The Psychiatric Peddlers in Your Schools


As a teacher in the public school system I encountered the following kind of student in each of my classes. They were usually wont to ignore my instructions; they would lose their notebook or writing utensil; fail to complete their classwork and forget their unattempted homework at home; avoid beginning any task I gave them by concocting a much more urgent assignment for themselves like needing to organize all the papers in their bag; and they’d space out on a window or painting, or more often drop their chin to their hand and stare at their desk.

A Black mother and daughter sit on the couch. Mother is explaining something to a sullen-looking girl.

No doubt these behaviors are ubiquitous in every classroom, at every school, in every country, and at every time throughout history. Yes, I’m sure even Plato suffered such disinterest on the part of his students, which would most likely explain the antics of his pupil, Diogenes, who ran into Plato’s seminar with a plucked chicken crying: Behold! A man! What is a teacher to make of such foolishness, or of such contempt for learning? Historically, the treatment would be discipline. More often than not, this discipline would take the form of mild corporal punishment—the quick snap of a ruler on the knuckles of lil’ John boy. What was the point? To break him of his slovenly habits and encourage the diligent exercise of his attention to the task at hand. Now, don’t mistake me for endorsing corporal punishment in schools—far from it! Rather, the practice of punishment acknowledges a simple fact: young minds wander and need to be redirected.

Contemporary education readily acknowledges this fact. Miss Brown approaches lil’ John boy and gently affirms his efforts: “Johnny, what are we supposed to be doing right now? Take out your notebook and begin performing the sums on the board. Very good.” Just as Johnny opens his bag, Mikey catches her attention. She approaches him and tells him to pick up his pencil, to start with question number six. Already three minutes have gone by and lil’ John boy finally has his notebook out. But oh no! it’s the wrong one… You can see where this is going—lil’ John boy will make an excellent senator the way he filibusters class time. If only he could apply himself to his study of history and government he would be well qualified for the job (But who are we kidding? Those aren’t prerequisites for becoming a senator). Just how effective do you think Miss Brown’s gentle affirmations will be? They impose no consequence. They reinforce nothing. At best, a student is annoyed by the unwanted attention from the teacher, but he is aided by the slacking off of his classmates who redirect the teacher’s attention. And in today’s schools, there is no shortage of John boys or Mikeys.

So what is our teacher, Miss Brown, to do? Why, she can send an email home to John boy’s parents—make them aware of his deficits. Well, if they just so happen to read it and the parents are worth their salt, John boy’s behavior will change for a day or two, perhaps a week. In any case, once the half-life of the email expires, John boy will require further discipline. This time he’ll need a detention—to stay in Miss Brown’s classroom during lunch. However, Miss Brown will discover that John boy buys his lunch from the cafeteria, and since she’s not allowed to withhold food from him,  he goes to the cafeteria to buy his lunch. He returns “promptly” thirty-five minutes later and explains that “the line was long” or that “they ran out of food and had to make more.” In total he serves a five minute detention. Who has suffered more? John boy who got to chat it up with his friends and put down a hefty meal, or Miss Brown who waited in angst for her pupil to arrive while grading sloppy, half-assed assignments, knowing full well that John boy got the better of her, and worse—knowing that he knew it too?

So it seems our teacher will have to adopt more draconian methods. She can issue an after-school detention but this inevitably provokes the ire of the parents whose schedules are thrown out of whack. Miss Brown wants to avoid this at all costs since the parents will blame her for the inconvenience, not John boy. So maybe she schedules a detention for later in the week to give the family due time to prepare. This is no good either. You see, John boy has a soccer tournament that day and will be dismissed two hours before the end of the school day. And Miss Brown will not be made aware of this until the day of. So she may attempt again and again to enforce some kind of punishment while John boy continues to underperform in class.

Frustrated, our teacher goes to the faculty lounge and discovers two other teachers talking about a number of “problem” students, including John boy. They note his inattentiveness, slowness to complete tasks, procrastination in beginning assignments and failure to complete others entirely. The sympathetic conversation is invigorating to Miss Brown who feels vindicated in her attempts to discipline John boy. But soon the conversation turns to conspiracy, and Miss Brown is disquieted by her colleagues’ prescriptions.

