Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The ADD Connection

What follows is from EducationRevolutionNews: www. www.educationrevolution.org Used with permission. I am a friend of the owner, Jerry Mintz.

I remember when one of our children was not doing well in school and he was 12, 13 years old, something like it. First year of middle school as I recall. And the teachers were all freaking out, and all, you know, all, you know how it goes. And it was that ADD thing, right? Put him on medication! And we actually tried that for a short while. Didn't seem to do much good.

And so we decided to go looking for a school for him, a better school, you know, a better educational environment. Let's find a place where he can flourish and there are a bunch of schools in Atlanta in the phone book advertising that they specialize in kids with Attention Deficit Disorder or learning disabilities, and so Louise and I went shopping. And what we found was that most people were of the opinion that because these kids were impulsive and distractible and not particularly well structured and organized, they "needed lots of discipline and structure. Let's just slap it into 'em." The schools that were purporting to be good places for ADHD kids were like variations on military academies.

So we finally had given up on all the ADD specialty schools, and we found this school in downtown Atlanta called the Horizon School which was a leftover remnant of the Summerhill experiment in some ways. Part of the alternative school movement. "Summerhill" was a book by A. S. Neill published back in the 1960s as I recall in which they created a school where the kids ran the school. And this school was actually run by the student council in everything except academics. The teachers had final say in academics but the kids had a student council and they ran the school, and they made all kinds of rules for themselves, it was quite remarkable.

So then I went out and walked around the school and I remember walking into a classroom. This was seventh graders as I recall, seventh or eighth graders. And it looked like absolute chaos. Kids were not sitting at their desk. They were standing up, they were walking around, one kid was sitting on his desk. There was a kid sitting on the teacher's desk. Kids were running up and marking things on the blackboard. The teacher was having a knock down drag out argument with the kids. And I'm standing at the back of the room and you know, keep in mind, a decade earlier, I'd been the executive director of a program for abused kids that had a school! And I'm standing in the back of the room, you know, with my arms folded across my chest, thinking, "This is a classroom out of control." This would never happen in a school I ran.

And you know how sometimes when you just listen for a few minutes more, all of a sudden you hear something that completely turns your world upside down, that completely changes the way that you view things. And as I stood there, in this very kind of critical, judging posture, I started listening to what the kids and the teacher were arguing about.

What these kids were arguing with this teacher about was that Einstein had suggested in his theory of relativity e=mc2 that you can't exceed the speed of light. That if you exceed the speed of light, you can get to .999% of the speed of light, but if the value of the speed of light becomes one or one point anything, once you hit or exceed the speed of light, then time becomes infinite and mass collapses to zero. Or is it the other way around? Time collapses to zero and mass becomes infinite. I forget which it was. I used to have memorized the time and mass dilation theories but that was when I was a teenager. Anyway, and therefore it's impossible in the physical universe to exceed the speed of light. You can approach it but you can't exceed it. And if that's the case, these kids were saying, then why is it that Einstein in his own theory of relativity, his oh most famous theory, said e (energy) equals mass times the speed of light squared? e=mc2 (c is the speed of light). How can you square something that can't even have as a value of one? How is that possible? How can you square something you can't exceed? They are pulling out Einstein's General and Specific theory of relativity and they're talking about his story about being in the train going away from the clock tower in downtown Austria and as the train approaches the speed of light the hands start to slow down and all this stuff.

And all of a sudden, I got it. That all my life, I had thought that education was about pouring things into kids. Yeats's quote. The filling of a bucket. And that what they understood at that school was that education was about lighting a fire. And so we put our son in that school and not only did he do well, but he was doing work two grade levels above his grade level. He was getting As in senior physics as a freshman or a sophomore. He all of a sudden just caught on fire, he fell in love with learning, and all of this with no drugs, which leads us to the question.

You got a person who has a psychiatric illness in a public school that requires medication from a multibillion-dollar industry, but when you put him into an alternative school environment, not only does he not require the medication, but the disease seems to vanish and he does very well. The question is, then, where is the disease? And I have firmly, solidly come to the conclusion that the disease is in our schools. It's not in our kids. END OF ARTICLE

Homeschooling has seen similar results from kids diagnosed with ADD, ADHD, "learning disability" and the rest of the excuses that public schools use to cover their own incompetence and insensitivity.


attention-deficit-disorder said...

What an interesting post you have here on attention deficit disorder. This can be cured though. I've tried on websites to help me with this problem and it really works! http://www.attention-deficit-disorder.net has really helped me and i can see an improvement in my condition already.

SilverDill said...

Ned, thank you for posting this. I have a son who has Asperger's Syndrome (high-functioning Autism). He functions just slightly below grade-level. When he was younger, before his formal diagnosis, teachers said to put him on medication. He was even asked to leave a montessori school! We began homeschooling him nine years ago. When he was tested two years ago, the doctors told me that he was on the level he was ONLY because he was homeschooled...that if he had been in government school or private school he would probably be two or three years behind. What validation! And these were NOT pro-homeschooling doctors. My son is almost 16 and is able to do so much, and we focus on his abilities, not his disabilities. I have three more boys that I homeschool, each different from their brother, and we do the same (and I'm sure at least one would be diagnosed ADD if in a typical school). Now, my 12 year old can easily discuss the difference between nuclear fission and nuclear fusion with our friend who is a PhD in Physics. AND impress him! Thanks for all you write and do!

must said...

Have u try the
Physics online bookstore Cocomartini.com


I get all my textbooks for this semester from this bookstore. All are brand new textbooks and half price discount textbooks.

Good luck and wish some help.

hehe ^_^

The Reluctant Homeschooler said...

Another great post. Our son, too, was diagnosed with ADD (not ADHD), and in third grade, put on Ritilin. But he didn't stay on it long. In the schools, we're trying to put square pegs into round holes. Treat everyone alike when they aren't alike. Jacob simply is active. He learns by doing. Today, at 15, he can take apart and put together a computer. But he doesn't like to read a book. He likes working with his hands - like his dad. We are all different, but the schools can't accommodate that because they would all look like the classroom you described.

Amberlee said...

I know that if my son was placed into a school the first thing they would want to do is put him on drugs. He is what they would consider "over active" and "too imaginative"... He is a dear, sweet child that LOVES to read and create. But as you have said, schools don't want creative souls, they want uniform and quiet children who will bend to their every whim. I am so glad we homeschool. Thanks for your posts, they really make us think.

Linda said...

"Or is it the other way around? Time collapses to zero and mass becomes infinite. I forget which it was. I used to have memorized the time and mass dilation theories but that was when I was a teenager."

This illustrates so well the problem with school. How many people have had such things hammered into their heads without really understanding it? I mean on a deep, intuitive level. Being able to use memorized equations makes one nothing more than a technician, and its value does not extend beyond that. But as a society, we are reaching the point where we need more than technicians. Either facilitate real thinking, or don't bother.

Anyway, great post and great story.