Big Head Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 681, July 29, 2012

"UN Small Arms Treaty Dead!"

Attribute to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise

As a new school year approaches:

Last I heard school as we know it was organized to meet the intellectual needs of students who had an IQ of about 120 and learned by reading and being lectured at. It was also intended to Americanize the children of immigrants by brainwashing them to be loyal Americans and to speak, read, and write American English. Added to this over time were baby sitting service up to age 17 , i.e., one year after a person can go to work without special permission due to child labor laws. (BTW, for some reason my friggin' computer is calling my use of American instead of British spelling erroneous. What the Frigg {am I cursing by sex or by the Mother Goddess?} is that about? ) On top of this it was intended to condition people to function as office or assembly line workers. It was given the additional task of enforcing the segregation of most Black, Latino and other students into the lower class, then retasked to breaking up this segregation. Currently it is expected to prepare all students for college, even if their best talents can be developed through vocational education or entrance into an apprenticeship program,instead (this ties into the segregation issue.) . Oh, and by the way, we now inflict standardized tests that kids have to pass to graduate and which tie up so much time and effort that preparing for the tests often replaces teaching. Now these tests do address and correct an earlier failure to teach students minimum survival reading, writing, and 'rithmetic skills, but the result is denying students any challenge or opportunity to use or develop their skills in applying the processes of rational thought and/or forming intuitive insights. Let's not forget brainwashing people to believe in the agenda of the faction in power.

It is a bastardized mess of an overloaded system subject to too many contradictory demands and if you will pardon my crudity I am surprised it is neither more fucked up nor does it fuck up more than it does.

As to over diagnosis and/ overmedication of students for ADD and ADHD: The situation is exacerbated by Federal funding of identifying and providing services for students with these disorders. Also, it is easier for lazy teachers, administrators and parents to say a kid has ADD (to include ADHD) than to put the time and effort into teaching them socially acceptable behavior and learning skills or at least respect for the rights of others.

It is frequently observed that the only difference between a kid with ADD and a gifted and talented student is that the GT kid had a kindergarten or first grade teacher who taught them appropriate skills to beat the system. It is also observed that the failure to focus that marks ADD is a symptom of depression and (more likely) lack of sleep. Again, it's easier to diagnose a kid with ADD than for parents to get their kids off their game systems, the net, and late night TV. it is also easier to say a student has ADD than to admit that taking home five hours of homework on top of seven hours of classroom time everyday might just be more than kids were meant to handle especially if it means telling mom and dad their kid is in too many structured activities and that you need to let (make) your kids get more sack time.

So let's say about half of the kids diagnosed with ADD are actually the victims of bad, boring, or just the wrong teacher(s) (good for other kids, not for them). Of those another half are a victims of prescribed curricula and teaching methods that don't meet their needs. So, maybe one in eight actually have ADD.

Remember the comment about getting the right teacher in the first year or two of school? Most kids who really do have ADD basically need to be helped to learn how to cope. Some might pick it up in a regular classroom with the help of a regular ed. teacher, some need the services of the special ed. department. The fact is most kids with ADD can learn how to cope and at least get their work done this way. Of course, this means attention and effort by adults who may not want to be bothered.

The fact is a very small minority of persons with diagnosed and afflicted ADD suffer from enough neurological damage or failure to properly process the chemicals in their brains that stimulants are needed to rectify the situation. We are not talking simply theobromine, caffeine, or nicotine which benefit even people who do not have ADD. We're talking amphetamines, cocaine, Ritalin and other related substances. Now this is a very, very rare circumstance, maybe one in a hundred correctly diagnosed cases . And even then I suspect that much more than homeopathic doses are inappropriate.

Of course, we're talking lazy people in a society that is conditioned to use drugs to solve everything. So surprise! Ritalin is overprescribed. Add to this the parent who get prescriptions for kids who do not have ADD because they think it's some magic potion to raise their kids' grades.

So we got a fucked up system, which has kids going through it whom it is easier to drug than actually help. I'm not saying the give them all their magic pill and be done with it approach is right. Neither am i saying that the meds are never appropriate. I will say that psychoactive drugs are overprescribed for ADD, both in the number of prescriptions and the dosages.

