Hi Ben & Jim–
Your story tears at my heart because I had a similar experience 40 years ago when I was a 6-year-old boy in grade school in the late 1960s. Ritalin was fairly new on the market, and schools and shrinks were just getting into the act of drugging kids who were bored with the “education” they were receiving in government indoctrination camps (aka “schools”). Like you and most boys with above average intelligence, I found school to be incredibly boring and felt the need to talk out of turn, doodle on my workbook, read things other than what were part of the plan, etc. The teacher sent me down to the school psychologist (a fairly new job title back in 1968) to find out what was “wrong” with me. The psychologist and the teacher had a counseling session with my mother and I, and he determined that I was “hyperactive” (they didn’t call it ADHD back then) and some Ritalin was just what the doctor ordered. My Mom filled the prescription for psychoactive drugs, and VOILA!–I became a walking Zombie overnight! I’m sure my teacher was very happy during the few days I was doped up in her classroom, but when my father came home from an out-of-town business trip, he was anything but pleased.
(Full disclosure about my Mom: She loves me very much and wasn’t trying to harm me. She thought she was helping me. Unfortunately, my Mom has a blind spot when it comes to trusting authority. If a guy with a lab coat, an advanced degree, or a shiny badge tells her to do something, she will do it. I’ve been working on her about this authoritarian crap my entire life to no avail.)
My father came home from working out of town to find his normally energetic, extremely talkative six-year-old son moping at the kitchen table with a glazed look in his eyes. He immediately knew something was wrong but not knowing the cause, he asked my Mom what was going on. Had I had a bad day in school? Was I being punished for something? When my Mom told him what had gone on that week at school while he was away, my father HIT THE FREAKING ROOF!!! He first gave my Mom an earful about it, and knowing my father I’m sure voices were raised (mostly his) and fists were pounded on tables. The Ritalin went into the trash immediately. Whoever prescribed the drugs suffered my father’s wrath next.
Back in the 1960s, “better living through chemistry” was the motto of both the medical establishment and the counterculture. Of course, Big Pharma was trying to gain a larger clientele by hook or by crook. (Oh, wait–Some things never change. Thankfully, my father trusted his own wisdom over that of the “doctors.”) The next morning, my father called the principal of the school and reamed her a new one.
He was rightfully appalled that the schools would recommend drugging children as a first option rather than using the children’s feedback of boredom to improve the “educational” system (which can’t be improved in its current incarnation by the way–The school system is rotten to the core. Personal teaching and learning is by far the best way to educate, and anyone who is interested should read “The Underground History of American Education’ by John Taylor Gatto. It’s both comprehensive and brilliant.)
However, my father did insist that if the regular class work could not keep my mind engaged, the school had better assign me some additional, more challenging assignments. The principal babbled some lame apology to my father and within a week, I and another above average kid (coincidentally my close friend and next door neighbor Chris) were placed at a table in the rear of the classroom with advanced work–simply textbooks and workbooks from the third grade (we were in first grade at the time). When we finished with the third grade material (in several months), we moved on to the fourth grade math & reading books. By the time I was actually in the fourth grade, I was reading at the eighth grade level and my boredom problem was solved by me sneak reading books of my choice in class while the teacher droned on about stuff I already knew. Of course, I was occasionally punished for this, but it sure beat the heck out of taking the Zombie pills. Thank you, DAD!!! I owe you one!
The sad thing about our country is that things have gone so far downhill in the past 40 years. My father was able to rectify the attempted dumbing down of his son simply by pounding his fist on the table, reaming several ignorant people, and asserting his parental rights. Everyone backed down, no judges forced drugs on me, and I went on to become a highly functional and successful (though often non-conformist!) individual. Obviously, things have changed for the worst when a father cannot insist on the right to educate his own son in his own way without the state insisting on drugging his child and forcing him into the government indoctrination camp.
My best advice to everyone is to keep your own mind as active and free as possible under the circumstances. Most of your “education” will not occur in school; it will occur by your own choices of topics and ideas you research in the library and on the internet. I graduated from ASU with honors in 1987 and I freely admit that most of what I was taught was absolutely useless nonsense. I knew college was crap at the time, and I have spent the past 22 years unlearning what little garbage “knowledge” took hold in my subconscious. I continuously read books of my choice when my reading skills reached the eighth-grade level (in the fourth grade) and have been educating myself since then. This may not be the “norm” in modern America, but the good news is that nobody can really control your mind–Keep educating yourself and you will be OK in the end. You will be 18 before you know it, and you will be 47 shortly after that (like me!). And it will happen much faster than you think. Life is very short, but make the most of it. It is a cool experience if you can just get through the childhood part of it where people tend to have more control over you. There are some wonderful adult experiences awaiting you if you keep an open mind and think for yourself…
(I apparently wrote this under one of my “stage names”—Hahahaha!)