Saturday, January 15, 2011

The War on Kids. Zero Tolerance.

I have a close friend who drugs his kids so they can function in school. Having little experience with drugging children, I asked more questions and learned that his children only have to be drugged during the school year. In the summers, somehow, miraculously, outside the burden of school, they get along just fine being drug free. He explains they have trouble focusing. Really? Which one has difficulty focusing? The one who will work for hours to get a particular move just right in one of the many sports he loves or the one who can sit for hours with an incredible gift for making movies about topics of interest and passion? 

He justified it this way. "Well, I asked my children. I leave it up to them. If they say they want the drugs, I let them have them. I want my children to be happy and I want to give them what they need to do best." I believe that's what he wants. I believe he should help his children have lives that do not make drugs the preferred method of existence.

The War on Drugs

When given the option of drugs or food, what do you think a mouse would choose? The conclusion of one study found drugs was the answer. In fact the mice, took drugs to the point of death providing a great case validating why we had to take the war on drugs so seriously. Ah, but research has a funny way of giving you the answers you are looking for. Another study was done later with a very different result. In this study, the mice choose food and life over drugs and death.


What was the difference?

The mice in the first study had little thought given to their conditions. They were just mice after all. There dirty metal cage had two sides. Drugs on one. Food on the other. Water in the middle.

The mice in the second study had clean conditions and lots of play activities. They didn't care much for the drugs.

Fix Boring Schools, Not Kids Who Are Bored

Is there any question why my friend's child would chose to take drugs if given the choice? "You don't understand," he explains, "When my child has to wait, like in a waiting room, he can't sit still. He goes crazy just sitting there waiting. He gets all fidgety and can't sit still" Hmmm...sounds familiar. I have the same affliction. (Now, if you can, evoke Judge Judy tone): I suggest, "Help your child occupy himself!" If you're going somewhere, you'll be waiting, remind him to bring a project with him, a book, a game, a computer. Help him figure out how to manage himself when he's bored outside of school. When he's bored inside of school, well, I suggest change the school, but since he's resistant to that, then he needs to seriously step in a redesign his son's day. Forget how "they" say "they" do things. Those things are often best for the school not best for the child.

Parents and teachers who don't know better are not to blame. They often just don't know better and are told by seemingly credible sources, and often even their children, that this is the magic cure. (Note: if you're reading this, now you know better). Of course, often, unbeknownst to the parents, these doctors are hired by pharmaceutical companies, and are all too happy to share the magic cure and line their pockets.

Here's what they don't tell you (from Help.org).

Beyond the numerous potential side effects of these drugs, there are a number of safety concerns associated with the stimulant medications for ADD/ADHD.
  • Effect on the developing brain — The long-term impact of ADD/ADHD medication on the youthful, developing brain is not yet known. Some researchers are concerned that the use of drugs such as Ritalin in children and teens might interfere with normal brain development.
  • Heart-related problems — ADD/ADHD stimulant medications have been found to cause sudden death in children and adults with heart conditions. The American Heart Association recommends that all individuals, including children, have a cardiac evaluation prior to starting a stimulant. An electrocardiogram is recommended if the person has a history of heart problems.
  • Psychiatric problems — Stimulants for ADD/ADHD can trigger or exacerbate symptoms of hostility, aggression, anxiety, depression, and paranoia. People with a personal or family history of suicide, depression, or bipolar disorder are at a particularly high risk, and should be carefully monitored when taking stimulants.
  • Potential for abuse — Stimulant abuse is a growing problem, particularly among teens and young adults. College students take them for a boost when cramming for exams or pulling all-nighters. Others abuse stimulant meds for their weight-loss properties. If your child is taking stimulants, make sure he or she isn’t sharing the pills or selling them.
Some parents and teachers, just don't know, but when, like you, they are enlightened, just what's the answer? Drug the child or provide conditions that excite children like these, who in the past, before this was an available condition, had names like Einstein, Shakespeare, Franklin, etc. etc. Ah, but how?

The reality is, even the 13 Radical Ideas to Save Ed with $100 Million Bucks didn't seem all that radical to me, but there are some great options, which to take hold systemically would really require a huge paradigm shift in what it means to provide the optimal conditions for learning... It's not forcing kids to consume the boring stuff schools say they need to consume at the same time as it comes out of the almighty mouth of a teacher. Not even if you shift the desks into pods of four or make it into a circle. Not even if you let them answer together using a cool clicker gadget or cell phone. Not even if you let them Google it on a shiny new iPad.

So what is it? That will be the topic of future posts.

Until then watch "The War on Kids." 

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