Finally, kids, rich and poor do deserve their privacy, so to be honest I hope hell freezes over before we ever get the stats by race and class of who gets meds (accept one on one cases to see who is being denied meds they need ormore likey given meds instead of the right help). That said, we will find out which kids of the rich, powerful, and or notorious have ADD and need Ritalin when Mommy and Daddy feel they need the publicity to gain more wealth, power, and notoriety or when and if said kids go out on their own and decide to release the info to gain (admittedly deserved) sympathy for their struggle in life.

If this seems longwinded, wel,l we have created a hell of a mess of our education system, a hell of a bigger mess of how we use drugs to treat children, and to be honest too many of us want someone else to fix it instead of us fixing our part of it, which of course leaves the state in charge.

General principal: let George do it is how the state ends up getting so damnably powerful.

Comments from Ann Morgan:

Regarding schools and the use of Ritalin:

The last I checked, there were not any exceptions in the Zero Aggression Principal for people below a certain age. Nor were there any exceptions for people with special supposed 'problems'. That being the case, it is a violation of someone's rights to create laws forcing them to be in a place, such as a school, where they don't want to be, or to administer them drugs without their INFORMED consent. The fact that the person might supposedly have a 'problem' is not an exception, if someone prefers their 'problem' to being medicated, you don't have a right to medicate them against their will. If their 'problem' causes them to engage in violent criminal acts, you have the right to self defense and restitution. The last I heard, not wanting to pay attention to someone was not a violent criminal act.

The fact is a very small minority of persons with diagnosed and afflicted ADD suffer from enough neurological damage or failure to properly process the chemicals in their brains that stimulants are needed to rectify the situation.

The key word here being a VERY SMALL MINORITY (if any, since the studies done have all been crap and among other things lacked proper control groups) have a demonstrable physical or chemical problem in their brain. The fact that some people might at times display some of the same symptoms as those with physical or chemical brain problems does not mean they necessarily have the same brain problem.

Claiming they do is crap medicine, it's like observing that people with lung cancer often have a pain in their chest, then claiming that everyone with a pain in their chest therefore has lung cancer, and should be treated with anti-cancer drugs. Obviously that's nonsense, there's any number of things that can cause chest pains including heart attacks, bad colds, or running too fast. Some of these are 'problems' that need treatment, some are not 'problems' at all, and will get better on their own. Treating those problems with anti-cancer drugs will at best not solve the problem, and at worst, cause problems with side effects that didn't exist before.

And again, the fact that someone can be provably shown to have cancer does not give you the right to administer anti-cancer drugs against their will. If they prefer a different treatment, or no treatment at all, that is their business. The ONLY possible exception might be for infants who can't talk, or someone who is unconscious. In which case, at the point when the infant learns to talk, or the unconscious persons wakes up, and they happen to express a preference for NOT being treated for their cancer, then the treatment must stop. And such medical treatment should be administered ONLY for problems which are actually threatening to the life of the infant or unconscious person, not to get them to comply with the personal preferences of someone else. The goal of any medical treatment of infants or unconscious persons who cannot express a preference of their own should be merely to keep them alive long enough to get them to the point where they CAN express a preference of their own.

Again, I also point out that I have not seen any proper studies, with proper control groups, showing brain damage or chemical problems in people with ADD or ADHD. A *proper* control group would be people with ADD or ADHD who have NOT been given Ritalin. Absent that, it's far more likely than not that the supposed 'brain damage' claimed to be the cause of ADD or ADHD did not actually cause it, and is actually caused by the Ritalin.

I also question whether not being able to pay attention in school is really a 'problem' at all, except in the opinions of some people. By such logic, it could easily have been claimed a few hundred years ago that it was a 'problem' for a boy to retain his testicles, because they would eventually cause his voice to deepen, thus 'ruining his future' because he will not be able to remain in the Vienna Boys Choir, or become a famous Castrato singer. First of all, this was a pretty imaginary problem, caused by the dual insistence of some people on desiring soprano singers, and their stubborn refusal to use women to sing the soprano parts, and secondly, such invented 'problems' don't justify violating the Zero Aggression Policy and cutting body parts off non-consenting children or giving them brain damaging medications without their consent.

