Friday, June 16, 2006

Kids vs Society - Part 1

While I was thinking upon the subject of kids, there were 2 conversations I had with different friends.

I’ll start with society’s woes and teachers.  This will dovetail (I hate that word) into education and rearing later.

The email exchange started innocently enough with a dissatisfaction of the daycare gambit: in this case, the parents would palm off the Ritalin riddled little tyrants on the ski mountain.  In fact, some kids are so stoned that a bloody nose from taking a full-face snow sample is simply a normal occurrence for them. No fuss, no muss, no emotion.

In a word simply too smashed to realize how smashed they’d actually gotten in the snowboarding accident.

Pause for thought.

The obvious benefit was that the kid was sufficiently sedated for the accident.  One wonders if there would have been a serious crash at all if the kid wasn’t wiped-out in the first place.

The empirical evidence, or maybe just urban legend, tells us that there is many a child out there on mood-altering drugs.  I won’t quote the statistics from the NIDA link to Ritalin, you can draw your own conclusions on that.  And I won’t debate the validity of any singular case. As with any health problem, and particularly with the mind, ADHD is no joke.

This issue launches into million different directions: the one of interest to me being a question of judgment.  Judging of the parent, and judgement on the parent’s part, then, as usual, judgment of society and it’s own monstrous needs.

An excerpt from my own email: “To stand in judgement is potentially disingenuous, and besides, the question really is: is the parent is drugging the kid to keep him or her under control, or is it because there is a legitimate need?  Furthermore, is the so-called need dictated by the state?  For example overworked teachers who don't want to, or can't deal with, a non-homogenous overloaded classroom...”

A case can be made for children requiring a goodly amount of physical activity, to spend some of the pent-up hyper-energy: martial arts and sports being an obvious answer.  Liberal use of drugs, pushed by the pharmaceutical industry no less, is not so much a good answer.  Ritalin wasn’t around centuries ago, but kids were!  And parents managed to cope. Doesn’t that beat all?

Another case against drugs: social activities can be applied to depression as well.  This is really what society should be encouraging, not more drugging.  Point of fact, in the olden days, there was a much stronger sense of community, in tribes, in church, etc.  Critical issues were addressed quickly, usually within the community.  Nowadays many don’t even talk with neighbours or coworkers.

But I have my own misgivings about the so-called olden days:
  • Spankings were de rigueur.

  • Parents’ beating the shit out of their children was rampant.

  • Heavy drinking was commonplace – (now we have Prozac instead, woohoo.)

  • Fear has replaced the lack of privacy.

  • Big brother is now institutionalized, in lieu of the "town gossip".

The list goes on.  We’ve unfortunately not really improved on these specifics per se. For example: spankings may well be a bad-thing™, but verbal abuse is arguably more damaging in the long term.

I’m not saying that a restless child can be solved with a spanking, far from it.  But we are expecting the little bastards to fit into a still ill conceived but more modern mould!  So we start hammering away with drugs to fit this square peg?  This is the modern solution?

What does the future hold for the next generation of kids?  The same problems will still exist and drugs will be considered as barbaric as spankings were yesterday.  

During my bouts of depression, mood-altering drugs did help.  Some of them, however, messed me up much worse than the depression itself.  To address the other possibilities: physical activity would work for a few days then the depression would hit worse and getting up the onus to continue the activities would sap all remaining energy; socializing was hit and miss, sometimes making things better, sometimes worse.

I want to address the problem with social activities for a moment.  By itself managing our emotions is tiring at the best of times, but for someone with depression holding one’s run-amok emotions in public can be, and often is, nothing short of a nightmare.

If I extend this theorem towards ADHD and these kids’ behaviour, is it any wonder they lose it.  By and large children don’t have the finesse to manoeuvre the social reality around them.  So what if 3 or 4 out of every 100 stand out against the crowd? (I know, I know, I just quoted a stat, argh!)  

And so I point back to our olden times.  When classes were smaller, you’d have the one kid who gets on everyone’s nerves, robbing the attention away from his classmates.  It was a harsh life, but the teacher could handle it, and still feed some 20 kids with the requisite value-add.   It’s simple math.  4 kids in 100 makes for roughly one problem per class of 20, and sometimes not at all.  If your class is 40?  Holy shit… You are almost guaranteed 2 problems and twice the clamour for attention anyways!

Solutions?  We can’t be reducing the number of heads to teach down to a decent number… no business case there.  Pump the drugs, it’s definitely more cost effective.  Or if we can find enough basket cases within the school, fire up a subsidized special-ed class for the hyperactive (or deaf) morons!

And then it’s the parent that wonders what’s wrong with their child?!?


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