In today’s op ed piece, one father wants to discuss what may be obvious about ADHD why schools may be the problem. School atmospheres, particularly at the elementary school level, have changed little to accommodate children who struggle with ADD-ADHD.

We know much more about the brain and the physiological workings of ADD-ADHD, but our approach to helping children to succeed in spite of the challenges they face is still evolving. 

 Yes, there is medication, yes there are behavioral modification exercises, but at the heart of it, is ADD-ADHD that difficult to meet with enthusiasm and innovative teaching methods to engage students and help them learn by focusing on their passions?

This article explores just that. The author was a student with ADD-ADHD in the mid 1970s and he has a son with ADHD. He brings a wealth of first-hand experience and a new paradigm regarding ADD-ADHD.

School, particularly elementary school, was not for boys like me. And, 25 years later, even the best schools have changed only slightly. Like many others who deviated from the norm, I learned more from exploring my passions than I ever did from a structured school setting. With the help of numerous mentors, I taught myself to write op-eds, lead teams, speak, and advocate. I cared about ideas, not primarily because of school, but in spite of it. The Washington, D.C., area, alive with political discourse, was the perfect place to exercise my passions, and I moved here in my early twenties to take a job in advocacy.

ADHD Why Schools May Be the Problem and Do Our Schools Really Work?

Now I have two boys of my own, neither of whom has an ordinary learning style. My teenage son goes to what is widely considered an excellent private school in the area, with wonderful, committed teachers. But, like nearly every other educational institution in America, it’s built on an outmoded model.

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I began to question the current model of education when the headmaster of my son’s school showed a video clip at a graduation ceremony of Ken Robinson, speaker, author, and international advisor on education in the arts, discussing how education kills creativity. Robinson, author of The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything, maintains that we are using a model of education, left over from the Industrial Revolution, in which schools are organized along factory lines. “We educate kids in batches, as if the most important thing about them is their date of manufacture,” he states in another video on the topic.

Influenced by Robinson, best-selling author Seth Godin recently published a manifesto, Stop Stealing Dreams, on the need for radical education reform.

He lays out the need for a post-industrial educational model that caters to diverse learning styles, passion for ideas, and what students care about. In such a school, teachers are coaches who help students in a journey of self-discovery. Students have a lot of choice in determining what they study and how they study it, in stark contrast to the one-size-fits-all system of today.

Your child is right when he says he will never use trigonometry (unless so inclined). Exposing him to variety is one thing, but forcing the same subject on him for 13 years is another. In the modern marketplace, depth is as important, if not more so, than breadth. Schools are all about breadth.

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DAVID BERNSTEIN is a nonprofit executive who lives in Gaithersburg, Maryland. He has two sons, ages seven and 15.

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