Mrs. Green, a veteran teacher, has seen this kind of behavior before. She notes that it has only gotten worse throughout her many years in the profession. Mr. Blue is highly educated. His undergrad is in Biology, he has a master’s in education and was trained as a lawyer. He confirms Mrs. Green’s anecdotes by reference to a number of scientific studies—the absolute pinnacle of knowledge. He rattles on about statistics, techniques, “behavioral interventions” and other technologies that show “statistically significant” effects in modifying student and adolescent behavior. Mrs. Green commends Mr. Blue for his informed and scholarly appraisal of the most relevant and timely scientific literature, even offering her own recommendations on the subject. Ms. Brown, on the other hand, is utterly perturbed by all this. For all their knowledge of the scientific literature and their steadfast implementation of these so-called “techniques” John boy is still a poor student. Mr. Blue rejoins, “Of course he is. After all, he’s clearly suffering from ADHD.” “Likely ADD as well,” Mrs. Green adds. A third voice chimes in: “Might he be on the spectrum as well?” Murmurs, nods and speculation abound in the break room.

Mrs. Green and Mr. Blue then proceed to diagnose a number of other students. This would be all well and good if it remained purely conversational in nature. Alas, it does not. Mrs. Green and Mr. Blue regularly meet with the parents of these “problem” children in the presence of administrators who, without fail, claim to have done absolutely everything to improve the educational outcomes of the child. While their interventions have been specifically catered toward the student in the form of an Individual Education Plan, untold forces have conspired to thwart their efforts. Inevitably, the teachers and administrators in the room suggest that the child be “tested.” “Talk to your doctor and see if anything can be done.” Of course this means only one thing: feed your child amphetamines.

Why is there this urge to prescribe amphetamines to children? It can only be to absolve the teacher, the student and the parents of any accountability. No, your student is not failing because I am an incompetent teacher; your student is not failing because you fail to reinforce any sort of habits at home, or to discipline them in ways that the school cannot; your student is not failing because they are lazy, uninterested or simply incapable of succeeding at the current level. Your student is failing for reasons that are outside of anyone’s control. Nature has simply dealt your child a bad hand. This is the great lie told to parents by energetic teachers eager to claim expertise in a subject they are utterly unqualified to possess.

The DSM-5, published by the American Psychiatric Association, lists the following criteria to diagnose ADHD:

  • Displays poor listening skills
  • Loses and/or misplaces items needed to complete activities or tasks
  • Sidetracked by external or unimportant stimuli
  • Forgets daily activities
  • Diminished attention span
  • Lacks ability to complete schoolwork and other assignments or to follow instructions
  • Avoids or is disinclined to begin homework or activities requiring concentration
  • Fails to focus on details and/or makes thoughtless mistakes in schoolwork or assignments

Notice the complete lack of biomarkers, the complete lack of brain scans, the complete lack of cellular pathology and the total reliance on self-reporting. This constitutes science? This is medicine? If there were any medical basis to this condition at all there would be no need for self-reporting and we would simply run some tests that indicate whether a body is physiologically non-normal. We would look for physical abnormalities, cellular lesions and otherwise, as is the case for diagnosing every other illness or disease. Yet psychiatry is happy to accept your patronage, the pharmaceutical industry is happy to keep pressing pills, teachers are content to pat themselves on the back for a job well done, and students are elated to receive a performance-enhancing drug.

There should be no doubt that ADHD medications (in particular, Adderall, since it is so widely prescribed) confer cognitive benefits to users. Prescribing stimulants of this kind increase “alertness, energy, academic performance, athletic performance, facilitate weight loss, and produce feelings of euphoria.” But the benefits go far beyond the chemical advantages of the drug. A huge benefit for students, parents and teachers in having Adderall and Ritalin-like drugs prescribed to students is the accompanying legal document: the 504 plan. A 504 is a student education plan guaranteed to students with disabilities according to the 1973 Rehabilitation Act, section 504. What are its benefits? A student who receives a 504 plan is overwhelmingly conferred all of the following privileges: 1) additional time to complete classwork; 2) additional time to complete tests (up to 50% of the class time); 3) preferential seating; 4) exclusive testing rooms; 5) reduced homework loads; 6) additional time to complete homework (if an assignment is assigned on Monday and due on Friday, a student does not have to turn it in until Wednesday the following week); 7) recordings of lectures and access to teacher’s lesson plans and notes; 8) dedicated attention from the teacher in explaining instructions and the meaning of questions on assignments and exams.

