Guest post by Jan Greenhawk
I went to my first Board of Education meeting in almost a year on July 20. What seemed innocuous on the outside was an indicator of some insidious trends in education, even in our small county.
During the meeting, there were presentations about new initiatives, the Blueprint for Maryland Schools, new teacher training, etc. Most of them were benign on the surface, but as anything with government, there is always a hidden undercurrent.
A startling revelation was presented in a professionally done video about a grant program called the “Aware” Program. This is a program to prevent suicide and mental health problems among our students. The county received a 1.5 million dollar grant for this program which is in its second of five years.
In the video (which will be found at the link to video of the Board meeting below, you will have to fast forward), different school employees, principals, counselors and even some students, talked about how wonderful the program is and how it has helped with student behavior. There were some students talking about how they are helping destigmatize mental health issues. Certainly, preventing suicide and providing help for those with mental health problems is a valiant and important goal. All of these staff members and kids have the purest motives at heart. What I am about to say is not an indictment of their motives but the larger system and what I believe is its ulterior motive.
To draw a parallel, I’m going in the wayback machine to the late 70’s and early 80’s. It was during this time when educators started to hear about a drug to help kids who were considered “hyperactive.” The drug was a stimulant that actually calmed down kids who were truly stricken with hyperactivity that nothing could control. It was a small number of students.
As the years went by, more children were called hyperactive. If a kid tapped his foot or pen during class all the time? Hyperactive. If a student was bright but not doing well because he wasn’t paying attention? Hyperactive. Teachers and parents alike began to call any active child hyperactive. It didn’t matter if maybe the class was terribly boring or the child was too young to sit still for hours. Parents used the excuse to keep from parenting and teachers used it to keep from actually teaching.
Suddenly, the number of hyper children grew and they started calling them “ADHD.” The stimulant, Ritalin, was given out like candy during lunch. Parents bragged about their child’s status at cocktail parties and even claimed that they themselves were probably ADHD. It became the cool thing and everyone wanted on board.
Eventually, the kids figured out they had a very powerful drug in their possession and started selling it to fellow students as a stimulant. Recent studies have tied the use of Ritalin to severe physical and mental disorders in patients*(1, 2)
But doctors, the FDA, etc. determined the benefits outweighed the risks. Sort of like the recent Covid MRNA treatment that has harmed millions.
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Back to the present.
As we watched this video about the AWARE program, the focus shifted to a kindergarten teacher. I don’t think this teacher is bad or has a bad motive. I think she’s been misled. She began talking about how she was teaching her students about “self-regulation” which means they learn how to control themselves. Nothing wrong with that. Then she spoke about how she teaches her kindergarten class about “big emotions” they may have and that, in time, these big emotions will go away. She teaches them “belly breathing.” Again, these are kindergartners.
The kicker is when she asks this question of the entire class, ” Who is feeling sad today?” Suddenly, ALL the hands go up. Every kid in the class says he/she is sad today.
I know kids. And one thing I know about kids is that they want attention. They want to be one of the group. They want to belong. So, in this class, a child can get attention if they feel “sad” today like everyone else. Many of them probably don’t even know what that means. When a child is five years old, being “sad” might mean you didn’t get the cereal you wanted for breakfast. It could mean you wanted to stay home and play with your puppy. Or it could mean something bad happened at home. But it doesn’t matter because all “sad” will get you attention from the teacher. Or it will get you time in a “safe space.” Or maybe a nice counselor will come take you from class, give you a snack, and talk about being sad. And what five-year-old wouldn’t want any of those? I think you can see the problem here.
“Sad” becomes something cool to be because it makes you like everyone else. It is status.
The system, and this teacher unknowingly, is creating “sadness” where there might not be any and making it something kids expect to be every day.
It’s even worse than that.
Let’s kick “sad” up a notch.
As we watched the video, a man I know who has probably worked in the system for over twenty years, comes on to talk about the AWARE program. I know this man and he is a really nice guy. For years, he has been one of the few mental health professionals employed by the system. I think his motives are honest and he believes he is doing good things for kids.
But what he says next shocked me. He spoke about how the system, due to the AWARE grant, has identified over 400 mental health problems with students in the system in the last year. He stated that in his entire career, he can count only about 200 health issues with students in 20 years. This year has had a bumper crop. (By the way, there has been 86 “critical incidents” which I imagine has to do with violence or suicide. This is unheard of in our small system.)
To be fair, I’m sure Covid, lockdowns and the craziness in our world has contributed to this increase. But I also wonder how much can be attributed to the grant and the need to find justification for it. Like special education, when professionals are tasked with finding cases, they do exactly that. Remember, in the 80’s special educators found learning disabilities around every corner. People whose jobs depend on these problems will find as many as they can. It’s job security. It’s the ability to hire more staff. It’s more money in school coffers.
If they can’t find them, they may create them, just like the kindergarten teacher inadvertently created “sad” students.
And if you think this isn’t true, remember it was the Federal and State Bureaucracies that said if you were in a fatal car accident and tested positive for Covid, you were counted as a “Covid death.”
Here’s another example of creating mental problems where there are none. This story from Montgomery County, Maryland:
In Montgomery County, if a child feels “uncomfortable” sharing a bathroom with someone who may be a certain gender but claims to be another, the uncomfortable child is deemed the one in need of mental health counseling. So, a 13-year-old girl who doesn’t want to undress in the locker room in front of a biological male is the one with the problem and has to be “treated.”
In my mind, I call her concerns modesty and innocence.
But the system is changing the definition of a mental health problem to include what should be called normal feelings. They are also increasing the number of mental health cases for the system. More cases, more money. More staff. More control.
Let’s look at this article exploring the sudden explosion of students with gender identity issues. It explores the concept of “peer contagion.”
Additionally, what gets labeled as a mental health problem next? Morals? Political beliefs? Religious beliefs?
Who knows? As we see with Montgomery County and other areas of the country, the people in charge want to control all of us, and most important, our children. They see parents as impediments, not people with a right to determine their child’s education.
Look once more at Montgomery County, Maryland:
Again, I don’t believe the local staff is part of some terrible plot. I believe they are convinced they are doing what is right for children. In the Montgomery County example, staff may be deluded into thinking they are protecting kids. And they think they are helping them.
Sadly, they are doing just the opposite. Just like learning disabilities, mental illness will be for everyone. And remember, who makes money off the drugs to “help” with psychological issues? Gender reassignment? I think we all know.
It points out another reason to get your children out of the public schools. If you can’t do that, you are going to have to be diligent and pay careful attention to what is going on in your child’s classroom.
And just in case you are not concerned enough with what I just told you, here’s some things you should be aware of:
Are you awake yet? They want your kids. Because of that, you need to be well informed and always communicating with your child’s school.
Their mental health and lives could be at stake.