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The Gene Pool of Education

January 12, 2011 Leave a comment

The gene pool for our present “modern” educational system originated in the 18th century with the onset of the industrial revolution. The effort began with the big bosses wanting to have a literate factory worker who could follow directions, do what they were told to do, and manage assembly line components.

The creation of the public education system began with the same idea as assembly line worker skills: group children by age, place them in manageable class sizes, give each student a book of information on the subject they were to study, put the authoritarian, “educator”, in front of the room, provide a chalkboard and eraser, and have each student sit obediently quiet while taking notes and memorizing what they were taught so they could pass a standardized test on the subject.

Today’s (2011) public education system puts children in separate classes for each subject where they cannot see how connections of knowledge happen; it educates them in batches according to their age, like an assembly line, and when they are ready to graduate we date stamp them with their year of completion, “Class of 2011”.

“Real” education does not commence in the production line mentality. It begins with the creativity and innovation our children experience all the moments they are not in our assembly line schools. It seems these days they learn more outside the classroom on their own than they do in class. I am sure you all know a high school student or younger, for that matter, who knows more about how to manipulate the internet and their computer than most educators do!

That was the 18th century. This is 2011 and not much has changed as far as the public education gene pool.

Consider this, in the 18th century we did not have television, internet, desk tops, laptops, iPods, iPhones, gaming, cell phones, Facebook, Twitter, real time knowledge, space travel, and a multitude of other momentous inventions and events. BUT, the public education system, teachers and unions, continue to resist movement that would change this 18th century model that deadens our children with BOREDOM. Go sit in a class your children are attending. See what you think? Are you bored by the presentation? How do these kids stay awake?

This 21st century is about innovation, creativity, strategic intelligence, communication, technology, and personal exploration and group interaction. It is NOT about learning how to put this gidget with that gadget. This is the most exciting and challenging time in our history. It is about collaboration, learning in groups, sharing knowledge, creating many solutions to one problem. It is about engaging and exciting our youth; it is about challenging them to find the best that is within them; it is about setting them on fire with enthusiasm and knowledge that is directly related to their world, which is filled with amazing visual, audio, and informational experiences every minute of every hour!

Children come to school with heightened sensory perceptions. They can’t sit still because the world outside their classroom is technologically bombarded and in constant motion. Yet, the educational gene pool insists they sit quietly, take notes, listen, and pass standardized tests, all of which attempts to homogenize our society. They must all be the same. Have you ever wondered what the explosion in ADHD drugs is all about? Is it about a real phenomenon or is it about misunderstanding a generation of children whose senses, intellect, and behavior are heightened to levels that parents and teachers have never experienced because they come from a generation that listened all in a row, took notes, memorized, and passed standardized tests.

My son, whose early education was in our home school, sent me a video to watch called, Changing Education Paradigms. It was a joy to see Ken Robinson’s thoughts as they positively reaffirmed what I have followed all the years with my own children. It is worth the 10 minutes you will take to see it. It is enlightening and entertaining. Ken talks about divergent thinking. They tested 1500 children when they were in kindergarten by asking how many uses they could find for a paper clip. They then repeated the divergent thinking test when these same children were 8 to 10 and 13 to 15. When they were in kindergarten 98% of them were divergent thinkers. As they were processed through the educational gene pool they drastically lost this ability to a point where the researchers discovered this ability to think divergently in these children mostly deteriorated.

How hilarious is it when we tell our students there is one answer to the question; it is in the back of the book; don’t look, don’t copy because that’s cheating! We should be waking our children up to what is inside themselves, to all the possibilities that exist in their world. They are already exploring all of this outside the classroom; it’s called COLLABORATION!

Anthropologists say it takes millions of years of evolution for stimulus to change or cleanse the gene pool. If parents, teachers, and the gene pool system don’t wake up to the real world of our children, they will have created Zombies. They will be unable to compete in their world, whose technology is doubling at immeasurable rates.

“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act”
George Orwell

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Families in Crisis; The Last Child in the Woods

“What is the extinction of a condor

to a child who has never seen a wren?”

Naturalist Robert Michael Pyle

We raised our sons in the Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee. They went to bed with the sound of crickets and woke up with the songs of birds.  I describe their experiences of growing up with nature in “Peek-A-Boo, I See You!” I knew that nature and its quiet presence was essential for their mental and physical well being, because of what it did for me to walk in the woods, dig in a garden, and care for the many small animals that filtered into and out of our lives. Now they are grown men. The experiences of nature in their early childhood instilled an inner peace and serenity that strengthens with each challenge they must meet as men and the woods and its small creatures created a breadth of compassion within them that is touching and disarming.

