In the first two blogs in this series I have looked at the way ‘recipes’ have increasingly rule our lives. Some would say that this has always been the case and that society needs to be based around order.
However, the big difference in the past was that those that didn’t fit the recipe were still accepted. People that were good with their hands or were artistic and non-academic were still valued and diversity was encouraged rather than frowned upon. You were allowed to be different rather than being labeled as an academic failure.
Because of my advanced years I can remember the time when the eccentric was embraced and where the mad scientist was a proud epithet not a term of derision; a time where variety was the norm rather than conformity.
The problem was that the academic system rewarded the academic rather than the creative, the manual working achievers and the artists. Many of those that followed the ‘academic highway’ to the end became the lawyers. The lawyers became lawmakers and the virtuous self-perpetuating circle was complete.
Over half of the United States Senate was in law while only five of the congress came from an arts background. There are twice as many car dealers in Congress as there are musicians!
So having set the recipe there became a need to deal with the non-conformists. These were the people that didn’t want to sit still and be bored by theory all day. Suddenly this natural creative and inquisitive spirit in young people got itself a medical name. In the 1980s the condition known as ADHD was defined.
Now it may be a coincidence, but the first signs of an ADHD epidemic began in California where, in Los Angeles alone, there are over 1500 therapists charging an average of 100-150 dollars an hour to diagnose ADHD. Steadily this epidemic has spread across the States so that today as many as one in ten children in Washington have ADHD.
So how do these children with ADHD get dealt with? As of 2007 there were 2.7 million children in the USA on medication, which usually meant Ritalin, which has some pharmacological similarities with cocaine. So, although it was good news for the drug companies, what we were doing was drugging the young people that didn’t fit the recipe.
I was reminded of the story of a girl called Gillian Lynne who can be looked up on the web. At an early age she was sent to a doctor because of her fidgeting and inattentiveness. The doctor diagnosed that she was not ill, did not have a psychological problem but that she wanted to be a dancer. Today she would probably been put on Ritalin. However, instead her mother took her to dance lessons. She went on to become a ballerina at the Royal Ballet followed by a career on the London musical stage and later as a choreographer she choreographed Phantom of the Opera and Cats amongst other production.
I wonder just how many more Gillian Lynne’s there are out there that, instead of dancing or singing or painting or working with their hands, are drugged into an educational world of boredom that has no relevance to who they are and who they want to be.
Let’s stop feeding the bottom line of the pharmaceutical shareholders and lets start mining that deep talent of creativity and inquisitiveness that we are all born with instead of tossing it away because the recipe says we don’t need it in the cupboard.