In her Huffington Post article, Fixing Our Schools, Not Drugging Our Kids, Lisa Belkin writes:
I left the room thinking, If the ways of a classroom don't work for more than 50 percent of the students, then the problem isn't with the kids, it's with the system.
In the same way, if the ways of the school system doesn't work for a subset of children that have to turn to medications to fit in, isn't the problem with that system, not with the children?
Of course it is. And that is the easy question. Next: what are we -- as parents, as educators and as society -- going to do about it?This article is a reaction to Alan Schwarz' NY Times article, Attention Disorder or Not, Pills to Help in School. But while obviously the increasing prevalence of chronically medicated kids (I know quite a few myself) is an issue in our society, I think the problem, as Belkin states, is far deeper than that. So how can we solve it?
My feeling is that although many of us turn to homeschooling and unschooling as a solution for our children, it simply isn't a good permanent fix for the problem. We're just removing them from the system and in many cases trying to replicate various parts of it at home, with far fewer resources. Yes, we manage to keep them safe from a lot of the societal flaws that are often accentuated when giant groups of kids are kept all day in institutions with little-to-no adult or real-world influence, but because of our culture's taboos and prudish (yet really quite raunchy in the back corners) way of life, we still can't include them in our life. Few people can practically bring their children to work. So many arts and culture events are serving alcohol (and therefore designated 19+) that the options for children are limited*. And let's face it. A lot of our 'adult' pastimes are so repugnant that we would never want our children to witness them. So why are we doing these things? Why? Why can't we feel fulfilled by creativity, social engagement, and any other activities that we would be proud to bring our children to?
I am not trying to malign the teachers and administrators who, for the most part, work tirelessly with often frustrating shackles and genuinely difficult problems to overcome. And yes, I am aware that various school boards across our continent are endlessly trying out new programs to administer something better to the children whose lives are in their hands. Oh -- did I say administer? Well fancy that. So I did.
But we have to do better. Much much much better. And it can't come within the current system.
What we really need is a complete societal change; a shift in the way we view our interactions with children. We need to see them not as vessels to be filled, nor as forms to be molded, nor less competent people to be 'cared for', but as valuable and essential contributors to what we generally consider our 'adult world'.
When we separate their world from ours, or give them objects, input, and experiences that are geared for children (or 'youth') then are we really giving them a foundation that enables them to be integral to our society? Are we giving them a way in or teaching them that they are not welcome? When we exclude kids from our world, then how can they learn the values we hope to pass on? Or is the truth that we are not living the life we hope they inherit? And if not, why not?
It really would take a massive change in the way we live for us to be able or willing to welcome our children as part of our society. But it's about bloody time we did.
*As an aside, my family is apparently featured in a new film which we would have loved to bring the children to. One of the producers called us and invited us to come see the film. He told me that my family, and especially my daughter, feature in one of the most heartwarming segments of the film, and he hopes we enjoy it. The Occupation premieres this weekend. But guess what? It's at the Rio Theatre. They're serving alcohol. And the kids can't go.