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Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Best Medicine for ADHD Ever....

Teachers these days really struggle with ADHD kids. They don't sit still, they're easily distracted they don't obey orders and they have far too much energy. Little wonder teachers want to drug them. Some say ADHD is an imaginary mental disorder. Some say, "These kids just need a belt applied to their hindquarters."

As an ADHD kid myself, I can tell you what these kids need and that ain't it. What they need is time. Modern educators and parents have convinced themselves that because kids can learn things at an incredibly young age that they ought to. I wonder why no one seems to have wondered whether all that early learning capacity wasn't designed for something else besides learning numbers, shapes, ABC's and quotations from Voltaire.

Kids have to learn an incredible lot of stuff in an incredibly short period of time. They start out totally self-centered eating machines, unable to walk, talk, do higher math or diagram sentences. So, of course they have to have the ability to learn quickly. Children pick up languages at an incredible rate for instance and they need all their available brain power to do so. 

I think God knew what he was doing with kids, giving them the capacity to learn what they need to learn when they need to learn it. I don't believe he intended for us to train our children to be factory workers and yet that is precisely what the German Kindergarten graded school system is designed to do. Kindergartens were designed to teach young German students to show up on time, sit in one place all day, shut up, do repetitive work, and not question authority. There's a reason for that. Do you remember what Germany was trying to prepare for in the late 19th/early 20th century.

At any rate, I think it's a bad system, especially for American kids. In the United States, the ADHD gene, whatever that is, is present in a larger percentage in the United States than any other country in the world. That's because ADHD adults couldn't get along in places like Germany - they were too restless and came to America to get away from all that.* So with a huge number of our progeny having the restless, high energy genetic makeup. What do we do? 

Some children (actually all children, I believe) should not be forced to show up for school on time, to sit in chairs all day, to do repetitive work and not speak or question authority. Now I suppose it would be a useful system if you were training our kids to be worker drones in a war materials factory as the Germans were when they created the educational system the United States adopted whole hog at the beginning of the 20th century.
It was a mistake. Americans aren't wired that way. Look how fast we shoved manufacturing jobs like that over to China, Mexico and India. Americans don't like those jobs and I don't blame factory jobs when I was working my way through school. I've done them and hated every minute. They're mind numbing and soul-destroying jobs.

Some children, the ones that are considered ADHD because they can't sit still in class, should not go to school until they are at least 10 years old, maybe even 12. If you let them outside to run and play and exercise the full scope of their imaginations, to learn social skills, to learn language and to reach a point where they are ready to learn, they will catch up and blow past the kids that started school 3 to 5 years earlier. The dirty little secret with the way the school system is setu up is that for the first 5 or 6 years, teachers spend a good deal of their time reteaching things the kids learned last year and forgot over summer vacation. A kid who has been under parental care and who has learned from nature, from play and from taking responsibilities at home, is far more ready to learn than a child who has been pushed along on the edge of his or her abilities and forced to learn things he or she has no interest in and was not ready to learn.


About the time the hormones begin to kick in, a child is ready to learn career skills in earnest. I think we ought to test them abour then to determine what sort of things they are interested in and should begin immediately learing career skills right alongside reading, writing, arithmetic, history and the arts. Children would learn faster because, if they've had decent parents, they would have developed more mature social skills and an interest in learning. 

We should allow them to learn at their own pace in subjects like reading and mathematics and grammar. I believe you'd find that kids would roar through these subjects if allowed to work at their own speed. Subjects like history, science, literature and art should be long leisurely classes facilitated by historians, writers, scientists and artists. Businessmen should teach accounting and practical math skills. Retirees with actual experience doing things would make wonderful teachers and would do it if asked. 

Physical education should go back to activities and games that are played for a purpose to teach teamwork, strategy and fair play and to build physical strength, flexibility, grace and stamina. Basic vocational skills should be taught early. Schools should set up cottage industries where the kids could build things and do things and to buy and sell goods and services on the open market (teach 'em to use eBay, Etsy, Amazon and other online resources to market their goods). No child should finish high school without a marketable skill. No child should be allowed to drop out until he has completed at least one skill certification that can get him a job. Physical education and so-called vocational education should work together. Take the kids into the forest and show them how to clear brush, handle tools and to work safely.

Do that and kids like the one up the tree above will learn faster, more thoroughly and to a better purpose. Not every kid needs to be trained for college. They need to be trained to work, to live healthfully, to manage their money and to participate as adults in the world to come. It should begin in earnest in 5th grade (about the time you learn fractions). Do that - create these kinds of purposeful classrooms and ADHD kids will not be bored. Make math, science, English and other languages like video games with instant feedback for doing well and these kids will suck up information like sponges.

We need to give up the idea of rigid classrooms with everybody sitting in rows, all doing the same work at the same time mostly for the convenience of the teacher. We need to hire skilled teachers and pay them better. They can handle more kids at once than the ordinary garden-variety teacher's college graduates they're turning out these days. They would be more interesting than ordinary teachers. From age 10 on, I think kids should have different teachers for different subjects - each teacher having expertise in their fields. Kids should learn to speak and write by speaking and writing. Instead of writing lines, they should be editing stories and writing, composing and printing their own newspapers. Talented kids should learn to work as a team as writers, editors, marketers, graphic designers and produce their own books and magazines. They should learn by doing real things as soon as they possibly can.

We should teach by simulating interest; by doing and acting. Sports should be about fitness, cooperation, sportsmanship and grace under pressure, not about building some coaches win/loss record. We need to stop firing coaches just because their kids don't win games. We should fire coaches who are abusive, who risk the health and safety of our kids for their own reputations and who care more about winning than building character.

ADHD kids are particularly well suited to high-energy careers. Why aren't we training them early to be cops, soldiers, firemen, athletes, forest rangers, pilots, entertainers and such. Why do we waste our time trying to make accountants and pharmacists out of kids that haven't a prayer of making a go of such careers.  ADHD kids make great entrepreneurs too, they just have to hire good accountants and CFOs to handle the paperwork. 

The point is that, if you stop trying to shove kids that are basically round, oval, oblong, rectangular, triangular and free form pegs into the square hole that is our education system, ADHD will virtually disappear in our schools. And those kids problem kids?  They'll simply be your high-energy, highly successful kids and the stars of your schools.

Just sayin'

Tom King
© 2015

* It's no accident that more research is being done on ADHD in Germany than anywhere else in the world. Germany's rigid Prussian culture offers little scope for the ADHD imagination and kids with ADHD are seen in Deutschland as a particular problem that must somehow be eliminated.

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