John Rosemond April 2017 Columns
Copyright 2017, John K. Rosemond
The 'Invention' of ADHD
In 2009, pediatrician and former medical school professor Bose Ravenel and I published “The Diseasing of America’s Children” (Thomas Nelson), in which we argued from facts that ADHD and other childhood behavior disorders were inventions of the psychological-psychiatric-pharmaceutical industry.
Cancer, high cholesterol, influenza, measles, and a broken bone are realities. Using various tests, physicians can prove their existence. No one has proven the reality of ADHD, oppositional defiant disorder, or bipolar disorder of childhood. They are constructs.
Drugs used to treat verifiable physical disease and disorder are based on fact. Drugs used to “treat” childhood behavior disorders are based on theories that no researcher has ever established as true. That is why said pharmaceuticals do not reliably outperform placebos in clinical trials.
Just to be clear: I am not saying ADHD is over-diagnosed; I am saying it does not exist. It is a fiction. I’ve been saying this since the early 1980s and have been the target, since then, of much professional and parent criticism, even scorn. Russell Barkley, for example, widely regarded as the world’s leading expert on ADHD, equates me with Scientologists and claims that I believe television causes ADHD. He cannot honestly debate me, so he mocks me and distorts what I have actually said.
Now Barkley has another psychologist he can mock. This time, however, the psychologist in question is Harvard professor Jerome Kagan, the author of numerous books and research papers on children and child development. I studied Kagan in graduate school. I’m certain Barkley did as well. A peer-ranking of the top 100 psychologists of all time puts Kagan at number 22.
In the January, 2017 edition of CuriousMindMagazine.com (“Renowned Harvard Psychologist Says ADHD Largely a Fraud”), Kagan is quoted as saying that ADHD is “an invention.” Referring to the drugs used to supposedly treat ADHD, Kagan says that if a drug is available, physicians will use it. He goes on to challenge the diagnosis of childhood bipolar disorder, the very concept of mental illness, and asserts that rates of teen depression and anxiety are grossly inflated. Sadness and anxiety are normal events during adolescence, says Kagan.
Who benefits from these falsehoods? Psychiatrists, psychologists, and the pharmaceutical industry. He describes his own (and my) profession as “self-interested.” That is scathing but no different than what I’ve been saying about psychology for the past twenty years: specifically, clinical psychology does not qualify as a science; rather, it is an ideology. If it was truly a science, people like Barkley would be willing to engage me and Dr. Ravenel in serious debate instead of just hurling insults and attempting to shut me up (see www.kentucky.com/living/family/article42629730.html).
Before a recent talk at a school, I was asked by the administration not to share my views on ADHD because they might upset parents whose kids have received the diagnosis. I honored the request. Nonetheless, the parents in question are the very parents who most need to know the truth. It will not be hidden much longer.
Bring Back Vocational Education in High Schools
During my sophomore year at Proviso West High School in Hillside, Illinois, my guidance counselor, Mr. Gusloff, refused my request to take auto shop because I was, he said, college-bound and my presence in a vocational program would take space needed by a student who was not so destined. I was disappointed, and I felt then, as I still do, that he was wrong to pigeon-hole me and limit my options, but I had no choice but to accept his decision. I never even told my parents, both of whom held Ph.D.’s. They would have only shrugged their shoulders anyway. This was long before parents were “involved” with their kids.
Back then (1960s), nearly every high school in America and especially those, like PWHS, that served lots of kids from blue collar households, offered vocational education. In addition to auto shop, Proviso offered machine shop, woodworking, plumbing, and other trades. Today, despite the fact that America still needs mechanics, machinists, plumbers, and so on, and despite the fact that (POLITICAL INCORRECTNESS ALERT!!!) some kids, for various reasons, simply are not college material, it is the rare high school that offers vocational education.
Which is one reason why the outstanding bill for government-issued college loans currently stands at, in round numbers, one trillion dollars, a good amount of which will never be repaid. It also goes a long way toward explaining why more than five million jobs are currently going begging in the USA. My solution to this would be to require high school guidance counselors to assume half the college loan debt of former students whom they should have told “Sorry, but you aren’t college material” but didn’t. If their bad advice cost them something, perhaps they’d think twice before doling it out.
Parents want their kids to go to college, two reasons being they (a) like to brag about their kids and (b) believe college equates to success. High school guidance counselors are also incentivized to encourage college and help kids obtain acceptance letters. School administrators like to brag, too. They like to talk about how many of their graduates go to college. They never talk about the number who don’t finish, finish with crippling debt, or can’t find jobs after graduation.
The high school dropout rate has declined in recent years to around 7 percent, but the number is misleading because, let’s face it, a good number of students drop out but still occupy desks. Voc-tech would promote student motivation, increase literacy, and significantly reduce dropout rates. Reducing dropout rates would reduce crime, drug use, and various other social ills.
Then there’s the matter of the jobs that are waiting for the kids in question. Employment opportunities in skilled trades for high school graduates who aren’t college material are the best possible antidote to poverty. Employment further reduces crime, drug use, etc. and also fosters the formation of families, thus promoting responsible child-rearing. In short, the societal benefits of voc-tech are numerous and far-reaching.
