Drugged Kindergartners

The Indianapolis Star has been doing a series of stories each Sunday for many weeks now on the plight, follies and successes at a couple of Indianapolis Public Schools. This week, they take us to School 61’s crop of kindergarten classes. This part stuck out to me:

When Gary Campbell transferred into School 61 in September, he was unable to sit still in class. He was disruptive. Almost every day he went home with a note in his backpack saying he had misbehaved.

His doctor said he might have an attention deficit disorder and recommended medication to treat it.

His mother, Nitasha Price, was reluctant at first to get the prescription filled. But within days of doing so, she and teacher Shirley Chappell began to see big changes in Gary. His scores on the progress exams doubled.

“He couldn’t get anything on paper until he got his medicine,” Chappell said. “He could hear; he could give it to you verbally. But he didn’t get anything down until they calmed him down a bit.”

In that sense, kindergarten — which isn’t required in Indiana but is offered in Indianapolis Public Schools thanks to federal money — serves as an early safety net to catch those problems at the earliest stage.

Translation: Rather than help this child channel his energy into creative outlets for learning, we drugged him so we could make him learn the arbitrary standards we’ve made up.

I get that they don’t have many resources, but a system designed to mold every child into the same general “kind” of learner is dangerous. Maybe that kid would excel at painting, dancing, singing or some other activity where you have to be up and moving. Instead, we just pigeon-holed him so he could arbitrarily fit into the designated holes alongside people who just happen to be the same age as him. In 20 years, maybe he’ll be lucky and get to work at an insurance company or a phone bank thanks to the miracles of modern education.


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