has led to overuse of stimulant medication; and (2) that misdiagnosis of the disorder must be a result of its inauthenticity.

    I wonder if Mr. Robinson believes that misdiagnosis of prostate cancer (due to the lack of reliability of PSA tests) should be resolved by concluding that prostate cancer is a myth?

    In my experience, a properly trained medical professional can arrive at a proper diagnosis of what decades of peer-reviewed research demonstrates can be a serious neurological disorder. From such a diagnosis should flow much more (or a treatment other) than an Rx for Ritalin. The supposition that misdiagnosis leads to overprescription needs to be proved rather than merely asserted.

    But then I'm not a peer, so I suppose I should just be quiet and stop pretending to have a non-existent neurological disorder...

  7. @Lawyer, I addressed some of this in a follow up post at

    In particular read the additional information where there are doctors who believe ADHD is a myth. There are also schools that have ZERO students on ADHD meds even though they were "diagnosed" with the condition. They found NOT keeping them trapped in their seats all day listening to a teacher drone on about topics they often don't care about also seemed to serve as a miracle cure.

  8. Yikes! ADD=myth? That has about as much credence as saying that addiction is not a disease! Sure, some people *believe* it (normally because they are neither an addict nor afflicted with the horrors of ADD), however that doesn't change the fact that my brain is different than yours. I am a teacher. Not to brag, but I am dynamic, high-energy, creative, and my classroom is filled with that same encouraging kids are challenged to think for themselves and to create on a daily basis. On the flip side, my desk is covered with things "I may need sometime!" or that I thought, "was so neat!" I am extremely unorganized, innattentive and frankly, it was beginning to affect that part of life that we just HAVE to do... you know: the paperwork and all that! :) The darker truth is that I am also an addict. Self-medicating was the only escape from my own mind when I was a teen. I could not shut my brain up: so eventually I found something that could. Thankfully, now I am sober almost 10 years and in the past year, my life was becoming so unmanageable again I decided to speak with someone about it. I am on (insert medication name here for fear of being accused of being in collusion with the Pharma companies) for ADD. I have never felt more relaxed, focused, and able to tackle problems that I would leave for the very last minute. Interestingly, I see a strong connection here: you seem to say that the solution for ADD is to make schools less boring. Fine. That would help SOOOOOO many kids, not just those with ADD. But to deprive them of treatment? That is just cruel. It is like syaing to the addict: "Sorry pal, our schools were really boring so you got high. Oh and now that you are stuck on dope, the answer is to make school more fun. Sorry that you'll be suffering though pal." Silly! I know teachers that would kill to get into my district because we have classrooms that are forward-thinking, creative, fun, and innovative. Hmmm...wonder why we still have kids with ADD? Because our brains are different, that's why. I think you are certainly entitled to your opinion. Trust me, I've met MANY opinionated people in my life, especially once they find out that I am a drug addict in recovery, and most of their solutions/opinions/thoughts/cure-alls and snake oil solutions would merely get me high again. "Just don't do it!" "You are strong!" "Addiction isn't a disease!" Sounds familiar..."Just pay attention, kid!" "Schools will get stronger!" "ADHD ISN'T REAL!!!" I'll close by wondering, as I oft do, if I had been identified earlier and given relief, would I have ever picked up dope in the first place? I will never...ever take that risk for a kid. Not after the hell I've been through.

  9. @Anonymous, I appreciate your comments and I do believe that a particular drug may work well for you. I also appreciate your not naming it. I apologize, but you are right. The naming of a brand makes me skeptical. I completely believe everything you say about yourself and I share MANY of the same characteristics.

    I addressed many of your questions in my post about "Passion, not drugs, as treatment for ADHD"

    I understand that for you quieting your brain is the right thing, but for many people finding a life with a loud and active brain is the answer and we rarely give children or adults the opportunity to have loud brains.

    My brain YELLS LOUDLY EVERYDAY!!!! I LOVE IT!!! I harness it. I’m working on ten (well actually 72) things at a time and thrive and amaze people with what I can accomplish. Many of my mentors have loud brains too. We don't sleep much. Always on the go. Work on lotsa stuff at once. We LOVE it! We've harnessed it. We found lives and careers of passion that embrace it.

    I don't want to feel relaxed. I want to buzz. I want to move. I want to go. I want to be invigorated. I want to break free and move on and into my crazy, frenetic, all-over-the-place, exciting, silly, crazy, provocative, weird, stimulating life. It is so FUN! REWARDING! EXHILARATING!

