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Archive for August 31st, 2010

Continuing my medicalization kick (and because I haven’t talked about Huck Finn in a while), a recent post at Slate highlights the way that the behaviors that we have medicalized in children today, such as ADHD and Oppositional Defiant Disorder, likely existed long before our labels.  While this is not a surprise, the conclusion brings up an interesting point:

But if the children and the parents are familiar, the society surrounding them is not. In fact, Tom Sawyer turns out fine in the end. In 19th-century Missouri, there were still many opportunities for impulsive kids who were bored and fidgety in school. The very qualities that made him so tiresome—curiosity, hyperactivity, recklessness—are precisely the ones that get him the girl, win him the treasure, and make him a hero. Even Huck Finn is all right at the end of his story. Although he never learns to tolerate “sivilization,” he knows he can head out to “Indian territory,” to the empty West where even the loose rules of Missouri life won’t have to be followed.

Nothing like that is available to children who don’t fit in today. Instead of striking out into the wilderness like Huck Finn, they get sent to psychologists and prescribed medication—if they are lucky enough to have parents who can afford that sort of thing. Every effort will be made to help them pay attention, listen to the teacher, stop picking fights in the playground, and rightly so. Nowadays, there aren’t any other options.

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against students who don’t give a shit!

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