The Globe and Mail ran a six part series on boys and education. As a mother of three boys and a former teacher, I was interested in reading the opinions of various experts.
The stand-out point for me was the discussion surrounding the alarming number of students being medicated for Attention Deficit Hyper Activity Disorder (ADHD). Along with the rise in diagnosis is the number of children being prescribed Ritalin with the majority of cases being identified in young boys.
The article identifies that the only way ADHD can be diagnosed is by reviewing reports authored by parents and teachers about a child’s behaviour. The question that comes to my mind, is it possible that we have created an educational system that stifles a boy’s natural instincts (to be fair, some girls too) to be physically active and in constant motion? Is it possible that we are trying to manipulate a square peg in a round hole?
Generations ago children played outside, walked to and from school, were responsible for helping with household chores. In effect these actions helped to “get the beans out”. Maybe our sedentary lifestyles, complete with video games, t.v., car-pools and heavy after-school programming has attributed to children being under-stimulated, both physically and emotionally. After all, playing outside for hours on end not only encourages children to use their imaginations but also to be active.
Who knows? Maybe thirty years ago there were just as many ADHD kids but we just didn’t have a name for it. Maybe those kids were labeled “bad”. Regardless, if the numbers of boys being diagnosed ADHD is on the rise, then do we not owe it to our boys to review the education system where they spend between six and eight hours a day?
I grew up in the “girls are just the same as boys” era. We were told that we were the same as boys and could do anything that our counterparts could do. But now, as the mom of three boys, I see that message is flawed. Yes we can do the same things boys can do but there are some fundamental differences between the sexes. Leonard Sax and Barry McDonald both have researched and written extensively on the subject of boys and gender differences. I have found their findings to resonate with me and have helped me to understand my boys’ behaviour.
For example, they physically are not able to sit at the dinner for 20 minutes without fidgeting, they have to jump on couches, everything must be tossed into the air like a ball (forks, shoes, books, etc.), physical contact is necessary in relaying their messages especially when they are toddlers . . . it’s not their fault. It’s in their genes. It’s in their wiring.
I understand that there are societal norms that my boys have to adhere to, but I want to know that the education system is taking steps to understand how the sexes learn differently. Prescribing drugs is a dangerous band-aid solution that may simply prove to only sedate our children while damaging their self-esteem.
photo credit: http://encefalus.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/08/ritalin.jpg