    My whole life people have tried to hold me back and slow me down. School was the WORST!!!!

    Don’t hold me back. Let me free. I am not normal. It is okay! I love it.

    I have a strong personality and I have felt comfortable enough to own it.

    If my parents had drugged me, I may not have known better.

    Perhaps you’ve found a life where it is better to slow down and relax your brain. That is the right of an adult.

    As a parent and/or educator, however, YOU better be damn sure that you’ve tried all sorts of other options before resorting to drugging children. I don’t disagree the children, like me, have such personalities. I also agree that drugging folks may be the solution to sitting in a boring classroom or dead end job.

    However, there are alternatives. In fact there are alternatives condoned by doctors and those who run schools who have found ways to harness the lively brains of these children. If all these options, including a stimulating, unschooling setting, are considered prior to anesthetizing a child, then, sure that might be the best option. My issue, is that is rarely, if ever, the case.

  10. Forgive me for being so late in my reply, I was doing 72 things at once...err actually teaching ;) In short, I am sorry that you misunderstand me. I am happy that your brain "Yells loudly everyday!!!!" and that you love it. If that works for you, great. But that leads me to believe that you (and of course this is by no means a medical diagnoses) really don't suffer from the debilitating effects of ADD. You also misinterpret my point on calming the mind...and in fact, I am a bit insulted in the way that you stated: "If my parents had drugged me..." and then immediately followed it up with "Perhaps you've found a life where it is better to *slow down and relax* your brain." To me, especially after I disclosed that I have had difficulties with drug abuse in the past, you are saying (without saying of course) that I am not happy with my mind "active; buzzing; moving; going; invigorated; breaking free; exciting; fun; etc.." like you, and I have decided to deaden it. Well, after reading your article about "Passion" or some nonsense... I see now that you have no true understanding or even direct experience with the disorder. Many a "problem drinker" has come into AA and thought they had a disease...only to find out that they were just a heavy drinker, but could stop whenever. I fear that, by using your own comments as evidence, you are in that camp. You sound as if you have a very exciting life, but are not *tormented* by your own *inability* to function as an adult. THAT, my friend, is ADD. I could not function. I resorted to hard drugs to shut my brain up. I fear you have no idea what a screaming brain is like. To stand at a desk for over 3 hours trying desperately to sort some mail. Letting your family down time and time again because calendars are in another language for you. Being fired from jobs (not for lack of drive, creativity, or anything else) because I could not get there on time. Medication has given me a life that ADD stole. I think that I should invite you into my classroom, however, if you want to see passion. You will see every adjective that you so aptly named yourself and your brain hard at work. I believe in Whole Child Education and many of your proposed solutions DO WORK...for kids who DON'T HAVE a disorder that robs the ability to even think: ADD. Unfortunately, I must close again how I did before (because I don't think you are hearing me correctly)... I would never, ever, NEVER refuse an answer to a child who was UNABLE (not lazy, not unmotivated, not uninterested, not poor-schooled, not re-schooled, not un-schooled, and not WHATEVER crazy new phrase you want to call schooling these days) to think... Thank you. And I chose to remain anonymous again; I do hope you understand.

  11. "ADHD" doesn't exist- Pure and simple. It is a manufactured fraud in order to placate teachers and schools and to make billions for Big Pharma. Read Dr. Peter Breggen's work. "ADHD" symptoms are symptoms of trauma and/or developmentally inappropriate conditions in the environment, namely, school. Want to cure "ADHD"? Unschool and Attachment Parent!

  12. I don’t “suffer” from the effects of “ADD” because I have organized my life in such a way that it is not debilitating. When I was a student however, forced to sit in classes I wasn’t interested in, taught by teachers I never asked for, it was debilitating. I was so bored out of my mind I did anything I could to escape. I often found sleeping was the most viable alternative to class. Like so many others “labeled” with this condition, once the trigger was removed, my life began.

    I say, “like so many others” because there are many who have been labeled with ADD/ADHD, and instead of drugging the child, either school accommodations were fixed such as those available in my free parenting guide (available in the sidebar of this blog), or they were moved to alternative schools, or they were taken out of school. This too has worked as a medication-free cure and those who’ve tried it are doing their best to scream louder than the millions-in-advertising-backed pharma companies. As you plea your case to me, you offer the solution for students subjected to the very thing that triggers this condition and explain that for them the drugs work. I agree, they do! However, if given the choice, I would hope that before resorting to drugging their children, parents try the 20 alternatives I outline in my booklet. Unfortunately, it is not the 21st option they try. It is usually the first...or second.