Ann Morgan

Comments from Richard D. Bartucci:

Even if the subject child's treatment with drugs like methylphenidate (Ritalin) and other amphetamine congeners (see Adderall) is secured under "INFORMED consent" secured from the parents, the context in which this "consent" is extracted is nevertheless a constrained situation for the parents, who are placed deliberately in a setting where the proposition is put to them in "Do this or else!" terms, with the pedagogues' speaking not only as experts superior in expertise but also as agents of the local government's school system, and therefore with the coercive cachet of the State.

Capitalization used advisedly.

The average parent—which tends to subsume folks who are effectively illiterate in both the sciences and clinical medicine—resistance to this cozening by the school system "experts" is damnably uncommon, and is almost never articulated in terms suited to address the neurophysiological conditions or psychiatric sequelae associated with the use of such stimulants.

Hell, most doctors milking the government school system to compliantly write the scripts for Ritalin and Adderall and the various adjuvant medications (mostly mood elevators in categories ranging from the old tricyclic antidepressants to the newest SNRI products) really don't bother with diagnostic criteria and clinical metrics of therapeutic need and response, but merely "go with the flow" of their local school administators, with whom it's much easier to "go along to get along."

If the teachers report that little Johnnie is more tractable in class and scoring better on his standardized testing, that gives the prescribing medico warm and toasty feelings of satisfaction and fulfillment, 'cause he's acted effectively to help little Johnnie get along in the meatgrinder classroom.

(And, yeah, Al, I'll continue using John Taylor Gatto's expression because he's made a fine case for it in The Underground History of American Education.)

I won't go nitpicking through the rest of Ms. Morgan's comments below (though there are nits a-plenty to pick), but I will say that there prevails in American government school systems both an environment which might as well have been purposefully devised to induce—in male children emphatically—the behaviors considered pathognomonic in ADD, ADHD, and ODD (oppositional defiant disorder) and a disposition for "quick solutions" by way of the induction of stimulant drug regimens which result in greater ability to concentrate and otherwise function to the pedagogues' satisfaction in the boring and hostile meatgrinder classroom.

I cannot forget that the use of these same stimulants and others pharma- cologically equivalent thereunto were commonly taken throughout World War II on both sides of the conflict to extents which the average American has no understanding whatsoever, and which were commonplace as "study aids" among college students throughout the postwar G.I. Bill boom in higher education, ranging all the way through the '50s, '60s, and '70s.

That's a helluva broad base of use in times when there wasn't the stigma attached to "speed" use we've seen since Nixon started his "War on (Some) Drugs," and yet nobody seems inclined even to examine this era and the people who worked in and survived through this long period.

There's been plenty of evidence that alteration in the educational environment has been able to foster self-control and application among students with the characteristics of the "deficit" and "defiant" disorders, and yet this is less applied by government school administrators than it might otherwise be, in favor of pill-popping under the medicalization of what is, after all, a pedagogical problem.

Yeah, Al is right that there are going to be a small number of students who will only function at optimum levels is provided with stimulant medications. But overdiagnosis and overprescribing instead of recieving these "acting up" behaviors as signs not that there's something wrong with the kid but rather with the classroom, the materials, and the methods of instruction has been so commonly practiced in the "mainstream" of government educational institutions that it's become a sad and pitiful cliche.

Do good teachers not perceive—as Gatto does—how this is so? And if not, are there problems with teacher education and training (a deeper level of malfunction) which need to be assessed and addressed?

Richard D. Bartucci

Comments from A.X. Perez:

What the good doctor said Except....

I prefer the metaphor of Procrustes Bed to a meat grinder. Whether the inappropriate use of uppers to get kids to fit in is stretching or slicing I'll leave for others to decide. I remember my Mom commenting that my Dad was still wired for years after coming home from WWII. Something to do with being in battle two- three days and nights running and needing uppers to stay awake .