Does all of this seem reasonable? Maybe so. Does it seem reasonable when 30% of your students have these exact provisions? Does it seem reasonable when these students occupy the same classrooms as undiagnosed, unprivileged students? How well can a teacher be expected to deliver item #8 to ten students simultaneously? Or to give preferential seating to ten students simultaneously? Some inevitable leeway will have to be given. But notwithstanding these minor hiccups, consider how likely a student is to succeed if given a reduced workload both inside and outside of class; how likely they are to improve their test scores when given an hour and a half as opposed to an hour; how likely they are to increase their homework grades when given nine days instead of four; and how likely they are to succeed, regardless of any of these conferred benefits, when they are running on literal Speed. When all of these effects are weighed in the final analysis, of course teachers will tell you “I told you so.” Of course parents will glow when viewing their child’s latest report card. Of course administrators will be happy to report that they have a “100% graduation rate, an average GPA of 3.9 and a ranking as an ‘A’ school” by the state Department of Education. All the while, the student will suffer.

Why? Because the “caring” and “concerned” adults who had the “future” and “best interests” of the student in mind will have implicitly been telling them this: You are broken. You cannot be fixed except by medical intervention. You are incapable of succeeding on your own merit and must therefore submit to the following psychotropic regimen to have the slightest chance of making it in this world. You are nothing without this drug. You will fail without it. It’s not your fault, but you have no choice.

This is wicked and insidious. It is foul and corrupt. It is heartlessness and selfishness masked as compassion and pity. It is morally depraved and unambiguously counter-productive. The purpose of education is to rear children into morally, physically and intellectually competent adults. Their greatest lesson is that the world cares not a whit for your past tribulations, current difficulties or future concerns. Society cares only for what you can offer; whether that be moral, physical or intellectual value. It is for these reasons that we train them to be competent in these areas. It is by acknowledging their incompetence—their unpreparedness—and doing what is necessary to aid them in becoming mature and capable adults that they may live lives of dignity and pride. We do them no favors by excusing their deficits and describing their problems as “unfortunate” and “inescapable” facts of life. The problems of students that schools and psychiatry attempt to address are normal occurrences, and have been normal occurrences for as long as we have had records of student behavior. It is the task of educators (parents included) to equip children with the tools necessary to conquer the natural difficulties of growing up. Children must be disciplined to discipline both their behavior and their minds. These goals are regularly accomplished the world over, have been accomplished in days past, and ought to be accomplished today. The failure of parents and educators in this regard is the result of nothing other than their own lack of discipline. While we may no longer snap rulers on the knuckles of errant students, this does not mean that we ought to substitute drugs and diminished expectations for the expectation that students pay attention, do their work, or otherwise suffer the consequences.

It is true that what is good is often difficult, but that does not mean that it is not still necessary. If we are to do a proper job of preparing our children for life, we must train them as life surely will—with discipline. We make no exceptions. We hold them to high standards. We reward them with praise for doing good and doing right. And we punish them with shame and disappointment for doing wrong. Do you think this approach heartless? You’ve forgotten, then, the most fundamental principle of behavioral psychology: reward the behaviors you like and punish the behaviors you hate. Life will do this for them if we do not. So which would you prefer? To teach them as life would when the costs are low and the rewards high? Or would you defer their education till after their schooling when the costs are high and the rewards small? You are welcome to conduct this experiment as many others have been doing for decades, but look to those new men and women first and then tell me if you are impressed by the results.


Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.


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  1. A useful but conventional summary of an important proble–until the last two paragraphs, where the author asserts his prescription: “DISCIPLINE,” the sort of discipline that he presumably learned to administer at extreme-right-wing Hillsdale College.

    Where is the evidence that “discipline” is, over-all, effective in the schoolroom?

    I suggest that the weight of evidence on centuries of old-fashioned, knuckle-rapping schoolroom discipline is: poor to mixed results–occasional successes but myriad failures.

    An analogous problem bedevils the mind-repairing professions: therapists, like most humans, tend to remember their successes but forget their failures, even when the successes are occasional and the failures numerous.

