A few years ago I caught part of a major network news program on genius children and their’s and their parent’s experiences with public schools pressuring them to place these children on Ritalin. Some of the parents being interviewed had found alternative ways to deal with their children’s issues, that didn’t involve years of drug use, such as Ritalin.
In this same program, a person from a national organization of American geniuses expressed concern that if Edison or Einstein were in public school today, that they may likely be diagnosed with ADHD, and drugged into “normalcy” so that they could “fit in.”
In 1999, the Center for Pediatric Research, at a children’s hospital in Virginia found that 8 to 10% of students were receiving drug therapy for Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder, commonly known as ADHD. Trends show that these numbers are likely to be increasing dramatically.
In a 2005 interview with the New York Times, James T. Webb, a clinical psychologist and author of “Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnosis of Gifted Children and Adults,” explained, “Behaviors of many gifted children can resemble those of, say, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Most teachers, pediatricians and psychologists aren’t trained to distinguish between the two. Most gifted kids are very intense, pursuing interests excessively. This often leads to power struggles, perfectionism, impatience, fierce emotions and trouble with peers. Many gifted kids have varied interests, skipping from one to the other – a trait often misinterpreted as A.D.H.D.”
In the network news program mentioned at the beginning of this article, one of the children’s mothers explained that her child had been obsessed with the state of the global environment, and agitated by that. This was deemed to be “abnormal” by the school, and was part of the reason for the decision to place her on Ritalin.
It is entirely possible that a child who is a genius was aware of the long known dangers of global warming, and the unrelenting trends of continuing rises in CO2 emissions worldwide. After having seen the recent documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” we would have to admit that such a child was “ahead of her time,” by becoming concerned and appropriately agitated by this issue, before the general public became concerned. It is very possible that these “agitated” children could become the “rabble rousering” adults who found and organize human rights, environmental, and other visionary movements that improve the lives of all of us.
This is what geniuses do. They see danger and possibility ahead of the pack. Without their ability humanity may well still be swinging rudimentary clubs, and living in caves. Advances weren’t instantaneously seen by all members of a tribe or society, but certain members of the group had insights that quickly became adopted by the others. Without those who possess the ability to be dissatisfied with the status quo, and driven to distraction from the normal everyday tasks, to vision in a greater awareness . . . human advance does not occur.
Today, our planet is sagging from the weight of 6 billion human inhabitants, and in our lifetimes this may reach 9 billion. The demands for food, energy, water, and other resources will take on a screaming shrillness that may drive our world mad . . . “UNLESS” we find new creative ways of living in a finite world (in terms of physical resources) by tapping into the limitless mines and oceans of human consciousness and creativity.
So, it becomes obvious that we are not only in dire need of the new generation of geniuses entering our public schools. But, in fact, we all need to become more creative in the future. When examined, the possibility of creating educational opportunities where gifted children, or geniuses, can flourish and offer positive influence to other students with their unusual and unique concepts of reality seem simple. Creating smaller class sizes, give students opportunity to expend energy expressing and interacting with teachers and other students. The College of Education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, suggests that smaller class sizes, while beneficial for all students, are particularly beneficial for students with ADD/ADHD.
Physical education is also an outlet of energy that can help all students, as well as those with ADHD. Yet, according to the National Children and Youth Fitness Study (NCYFS) II, overall only 36% of children/youth participate in physical education class on a daily basis, and less than 30% of class time is spent in actual physical activity.
So, the first requirement to end a dysfunctional educational process that may be causing untold numbers of our new geniuses to be often unnecessarily “normalized” with institutionalized, and often mis-diagnosed drug addiction, is for our nation to dedicate itself to funding education in a way to reduce class sizes and to increase physical education and activity in all our students.
But, there may be another even greater opportunity that can be found in implementing the aforementioned education format solutions. A recent study from the University of Miami School of Medicine, on teenagers with ADHD, found that an ancient Traditional Chinese Medical exercise therapy can profoundly improve the lives of teenagers with ADHD.
Researchers reported the positive effects of Tai Chi on the adolescents with ADHD parallel the positive effects for adults including reduced mental and emotional stress (Jin, 1992) and improved mood (Jin, 1989). Although stress hormone levels were not assayed in this study, the adolescents were perceived by their teachers as being less anxious, emotional and hyperactive following Tai Chi. The adult literature has reported reduced stress hormones (cortisol) with Tai Chi (Jin, 1992).
Tai Chi research on adults has identified changes in cardiovascular, respiratory, electroencephalographic, and biochemical levels (e.g., lower cortisol stress hormone levels) (Brown, Mucci, Hetzler, & Knowlton, 1989; Jin, 1989). Reduced sympathetic activity, or enhanced parasympathetic activity, has been considered a potential underlying mechanism (Hsu, Wang & Kappagoda, 1985). This mechanism might also account for the marked behavioral changes observed in the adolescents in this study, their research report concluded.
