By Greg O’Brien, Codfish Press
We all tend to push a bit—some of us shove—to gain an advantage for our children, assuming as parents that we always know what’s best for them, simply by virtue of our ability to conceive offspring. It’s evolution at its highest rung, as we attempt collectively to prod our children through intense sports training, accelerated standardized testing, too much stimulation at an early age and mind-altering psychiatric drugs. The result may be a generation left behind by over-aggressive parents, some intent on building monuments to their intellectual and athletic prowess, real or imagined.
The fifth-year anniversary of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, also known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB), is raising new debate over methods of motivating children as the law comes up for discussion. The statute requires schools to improve, but how we measure real learning can be as oblique as a hypotenuse. For 12 years I’ve served on a regional school committee in a district considered among the best in Massachusetts, and we still haven’t gotten it right.
Many restless parents these days seem to be taking education into their own hands, influenced by an array of self-help videos and books to further stimulate their “child prodigies” or by agreeing to over-medicate children with assumed attention deficit and hyperactive disorders on the marketing pitch of publicly-traded drug companies who stand to increase profit margins from the sale of it.
A landmark University of Washington study has found that “by age 2, 90 percent of children are watching television for an average of more than 90 minutes a day,” according to a Boston Globe Sunday report, noting the harmful impact on an infant’s swiftly developing brain that can “put children at higher risk for attention problems, reading comprehension and obesity” later in life from exposure to the tube. Most parents, the report says, are using television as an educational enhancement. Disclosing that her four-month-old son has been watching television since birth, one woman interviewed proclaims, “He really seems to pay attention.”
So does my dog, Sox, when action movies or sports are airing, and she’s not going to first grade any time soon.
What’s even more distressing are the psychiatric, sometimes suicide inducing, cocktails administered today to children and teens in an attempt to curb obsessive-compulsive disorders, many of them misdiagnosed. More than 1.5 million children and teens nationwide are prescribed at least two psychiatric drugs, and more than a half million children are taking three such medications, according to a New York Times report.
Obvious examples of children at risk and child genius abound, and parents should be quick to respond. The rest of us ought take the summer off from over-stimulating our children, chill out, and enjoy it with the kids.