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  2. Thank you for your criticism and for reading through to the end.

    I certainly agree that knuckle-rapping and corporal punishment are morally detestable if done by a teacher. I made this qualification at the outset. But educators of the past had more and better means for disciplining students apart from corporal punishment. Detention, suspension, expulsion, writing lines, additional classwork and mild labor are all effective punishments that are scarcely utilized today largely because parents and administrators see these things as unjust or inconvenient.

    Schools now allow disruptive or bad behavior to go unpunished. When students are removed from class (if at all) they are sent back almost immediately. Students who are suspended are still allowed to complete assignments that they’ve missed. Assignment “amnesties” are granted regularly and grade floors are in place at schools throughout the United States.

    I fail to see how this LACK of discipline is at all helpful to children. It does not prepare them for life in society and inculcates twisted feelings of justice.

    Might I add that I said discipline is earned through reward as well: “reward them with praise for doing good and doing right.” Both rewards and punishments are needed to create successful students and human beings of good character. I think the denial of punishment in the extreme is unambiguously BAD, and that this fact then admits of punishment’s efficacy in degree.

    The use of psychotropics is just another means of externalizing the cost of students’ bad behavior and thus creates a moral hazard. A student’s peers now suffer the costs of misbehavior, and the diagnosis prevents teachers from rectifying this situation for fear of violating disability rights.

    Again, thank you for your comment. And in the meantime, please pardon my extreme right-wingism.

    P.S. “…most humans tend to remember their successes but forget their failures.” Personally, it is not my successes that keep me up at night.

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    • I am an autistic adult with adhd and I feel very strongly that your comments in this blog need to be addressed. The argument you lay out basically concludes with the logic that educators and parents need to discipline children who don’t fit into the education system because it reflects the wider world and these kids will feel the pain of not fitting/succeeding when they are adults and the pain will be worse. Please understand how damaging this attitude is to people with disabilities. Please study the social model of disability, which posits that people are not disabled because there is something inherently wrong with them, but because social systems have REFUSED to adjust to individuals with varying support needs. The attitude articulated in your piece is damaging and demoralizing to people who truly struggle in this world.

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  3. As a former child with undiagnosed ADHD, I can’t say if I would have benefitted from medication or a medical label placed on me. I was certainly the recipient of discipline and neglect in turn for my disordered progress in school. What I desperately needed was to have someone recognize and help me understand my brain. I didn’t get this until I finally pushed for it as an adult. I agree that the generic “fixed-to-function” medication approach may be inappropriate, but this article makes it sound as if we are over-diagnosing ADHD and not beating it out of kids enough. Maybe we need to take a close look at how our efficiency-fetish model of public education leaves teachers and students in desperate positions. Where the kid who can’t handle being 1 of 30 is deemed a liability to the system, and where teachers are always to blame for the chaotic learning environment they inherit. Maybe the system isn’t working.

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  4. “brain scans” do show differences between the brains of ADHD and people without it. It’s not used for diagnosis because it’s needlessly it is expensive and doesn’t significantly alter treatment.

    In high school, I never felt significantly disadvantaged to those on ADHD meds. The extra time on exams and assignments isn’t a big deal; the students still have to do all of the work.

    High school is mostly just memorizing stuff.
    Turns out that I had ADD, it’s just that my efforts were focused on school due to lack of stimulating things outside of school
    Reading (and memorizing) textbooks allowed me to make up for my weaknesses in other areas.

    Displays poor listening skills? I can’t learn from video very well as I can’t process animation and explanation at the same time. I get lost in verbal lectures if I become distracted. On recordings of lecture power points with voice over, I can rewind if I get distracted.

    Loses and/or misplaces items needed to complete activities or tasks? I wasn’t taught organization. Moved going into 5th grade and the school district that I moved to assumed that organizational skills were taught in 1st through 3rd grade. So rather than binders and expandables, I had one homework folder for nearly everything. I’d clear it out for binder checks or when it got too thick. They gave us planners, but I learned to work on assignments from memory before I was taught how to effectively use a planner. Misplacing things impacts my daily life more than school.