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth

find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.”

Rachel Carson

Millions of our children only experience asphalt and concrete. They never dig in the dirt, plant a seed, or harvest a garden. They never walk in a stream, catch salamanders, or glimpse a fish. They live without ever seeing a cow in a field, smelling a green pasture after a rain, or rescue a wounded animal. My friend Warren, who is retired from the National Parks Service, gave me a book to read, “Last Child in the Woods – Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder”, by Richard Louv. It is a wonderful book and should be read by every parent who loves their child. I began the book on an airplane and am almost finished.

Have you ever read a book where you keep nodding in agreement with many of the passages. Mr. Louv eloquently speaks to many of my intuitive thoughts and perspectives about children and their need for nature. He created the term “Nature – Deficit Disorder”. He has nailed it! What follows are a few of his observations and the pressing need for parents to bring their children back to the earth and into the woods.

  • Some of the human costs of alienation from nature are: a diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties, and higher rates of physical and emotional illnesses. Long standing studies show a relationship between the absence of parks and open space with high crime rates, depression, and other urban maladies.
  • Biophilia, defined as the urge for humans to affiliate with other life forms, is the hypothesis of Edward O. Wilson, Harvard Scientist and Pulitzer Prize winner. His decade of research reveals how strongly and positively people respond to open, grassy landscapes, scattered stands of trees, meadows, water, winding trails, and elevated views.
  • Dr. Benjamin Rush, a signer of the American Declaration of Independence, declared, “digging in the soil has curative effects on the mentally ill.” Carl Menninger led a horticultural therapy movement in the Veterans Administration Hospital system which demonstrated the therapeutic benefits of gardening for people with chronic illnesses. Research has shown that people experience a significant decrease in blood pressure simply by watching fish in an aquarium.
  • A 10 year study by Howard Frumkin at Emory University’s School of Public Health shows gall bladder patients leaving the hospital sooner when their rooms faced a grove of trees as opposed to patients whose rooms faced a brick wall.
  • The childhood link between outdoor activity and physical activity is clear according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Two out of ten children are clinically obese – four times the rate reported in the 1960’s. This obesity epidemic has coincided with the greatest increase in organized sports for children in our history. What are kids missing that soccer and Little League cannot provide? They miss the physical and emotional exercise that children enjoy when they play in nature. It is more varied and less time-bound than organized sports.
  • It is proven that “kids get depressed” when deprived of physical activity in nature. A 2003 survey in the journal of Psychiatric Services found the rate at which American children are prescribed antidepressants almost doubled in five years with the steepest increase – 66% – among preschool children. (my emphasis).
  • Cornell University Environmental Psychologists reported in 2003 that life’s stressful events appear not to cause as much psychological distress in children who live in high-nature conditions compared with children who live in low-nature conditions. The protective impact of nearby nature is strongest for the most vulnerable children – those experiencing high levels of stressful life events.
  • For a whole generation of children, direct experiences in the backyard, in the tool shed, in the fields and woods, has been replaced by indirect learning, through machines. Even though children are smart we know that something is missing as they sit in rooms and interact with machines instead of humans and the natural world.
  • Only seven states even require elementary schools to  hire certified physical education teachers. This has occurred in a country where 40% of 5 to 8 year olds suffer cardiac risk factors such as obesity.
  • Nearly 8 million children in the U.S. suffer from mental disorders, and ADHD is one of the most prevalent ones. Frances Kuo, Andrea Taylor and William Sullivan of the University of Illinois, have found green outdoor spaces foster creative play, improve children’s access to positive adult interaction and relieves the symptoms of ADD. To take nature and natural play away from children may be tantamount to withholding oxygen. (my emphasis)
  • Children’s Hospital in Seattle maintains that each hour of TV watched per day by preschoolers increases by 10% the likelihood that they will develop concentration problems and other symptoms of attention-deficit disorders by age 7.
  • Swedish researchers compared children within two daycare settings: one a quiet play area surrounded by tall buildings, with low plants and a brick path; the other a play area based on an outdoor all weather theme set in an orchard surrounded by pasture and woods, adjacent to an overgrown garden with tall trees and rocks. The ”green” day care children, who played outside every day, regardless of weather, had better motor coordination and more ability to concentrate.
  • According to the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, two-thirds of American children can’t pass a basic physical: 40% of boys and 70% of girls ages 6 to 17 can’t manage more than one pull-up; and 40% show early signs of heart and circulation problems.

”Teaching children about the natural world should be treated

as one of the most important events in their lives.”

Thomas Berry

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