Every American, regardless of political persuasion, should get behind President Trump’s plan to reinstate vocational education in America’s high schools. I’m fairly certain that if he was still alive, Mr. Gusloff would.
Don't Fret About Teen Son With Average Grades
Q: Our 17-year-old son is an unmotivated student. A junior in high school, he is clearly capable of making straight A’s, but typically makes B’s and C’s. He plays on both the football and tennis teams, but is a standout at neither. He thinks kids who use drugs and play video games are “stupid” and his friends are all good kids, most of whom make better grades. He’s polite, well-mannered, and respectful. Other adults rave about what an impressive kid he is. Meanwhile, we’re pulling our hair out. We’ve talked to him many times about the fact that his grades are eliminating lots of college options, but it’s in one ear, out the other. We’ve taken away his driving privileges, his cell phone (he doesn’t have a smart phone), and even threatened to cancel his summer camp program, which he loves, but these attempted wake-up calls fail to wake him up. Do you have any suggestions?
A: My policy concerning situations of this sort to leave well enough alone. Your son is doing well enough in school. He isn’t attracted to the wrong crowd. He eschews both chemical and electronic drugs. He plays sports. He’s not cutting himself, breaking the law, and so on and so forth. When all is said and done, he gives you no serious problems. He’s giving himself a problem and someday he’s going to have to confront the problem he’s giving himself and that will be the wake-up call you’re looking for so vainly. At that point, he will have to figure out how to deal with going to a second-tier college. If he’s as smart as you say he is, then there’s every reason to believe he will figure out how to make lemonade out of lemons.
You, like most of today’s parents, are all stressed-out and bent out of shape over a problem that parents of 60 years ago would have responded to with a shrug of their shoulders. But then, that was when parents weren’t “involved.” They allowed their children the freedom to fail, which is the most valuable and instructive freedom of all. They realized that when all was said and done on their parts, the greatest of all instructors was Life itself.
You’re not getting it, obviously. You’ve done your best. There’s nothing more you can do. Stop stressing yourselves out by trying to find the magic motivational elixir—the right words, the right consequence—that is going to cause your son to come home one day and exclaim, “Mom! Dad! I finally figured it out! I’m going to be a good if not great student from this day forth! Mark it down on the calendar as the day I turned my life around! Oh happy day!”
It’s not going to happen, not any time soon. Furthermore, my vast and valuable experience leads me to believe that the more you try to fix said problem, the more blasé he will become concerning said problem.
Today’s parents tend to be fixated on their kids’ grades, but grades are not the final measure of a young person. Character is. In that regard, your son’s grades may be slack, but his character is anything but. Congratulations!
Leave well enough alone. Stop yanking your hair out. Back off. Enjoy your last couple of years with your son. Put the ball in his court and celebrate. After all, you’ve obviously done a good job. It’s his responsibility to do the rest.
Kids Are Happiest When Obedient
Q: I’ve read enough of your writings to know that you believe children should be obedient, that they should do what they are told. I want my children to think for themselves and to question authority, not to blindly obey simply because someone is bigger than they are. I don’t want them thinking that “might makes right.” What’s with wanting children to be robots?
A: To paraphrase Steven Stills (of Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young fame), your question is continuing evidence that the utopianism of the 1960s struck deep into the heart of America, and especially American parenting, and is still lodged there.
I’m as familiar with research into child development, child behavior, and parenting as anyone can be. Some, maybe even most, isn’t worth the paper on which it’s printed, but the best evidence from the best research is that the happiest kids are also the most obedient. No matter where one finds an arbitrarily rebellious individual (I speak from significant personal experience here), one finds a malcontent.
Children are, by nature, rebellious. Mind you, they have no rational reason to be rebellious (someone else—generally, the very person or people toward whom they are the most rebellious—is supporting them); therefore, their rebelliousness is arbitrary. That rebellious nature compromises their mental, emotional, and social health. It is in their best interests that they become obedient. Whereas parents of obedient children enjoy advantages and conveniences not enjoyed by parents of disobedient children, the benefits of obedience accrue primarily to the child. Likewise, the price of disobedience is ultimately borne by the child.
There is no evidence to the effect that obedient children do not or will not be able to think for themselves—that they are or will become “robots” vulnerable to having their minds controlled by every evil ideologue who comes along. Excuse me, but the notion is nothing short of silly. In the first place, being a parent involves the desire to pass your values to your progeny. It is a trait common to responsible parents across the “diversity” spectrum that they want their children to think like they do. If you hold to a certain ideological bias, you don’t want your kids to hold to another one entirely. Do you? No, you don’t.
Excuse my bluntness, but when all is said and done, this business of “I want my children to think for themselves” is nothing but a means of proclaiming one’s moral superiority—one’s tolerance and acceptance of every and all points of view. Besides, it doesn’t matter what you teach your kids; when they grow up they will examine the options available to them and they will, ultimately, “think for themselves.” Even if they end up subscribing to your values, they have arrived at that conclusion through the process of free will.
Obedience on the part of a child to legitimate adult authority figures is an act of trust; to wit, the child trusts that said adult is always acting in his or her (the child’s) best interest, even when the child does not like what the adult has done or decided. The child trusts; therefore, the child obeys. The opposite is equally true, by the way.