    Sidetracked by external or unimportant stimuli? For teachers that left the door open in class, I would get up and close the door because I literally could not concentrate due to the noises of the hallway. Didn’t seem to bother others to the extent that it bothered me. People sniffling during exams is the absolute worst. Pencil sharpeners, passing periods, that kid tapping his pencil or bouncing his feet.

    Forgets daily activities? My memory for most day-to-day things has always been awful.

    Diminished attention span – not applicable as my primary interest was school.

    Lacks ability to complete schoolwork and other assignments or to follow instructions – I would shut myself into my room and do school work all night. Following instructions in class could be difficult as I would forget important parts of the instructions.

    Avoids or is disinclined to begin homework or activities requiring concentration – From juniors high onwards, I started to procrastinate starting homework more and more. More engaging to socialize. Once I would start on homework, I would keep going with it. One of the major issues is procrastinating / lack of future planing. Lack of working ahead on readings or essays because the task isn’t urgent.

    Fails to focus on details and/or makes thoughtless mistakes in schoolwork or assignments – not too bad as again, my focus was school.

    The bigger problem was that ADHD medication allowed a few bratty, obnoxious, disruptive kids into honors classes to the detriment of other students.

    It wasn’t until college that the extra time on exams would have been beneficial. Lack of organization, lack of impulse control from stimuli, learning issues, lack of working ahead all made for a terrible college experience.

    Working at a fast food chain, I can easily tell the difference in working memory between myself and other individuals. If my mind wanders or someone calls for my attention, I run on default, make the order default and without customization, and essentially mess up the order. Forgetting what I was doing or getting from the cooler frequently.

    You seem to be of the opinion that ADHD doesn’t exist, which isn’t scientifically supported. The article is heavily based on the fallacy of appeal to reason (via elaborate storytelling). There’s a lot of other logical fallacies present. If you’re curious throw your article into chatGPT and have it help you identify them.

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    • Please cite the CREDIBLE sources for your claim that the brains of supposed ADHD patients and those of “normal” people are different. What is the “scientifically supported” body of knowledge proving the existence of ADHD as a genuine medical disorder? Or was the literature you are referring to ghostwritten by hired hacks in pharmaceutical companies and their shills in academia and the mass media?
      And even if it is true that SOME people with this condition have brains that are neurodivergent, this difference in functioning does not necessarily connote a physical pathology requiring treatment with neurotoxins with proven deleterious effects over the long term. See Dr. Peter Gotzsche’s excellent articles on this website.

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    • Here is a brain scan. Does this brain have ADHD or not? I keep hearing this “expensive and invasive” crap all the time. It just sounds like an excuse to me. If you had a seizure out of the blue with no history of epilepsy, one of the first things they would do is an MRI. It could show tapeworm eggs in your brain causing them. It wouldn’t be “needlessly expensive” then.

      The fact that patients do not get to see their brain scans due to the “expensive and invasive” rubbish allows psychiatrists and psychiatric supporters to get away with spouting all kinds of drivel about brain scans because none of those poor folk have their scans in their hands.

      BTW, I’m not against people using stimulants or whatever they want to use to cope with their problems. It’s just the brain scan stuff I’m talking about.

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  5. The child described in this piece doesn’t have ADHD. John Boy is simply entitled and lazy. Likely because he doesn’t enjoy school, and his parents don’t prioritize education.
    A child that has ADHD will not get better with discipline. They are not able to conform. They cannot focus on their school work for long periods of time unless it is something they are immensely interested in. Even then, they likely can’t sit still for as long as their peers are able. They stick out from the crowd. A good educator can spot these children easily. Helping them is a lot harder.
    They will eventually reach an age where medication will seem like the only option left to help them. That age will vary from person to person.
    The reality is that an adult with ADHD is incredibly annoying to the rest of us. Most people cannot tolerate spending more than a few minutes with an adult that has ADHD unless that adult is properly medicated for it.
    As for the accommodations given to children with ADHD, they are absolutely necessary for the kids that actually have the disorder. Once these kids learn how to function with their disorder, the accommodations are supposed to be reduced, and ultimately disappear. It’s just a way for children to learn how to function properly in the adult world once they get there.
    The problem is the system is being abused by people that don’t have ADHD. Parents are desperate for an explanation for their child’s behavior because they don’t want to take responsibility for the fact that they aren’t involved enough. Being a parent is hard. Parents are looking for help in the wrong places.

