Sixteen years ago, the principal at Plymouth Middle School broke down and told me, “We don’t know how to educate your son.” As I stared at him in shocked disbelief, it suddenly dawned on me that he spoke the truth. It had taken me four long years of trying to work within the educational system to accurately see the dysfunction. An important part of the problem is the government, with the best of intentions; setting regulations that hamper instead of enhance education.
Schools get more money from the government if they can label children “at risk” or in need of “special education”. So the focus shifted from designing a child-centered educational setting to creating negative labels for children to acquire additional funding. It isn’t that I believe that sinister people sit behind doors plotting new mental disorders to attach to children; I sincerely believe that the dysfunction has been going on for so long that the perceived experts in this field cannot see or face the damage that has been done.
You see, many times these counterfeit mental disorders are simply learning styles or the natural headaches we go through as part of human development. People learn and process information differently. Our brains aren’t clones; not everyone fits the curriculum or behaves the same in a given environment. People are complex, diverse. If not, we would all be employed as laboratory rats.
As a matter of fact, our survival depends on fostering an educational environment that rewards diversity instead of punishing it. For the life of me I can’t figure out how anyone with an ounce of compassion would think that labeling a child with a mental disorder is a good idea. How does a child interpret it? Mental disorder means, “My thinking is sick”. What a horrible label to inflict on any human being, let alone a small child. Why? Because for years educators have told policymakers that the problem with our educational system is money. The saddest part is there are simple inexpensive ways to fix the environment.
What has added to the problem and contributed to our crowded prisons is the self-serving support of the pharmaceutical companies to medicate children with alleged mental disorders. And when there is a family history of addiction, putting children on amphetamines or other mood-altering drugs is like playing Russian Roulette with their futures. Behavioral experts will cite literature that proves they understand brain chemistry and claim the ability to control the use of these drugs. Practicing drug addicts and alcoholics share similar beliefs.
So when Governor Branstad presented his plan for improving education in Iowa, I get it. He brought the same old experts to the table to develop a plan. Thinking that doing a better job of screening teachers and making principals more involved in mentoring teachers may seem like a logical approach. But what if these principals and teachers, like the principal at the Plymouth Middle School, don’t know how to educate these children? All that will trickle down to the children is anger, frustration, blame and the creation of even more mental disorders.
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