I'm still steamed about parents who want their kids on Ritalin even though they don't have ADD (either for reals or as a symptom of reacting to the suckage of the school system) because they think of it as a Magic A Plus Pill to get their kid into A Good School.

As a humorous comment on the administrative types who cause this hell, remember that the same guys who want to prescribe variants of speed to get little Johnny to complete his classwork also support banning caffeinated drinks on campus. An amazing number of kids with ADD or "ADD" as well kids with no problem whatsoever learn better with a little caffeine boost. Works good for adults doing skull work too, but since we like soda and coffee they must be bad. Give 'em a pill instead.

Doc, correct me if I'm wrong. The promiscuity with which certain mis-educators and medics treat ADD and ADHD with stimulants is dangerous because ADD and ADHD may be symptoms of depression and/or exhaustion due to lack of sleep. If the former, it just sets the kids up to crash into a deeper depression as the drug wears off. If the latter, it risks the subjects going at least temporarily insane and possibly dying due to lack of REM.

In any case, isn't it criminally irresponsible to mask these problems with drugs instead of getting the subjects of this treatment the proper care?

A.X. Perez

Additional comments from Richard D. Bartucci:

All this and more, Al. Decades ago, I was at first more than a little bit puzzled when I saw that regimens of mood elevators (antidepressants) were almost invariably being prescribed as additional treatment modalities in cases of pediatric ADD/ADHD. Just what the hell might be the cause of endogenous depression in these kids, who apparently had their school performnce "issues" compounded by mood disorders considered responsive to tricyclics and the later SSRI and SNRI drugs?

One of the characteristics noted with the older tricyclic antidepressants are their soporific effects and their proclivity for prolonging stage IV non-REM sleep.

(Which a comedian back in the '70s characterized as "Sleep so deep that they could dig a bullet out of your ass with a Carvel spooon.")

Non-REM sleep is the truly restful stage of sleep, and especially needful in musculoskeletal growth surges common during the first two decades of life, so anything that would tend to increase the percentage of time in sleep during which non-REM sleep obtains would logically contribute to greater benefit derived therefrom.

So maybe the antidepressents weren't (and aren't) being used to treat ADD. ADHD but actually to gain—inadvertently—the beneificial effects of increasing non-REM sleep among these kids.

I can't say much for "talk therapy" to address depression in kids, having never had any rigorous introduction to this modality, and primary care grunts (those goddam TV shows ranging back through Marcus Welby, M.D. to Dr. Kildare notwithstanding) do not get a helluva lot of time with any or our patients to conduct detailed history-taking or counseling in these areas.

I know that kids benefit from relationships with non-custodial adults to "depres- surize" from school and other, lesser, stressors in their lives, and do better if they have an extra-parental amanuensis or two who can act as sounding boards for their problems with the meatgrinder (or Procrustian) schoolroom. I've served that role for some several of my grandchildren, and in so doing have been roundly yelled at by my wife and my children as a "disruptive influence" in the kids' upbringing.

Like that ain't a libertarian's job in life?

Richard D. Bartucci

Additional comments from Ann Morgan:

Richard wrote: Yeah, Al is right that there are going to be a small number of students who will only function at optimum levels is provided with stimulant medications.

Again, I question whether the inability to 'function at optimum levels' is actually a real problem, or if it is just a 'problem' because certain teachers say so, and we have organized our society in a malignant way. You could just as easily claim that some students (male) can only function at 'optimal levels' when their testicles are removed. Having artificially defined 'optimal levels' as the ability to permanently sing soprano, this would be correct.

As evidence of the fact that some things that are defined as a 'problem' by public school teachers, may, in fact, be a highly desirable trait, I'd like to point out the recent news story of the 'autistic' man who survived for 3 weeks in the Utah desert. Apparently that's about 7 times as long as a 'normal' person would be expected to survive in such an environment. Historically, hot dry deserts are far more frequent than public schools, so unless public schools remain in their current form for the next few hundred million years (which doesn't seem likely) the smart money is on those traits that let you survive better in the desert (or other hostile outdoor environment of your choice) regardless of whether certain public school teachers happen to dislike those traits.

Ann Morgan

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