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  6. “We punish them with shame and disappointment for doing wrong.” As a seasoned mental health therapist, I am astounded to read such a statement in a blog that purports to advocate the rethinking of psychiatry. Making children feel bad about themselves for making mistakes, or for being attentive, is the epitome of emotional abuse. The word discipline means to teach, not to punish.

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  7. There’s a reason secondary education is the single biggest initiator of the ADD diagnosis, and it isn’t for all the formidable reasons the author lays out (inattention and disorganization etc.). It is, IMO, that the vast majority of schools aren’t designed or otherwise genuinely invested in “education”, but are instead in the “business” of debased information-banking (ergo Paulo Freire, et al), rather than a well-rounded, student focused, and “critically and dialogically” informed 21st century curriculum. And though I don’t disagree with the authors views surrounding ADD/ADHD’s ill-guided and ill-served (my interpretive descriptions) roles in today’s institutionalized education systems, I find the silence surrounding the obverse direct roles that todays (abysmal) education systems play in executing and thereby exacerbating the ADD diagnosis, to be a little more than just curiously absent.

    Nowadays all the educational professional has to do is regurgitate the magic words ADD, autism-or whatever psychiatric-babble-to a student’s outlier traits incompatible with their mandated wanting- education, and a dozen or more substantive psychological, social, pedagogical, emotional, or developmentally compromised or formally abated issues (etc.!), are now “systematically” foreclosed from consideration. As a result, they are unlikely to ever be addressed if not substantively worsened by the palliative illusions that the ADD diagnosis/drugs have solved “everyone’s” challenges. Though the author didn’t say this as directly as I have here, I interpreted his blog to have conveyed as much, and am grateful for (him) doing so.

    As Paulo Freire said, “Education is a self-inflicted wound”. IMO, the ADD/ADHD diagnosis thus seems the perfect designation to ensure that that wound is as fully realized as systematically possible in our 21st century education systems.

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  8. No! what is good for children is not often considered difficult but learning. The society needs to understand what is difficult in children is different from what is difficulty in adulthood. This often treating children as small adults with adult needs is quite perplexing!

    This article highlights the excessive imposition of adult authority on children, which often leads to their being overwhelmed by rules, judgment, and reasoning skills that they have not yet developed. It underscores the importance of children interacting with their peers, who do not judge them and possess similar intellectual capacities. Such interactions foster an environment of equality in energy, attention, and growth. The dynamics of the nuclear family structure tend to result in parents who are overwhelmed and exhausted, which, in turn, adversely affects the children exactly the same!

    You will be amazed how often you hear adults (when these children grow up) using words like I am “adulting” and that tells you – the disconnection that has happened during their childhood.

    Leave the kids alone with their peers longer times!

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  9. Ah, yet another person who thinks that people with ADHD are running on speed and don’t actually understand how the medication works for us. It actually calms us down, not makes us bounce off the walls.

    I wasnt diagnosed with autism or adhd until I was in my late twenties, and when I got to try ADHD medication, I realised that if I had been able to access it earlier , my university grades would have been much more balanced. I was getting high distinctions in areas I was interested in, and passing ones I was not, barely.

    No amount of ‘discipline’ can change the fact that my brain functions differently. My parents tried that and it just made things worse.

    I also developed a methamphetamine addiction trying to self medicate because I was not able to access *stimulant* medications (not all stimulants are speed, which specifically is amphetamine sulfate). When I was able to access stimulant medication, I actually under dosed it, and haven’t ever abused it.

    It’s almost like I needed it the whole time, and that being told to just ‘work harder’ and ‘discipline my mind’ resulted in me having to resort to illegal drugs to get through.

    Ground breaking opinions right here..

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  10. This article was frustrating for me to read. Some of the comments as well. Please, if you don’t understand neurodiversity and how stimulants work with ADHD brains, read some books or take a class. I have been judged and bullied my entire life because ADHD is invisible and if someone would just pay attention they’d see me.

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  11. Judging by the comments the psychiatric disorder peddlers are winning. However I don’t think discipline is the answer either. Classroom control and developing relationships with pupils are skills that can be taught. In school there are teachers that have goid results and who use few disciplinary techniques, schools need to organise in such a way that these skills can be passed on.

