The Price of a Dumbed-Down, Drugged-Up Society

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When we take our Thomas Edisons of today, put them in the corner and tell them to shut up, obey, or be drugged, we are threatening the future of our society.

When Thomas Edison was a boy, his school administrator said Thomas had an “addled” brain. Edison’s mother pulled him out of school and the young investor was homeschooled for most of the rest of his education.

These days, we don’t used the word “addled” — we might prefer ADHD. 

In his book Free to Learn, psychologist Peter Gray points out that as much as 12% of our kids are prescribed drugs due to being labeled ADHD. In a Psychology Today article, Gray cites one study in which, when it was left to teachers, as much as one-fourth of boys in classrooms would be labeled ADHD.

…And then likely prescribed strong medication.

Many of these kids are labeled with a “disorder” because they act out or talk in class — or perhaps more interested and passionate about some subjects than others.

Gray writes about research showing that children who were prescribed drugs to “deal” with their ADHD in structured classrooms were taken off medication when they were moved into more “unconventional schooling” (such as homeschooling) that allowed them to be more creative and thrive in an unstructured environment.

He also writes of the increase in strict structure and lack of free play among children builds to growing cases of anxiety and loss of sense of control among older teenagers.

They’ve been so coddled and protected and taught to obey and comply for the entire life, that when it comes time for them to become adults, they simply have problem making the choices necessary to to so.

As John Taylor Gatto, a 30-year teacher and New York State Teacher of the Year (and author of Dumbing Us Down: The  Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling) wrote, “Children learn what they live. Put kids in a class and they will live out their lives in an invisible cage, isolated from their chance at community; interrupt kids with bells and horns all the time and they will learn that nothing is important or worth finishing; ridicule them and they will retreat from human association; shame them and they will find a hundred ways to get even. The habits taught in large-scale organizations are deadly.”  

So it comes as no surprise this past week, that one millennial therapist gained headlines for saying a major challenge facing her clients is anxiety brought about my “decision fatigue.”

As I discuss in the video above, decision fatigue is a very real thing for everyone. There is plenty of data to back this up. Perhaps more recognizably, it’s the reason Steve Jobs wore the same outfit every day — to cut down on the amount of small decisions he made every day, to save his mental energy for the big ones.

But if decision fatigue is, in fact, more extreme among Millenials, we just might be able to tie it back to the comply-and-control, obey-or-be-drugged society in which they are raised.

As Gatto also wrote, “”Whatever an education is, it should make you a unique individual, not a conformist; it should furnish you with an original spirit with which to tackle the big challenges; it should allow you to find values which will be your road map through life; it should make you spiritually rich, a person who loves whatever you are doing, wherever you are, whomever you are with; it should teach you what is important, how to live and how to die.”

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