In the NYT magazine today there’s a short, wonderful article titled The Attention-Span Myth. It recalls for me the recent articles concerning the massive overuse of medications in treating conditions and behavior that seem pretty normal to the rest of us but have been medicalized and pathologized to make the “patients” fit into a mold.
The mold most in view for those “suffering” from ADD is school. It makes perfect sense to some people to ask children to sit still for at least 7 hours broken only by fast disappearing recesses and lunches. I wish I could be polite and say those folks are misguided, but the truth is they are stupid, plain and simple. They have reified a concept, the “attention span”, that appears to have no basis in reality. The writer, Virginia Hefernann, is a bit cruel, saying that the basis in hyperactivity as a problem arose b/c wiggly children embarrassed their mothers in church. Ouch! Poor mom again. But I often wonder if we would have so much concern with the myriad “hyperactive” boys if more of our teachers were male.
Why stupid? They have Ph.D.s after all, how can they be stupid. They’re M.D.s and psychologists and educators (not teachers, mind you, nothing that lowly, but educators). They are stupid b/c they have such tunnel vision that they focus on one goal: high test scores, and ask how to get those. To their febrile minds pulsing with thoughts of wealth and glory, the answer is obviously that tried and true maxim of psychology: more time on task.
What these people make me think of is the bankers, investors, operators of all kinds, on Wall Street. Once you buy the Zig Ziegler et al. notion of “keep your eye on the prize”, you don’t look around you, behind you, or ahead of you, you just keep going. So if test scores go up and the bottom line rises, you just keep doing more of the same. That’s stupid.
It’s like Custer seeing all that pretty grass and a couple of Indians he could chase……. and he did.