    I suspect ADHD will grow because there is a market to exploit but in 40 years the media will be full of stories if people harmed by the drugs and diagnosis. This is the inevitable dynamic of late capitalism.

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  12. Where are the hyperlinks to your sources in this article? It reads like an opinion piece to me—-and even opinion pieces often cite sources to support their points. There are often good reasons for children’s intention besides a lack of discipline.

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  13. I agree these this was a really tough read. It sounds like the author might have some internal biases that they should look into. I am really saddened when I read ableist pieces like this that could really have gone in a different direction.

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  14. Brilliant description of exactly what happens. Important to note all the different ideas that the adults have, which show kids that adults are lost. Attention and open response as if the difficulty MATTERS are discipline. My brother with Developmental Disabilities – would be so distracted by events around him, that his output on a machine that stamped leather samples with appropriate names for colors, was seen as having variable attention. He asked why his paycheck varied each week. What the brilliant and kind coach did, was track his output and post it daily on the wall in the room. My bro began to see that his performance varied, and he began to aim to raise his numbers. Within 3 weeks, he went from unreliable performance, to highest performer in the room. First time in his life.
    Kids are suffering today because as adults we have lost common ideas and goals, and instead of quietly wondering and problem solving, many rush to scientific explanations and outsourcing of intervention people. This leaves teachers doubting their perceptions and abilities. I’m not sure exactly how to explain, but I experimented and found it fascinating to find ways to help my brother (whose performance was ignored or excused in childhood of many family changes). I worked to choose most relevant challenge and design strategies to IMPROVE on each glitch that mattered in his life. Some took years, but I started with expecting and demanding honest communication so that his process could be reviewed if he had failed, and we could find where he got lost. He would often get lost because he was accustomed to nobody being around to explain and coach him to pause, breathe, learn to experiment if he got lost. In childhood, nobody to help, so he would react with negative refusal to try. He knew nobody was paying much attention, he was alone and allowed to fail. Discipline is a wrong word, way too vague, it just implies an interruption – whether by force, a clicker, blame and shame.
    But each student needs some time to PRACTICE meeting a deadline. When you see a major difficulty, think of ways to focus. Start small. Keep track with him. Be there when he has to learn to set aside other distractions and start and cheer him for starting. He’s so used to failing and no adults paying attention (we model absurdity instead of calm focus on a young person’s path). Find a place in his life where he could practice being on time. Maybe it would work to have that student teach a younger one something. Maybe share a check-off chart each day, of what he accomplished on time. Cheer the good, notice the times of failure and mention, but don’t make those any final assessment worthy of punishment or praise, note all as part of a process of learning to work joyfully with others.

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  15. I think there are a range of other, more constructive ways of thinking about this question outside of the black-and-white perspective of ‘discipline versus coddling’. In my opinion most elements of old-school authoritarian ‘discipline’ practiced in American education are garbage, create or exacerbate community dysfunction, never worked that well to begin with, and are worth abandoning. I don’t think it makes any sense at this point to cling to a quasi-superstitious belief in behaviorist principles and it’s hard to understand why these would still be cited by anybody with a straight face.

    That said, as an educator and a parent, and as someone from the generation where all my peers were on adderall by fifth grade, I also take an extremely critical view of the way ADHD meds are pushed on children (or, more accurately, how parents are pressured to go down this road, indeed for the sake of the school’s convenience). But there are probably 100 better criticisms you can make of the explosion of ADHD drug prescription for young children via schools than saying “being accomodated doesn’t prepare you for the real world”. Maybe 200? I found this argument disappointing because it’s so subjective (what is preparedness? What is your adult life going to really be like? If, for instance, you’re someone who’s realistically going to be on medication your whole life, then couldn’t you say it actually really does prepare you?) and assumes, inaccurately in my opinion, a lot of shared values.

    In any case, plenty of people (parents, teachers, theorists) have invented a whole spectrum of other frameworks through which to educate and live a satisfactory life with space-cadet or high energy children. Some approaches are certainly better than others in my opinion, but there’s a whole world of writing on this topic. I recommend “How Children Learn” by John Holt as one example (written long before the mass-drugging era). To forego authoritarian, behaviorist-minded control (whether the knuckle-rapping or the pharmaceutical form) doesn’t have to mean to “coddle” somebody or lower your expectations.