    At this point I’ve talked to hundreds of parents, doctors, psychologists, students, and educators who attest to the fact, that children no longer need such treatment when removed from the setting that requires it. Fortunately, people are interested. It is the reason that consistently, the top post on my blog is “Cure ADHD / ADD w/out Drugs with These Resources from Doctors, Educators, and Parents” at So, while, as an adult, you’ve found a drug that works well, for you, I absolutely disagree that this is the go to solution with our children. That is why I wrote the free parent booklet that provides 20 alternatives to try before subjecting children to drugs and that is why I collected all the articles and resources from experts. Your “very real condition” does exist in the very real setting of traditional schools and perhaps other traditional environments.

    Interestingly, when the setting changes, many parents, doctors, educators, and children want adults to hear that the condition disappears too. If you want to know more about this read my guide and my article. Just because using drugs helps you function as a teacher in a school does not mean it should be our first course of action for our children.

  13. It's interesting. I enjoy so much of what you write about, and I agree with a large majority of your viewpoints. In fact, I also agree that there are 20 other options (as outlined in your book) and I could probably add another 10 to that list! I suppose what is disheartening, from logic's point of view, anyways, is that you seem to put medication inherantly *beneath* all of your methods (backed by hundreds of parents, doctors, psychologists, students, and educators...AND ME). I am really sorry that you had such a bad experience in school. You teach in NYC...I imagine things can be rough sometimes. There are some streets here in Philly that cops won't even drive down, but kids that I grew up with walk to school there every day. My point is basically that I understand and relate to having a difficult time in school. But, we depart from each other, I suppose, only because of our experiences. I know (I cannot prove it with statistics or whatever...), but I just know that if I were treated earlier in life, I would not have had the struggles that I did with drug abuse. Trust me, if I hadn't had such a life or death experience, I would tend to keep kids AS FAR away from drugs, prescribed or not, as I could. That is why I teach...because I believe somewhere deep inside me that hopefully one day, something I say may influence a kid to think for themselves, value themselves intrinsically, and NOT pick up a drug. I notice that you admire Mr. Gatto. He is one of my personal heroes. So, I really hope that you don't have the wrong picture of me painted in your mind as we converse. ...I only know that for some poor lost soul who is trapped inside his own mind (as I was), someone MUST stand up for him and advocate... otherwise, we could be attempting solution #16 and he decides, much like I did, that he can't stand his own mind any longer and it's time to tune out. I will not beat a dead horse any longer... :) but I will conclude by saying, please, trust me... I am not standing on the corners shouting DRUG OUR CHILDREN!! by any means. (I don't even like flouride in the water, for heaven's sake!!) But, when someone with experience witnesses signs of inattentiveness...serious inattentiveness... they have a responsibility to act accordingly. And to just suddenly rule out medicinal treatment because it doesn't fit into my worldview? Dangerous...

  14. @anonymous, I’d love to hear your other ten. You can share at “20 Ideas for Parents Sick of Waiting for Superman and Tired of Having Their Children Race to Nowhere” . I appreciate your empathy about my school experience, but unfortunately, there are many children that feel/felt the same way I did. Even “successful” students like the one I wrote about in my post Valedictorian Finishes High School and Asks, "Is that all there is?"

    I don’t understand why you think it is disheartening to advise parents to try alternatives to drugging their children...especially when we know there are settings that eliminate the need for children to be on drugs. I agree and understand the meds are necessary for school success, but traditional school isn’t necessary for success for all. Why wouldn’t it be preferable to find an environment that honors the unaltered child before resorting to drugs?

    You say you believe you would have been helped had you been treated earlier in life. Of course you would have been been better off if you were treated earlier, but I believe that instead of drugs as a treatment, a number of alternatives might have worked.

    If you want to support kids in thinking for and valuing themselves, allow them to discover, follow, and develop their passions. You need a drug to succeed. Many people find that following and throwing themselves into a passion achieves that goal.

    You want someone to advocate for the poor lost souls like you were. Well there are many people like me who do that, but the idea is not reach out with drugs. And, believe me the pharma companies spend millions to advocate for the labeled and yet-to-be labeled kids.

    You accuse those who “suddenly” rule out medicine as dangerous. What you continue to miss is that medicine is often the first thing that is tried rather than what is tried as a last resort. As I shared previously there are many doctors, educators, parents and children who know that a change in the environment not the chemistry of their brain is just what the doctor ordered.