Is ADHD Spurred by Schools?

Can a four-year old child in kindergarten “fall behind” in learning two weeks after starting school? According to notes being sent home from teachers in New York City to mothers of these youngsters, yes. Today children are being asked to learn more, perform better, rank higher and qualify sooner than their counterparts 10, 20, 30 years ago, and it shows. Is the startling number of children diagnosed with Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in fact spurred by schools today?

According to Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University, childhood anxiety and depression, as measured by various psychological tests given to children in school, has reportedly risen to where today a startling 85 percent of young people rank higher than the average for the same group 50 years ago. Depression and anxiety seem to be markers of ill-contented children who feel out of control and often “act out” in school. As stated in a recent New York Times article – ADHD “is the most prevalent psychiatric illness of young people in America.” Why is that?

What About Play- Peter Gray, evolutionary developmental psychologist states in his book Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life, “We are pushing the limits of children’s adaptability. We have pushed children into an abnormal environment, where they are expected to spend ever greater portions of their day under adult direction, sitting at desks, listening to and reading about things that don’t interest them, and answering questions that are not their own and are not, to them, real questions. We leave them ever less time and freedom to play, explore, and pursue their own interests.”

Gray is an advocate for free-play and the awareness that children learn best through self-led activities that are free of adult supervision, outside and with other children. He explains how it is in the nature of children to learn this way. By observing hunter-gatherer tribes all over the world he has documented how children allowed to explore and play for the majority of their time become more productive members of society, learn better, comprehend more thoroughly and over-all display greater respect for the other members of their “tribe” or “people” than are their western counterparts who attend standardized schools.

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