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  16. From apathy and lethargy to anxiety and hyperactivity to dissociation and depression and more, anyone paying attention to the world beyond the classroom should know that students are coming to school carrying effects of social conditions producing the same symptoms at large.

    The digital (c)age alone accounts for profound disruptions of and alienation from ways of being human, unprecedented in the evolution of our species. Taking the already entrenched screen culture of television to new levels of population management in production by design of docile herds, digital technology has served to dehumanize us in the most sinister matters of mind control, directed by deep state science of social engineering from which it originated.

    The raising of human generations now appears to have become almost totally overtaken by machines more and more programming consciousness and behavior according to dictates of anonymous authority centralized behind algorithms and AI, leading us to have only digital identity in a metaverse while the real world of flesh-and-blood persons and community fades from memory. From earliest age, children are immersed in carefully calibrated EMFs and addictive conditioning to have no sense of anything but the hive mind. As if not already captive enough, they are subjected to online education, moving generations into remote learning in atomized prison cells, like Bentham’s Panopticon.

    “The purpose of education is to rear children into morally, physically and intellectually competent adults.” Here’s one of the lies teachers tell us as they’re disciplining and punishing us for our own good, illustrative of so many mixed messages and so much cognitive dissonance as to drive any of us mad. Anyone venturing beyond the whitewashed history and ideology with which we’re indoctrinated under institutionalized schooling will learn how its Prussian military methods had to be enforced upon earlier generations to provide industries of capital rule necessary labor training, serving utilitarian purposes in command-obey ranks, altogether indifferent to our own autonomous desires and interests in imposition of Pavlovian obedience to tasks and assignments of bosses.

    In short, the biggest bully at school is the school itself. And its sick, systemic abuse has only been enforced with all the more vengeance by medical science retooling children like lab rats to produce output as the perfect student of the Pharmafia. To claim any of its drug trafficking is to be trusted is to show need again of unlearning lies like its bizzness-as-usual, profit-over-people logic leading to humanitarian outcomes, rather than traditionally being among the leading causes of death, and poisonous pollution, among us.

    Pill-popping children are one more symptom of a society that has forgotten to care enough to practice personal relations respecting the worth of others as more than units of performance, means to others’ ends, cogs in the machine needing repair when the stresses and shock doctrine of socialized psychopathy and rationalized irrationality get to any of us.

    Like teacher-student relations compelled to test and quantify to mutual ruin, no one, it seems, is able any longer to think and act for oneself beyond institutional roles and requirements which have overtaken the commons of our humanity, where we learn to live free and unafraid in more egalitarian relations, far from rule to dispossess us of all we can be and make us conform to collective trauma. It’s past time to unlearn the lies, and learn again, as if for the first time in wonder, what we are collective understanding and compassion.

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  17. I don’t think that “discipline” as described is the answer any more than medication is the answer. I find it strange that we believe a child should want to sit still in a classroom for hours upon hours, obediently complete assignments, and subjugate natural freedom and creativity of childhood for a structured, authoritarian existence.

    Nonsensical punishments like detention or forcing a child to “write lines” have no place in a dignified, mutually respectful world. We would not do this to an adult. I’m hard-pressed to be convinced this is a kind, caring, or even effective thing to do to a child.

    Without going on too long, I simply think we need a more understanding, flexible, and compassionate approach. Medication is blameless in its blame: you’re broken biologically, but it’s not your fault, here have some pills! But your perspective is excessively blaming and harsh: you’re lazy, your teachers are lazy, and your parents are lazy. You must be disciplined and pull yourself up by your bootstraps!

    Ethical views aside, I just don’t think this works.

    There’s some work in attachment theory that reviews child-rearing guidelines from the 40s and earlier that state not to be overly affectionate with your child, as that will cause them to become overly-dependent adults. Instead, we’ve found something almost opposite is true: that loving, compassionate, and supportive environments that encourage healthy dependence actually create calmer adults open to exploration and independence.

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  18. I agreed with a lot that this article says. But, was disheartened in the end. Let the central nervous system relax on these kids. Follow them. They are the game changes and I’m here to show them how their gifts really work.

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