If these profound benefits are realized, why only have students with ADHD practicing Tai Chi daily at school? Why not, include all students, teachers and administrators of all public schools? To have calmer, clearer thinking teachers and administrators, as well as students would have a spider webbing benefit that could improve the educational experience on many levels, for all students, and not just those with ADHD. Creative solutions to complex problems are inhibited by stress in any workplace, including in our increasingly complex schools. Our students, their families, and in time, our nation is benefited by calm clear thinking educators, or conversely diminished by stressed out less creative educators.
A recent study by David Beversdorf, an assistant professor in Ohio State’s department of neurology, and Jessa Alexander, a research assistant in the department, revealed a correlation between medical students’ stress levels and their performance on various types of tests. According to Jennifer Graham, a postdoctoral fellow at OSU’s Institute of Behavioral Medicine Research,”When individuals are faced with a challenging task, they are less likely to perform well in complex situations.” The complexity of educating children effectively to deal with an increasingly complex world is the epitome of complex challenge.
Tai Chi is an elegant exercise or therapy that offers multi-dimensional benefits including, according to emerging medical research, lowering of high blood pressure; reducing incidence of anxiety, depression, and overall mood disturbance; dramatic boosting of resistance to viral infection thru increasing certain T-Cell counts; improving respiration; balance; strength; providing cardiovascular benefit; burning calories; and teaching the body how to move in ways that promote bone and muscle development while reducing strain on the body. In fact, Tai Chi has been found to be gentle enough to be safely practiced even by people with arthritis.
In a school’s busy curriculum, to bring together all the various therapies and exercises to students to provide all these physical and emotional benefits, may take up half their day. However, an hour of practicing Tai Chi in a physical education class every day at school could not only provide the above benefits to students that could last a lifetime, but also may provide many more than can be listed in an article. The international health education effort, known as World Tai Chi & Qigong Day, provides a comprehensive “searchable by malady” listing of medical research on Tai Chi and Qigong (Pronounced, chee gong, sets of Traditional Chinese Medical exercise therapies, of which Tai Chi is one of several thousand), at its website, www.worldtaichiday.org. There is a growing awareness with emerging research that there is no other known exercise that provides the multi-dimensional benefits of Tai Chi all in one simple and absolutely safe exercise.
With a twelve year education, there is no reason why students do not graduate from high school as Tai Chi masters. If they did, what could that mean to society? Heart disease, a leading cause of death in America, with massive financial costs could be dramatically reduced according to emerging research if our children were massively trained in the preventive therapy known as Tai Chi. The rapidly growing demand for anti-depressants could be profoundly reduced by adults who’d spent 12 years of public education becoming Tai Chi masters, thru one hour per day of training in Phys Ed class. Today the 6th leading cause of death in senior citizens is due to complications often from simple falling injuries due to diminished balance. Costing Americans over $10 billion annually. An Emory University study finding that Tai Chi could cut the risk of those falls in half, portends massive monetary savings by all Americans in future years, IF students are educated now in Tai Chi.
The potential savings in an economy that spends over $1 trillion annually on healthcare, and will only increase as population increases, is staggering to contemplate. These savings dwarf the relatively minimal amounts it would require to fund our education systems to reduce class sizes, provide physical education daily to all students, and teach all students Tai Chi for 12 years. The minimal costs of Tai Chi are noted in a recent report in the June 5, 2006 International Herald Tribune, “[Tai Chi] is an art that needs no special place, fancy equipment or expensive outlay, and its regular practice can build up grace, beauty and strength in a remarkable way, whatever age one may be.”
This ancient elegant, simple, and inexpensive solution to a myriad of challenges facing our education system and society at large, perhaps could be a model for other challenges facing society, locally, nationally, and internationally. As the earlier referenced researcher mentioned, we handle complex challenges better when less stressed. If the ancient mind/body technologies developed over hundreds of years by Traditional Chinese Medical researchers, that have now spread to virtually every nation on the globe, were implimented in the way emerging medical research indicates they should be by government, business and healthcare worldwide . . . we could literally see a new world within a generation. A calmer, clearer, and healthier world.
Tai Chi Chih (a unique health regimine evolved from Tai Chi) has been used in major prison systems like Folsom Maximum Security Prison in California. Initial reports (from imate organizers of the program) indicate that “incident rates” have gone down in Folsom since the program was implimented. Research also shows that such ancient Chinese health therapies can help in drug rehabilitation programs. When the cost of law enforcement, court costs, rehabilitation, and prison costs are added up, any opportunity to train young people in public education with life tools that may help them avoid even the need for such costly institutions, must be fully explored.
The future is ripe and inviting, if we can breathe, relax, and open to our creative potential enabling us to embrace the hope dangling in front of us like a ripe apple. And by cultivating and celebrating the emerging generation of potential geniuses in our schools, rather than drugging them into “normalcy,” may open the gates of hope far beyond what we can even envision at this time.
“The world we see is the one created with our thoughts.”