Momentum Podcast: 27
Does Your Child's School Have A Teaching Disorder?
by Alex Charfen
Over the last 20 years of working with entrepreneurs, it is shocking how often people tell them that there is something wrong with their children. I spoke with a friend of mine today whose son is three, he has been in school for less than a week, and they already had a meeting with his wife to let him know that he is “behind” academically.
How can a three-year-old be behind academically?!?
They told them that, in addition to not sitting still, he doesn't color inside of the lines. I told him to go to the school with a Picasso, a Degas, and a Matisse and ask them which one of the three colored within the lines? I wish I could say this is shocking, but I hear the stories all the time. Entrepreneurs are told there is something wrong with our kids. Children who can't sit still, think for themselves, ask questions, and want to change things are seen as academically challenged or disruptive. The problem isn't with children who are motivated to do more, be more and show who they are. The problem is with systems that have the stated goal of creating standardized human beings. Something needs to change, or entrepreneurial kids will continue to suffer.
Full Audio Transcript
I'm Alex Charfen, and this is the Momentum podcast for entrepreneurial personality types. This is created exclusively for empire builders, game changers, world makers, shot takers, creators of all kinds; those among us who can't turn it off, and don't know why anyone would want to. We challenge complacency, destroy apathy, and obsess about creating momentum, so we can roll over bureaucracy, and make our greatest contribution.
Sure, we pay attention to their rules, but only so we can bend them, break them, and rewrite them around our own will. We don't accept our destiny, we define it. We don't understand defeat, because the only way you lose is if you stop, and we don't know how. While the rest of the world strives for average, and clings to the status quo, we are the minority, the few who are willing to hallucinate there could be a better future, and instead of just daydreaming what could be, we endure the vulnerability and exposure it takes to make it really. We are the evolutionary hunters, clearly the most important people in the world, because entrepreneurs are the only consistent source of positive human evolution, and we always will be.
This is episode 28, Does Your Child's School Have a Teaching Disorder? Had a weird experience this morning. I was talking to a friend of mine, who has a three year old son who is in his first week of what is probably just preschool, and he's been in school for three days, and already his wife was pulled aside, his mom, and told that he has some academic challenges. How can a three year old possibly have academic challenges? When she asked what they were talking about, in addition to not being able to sit still, she was told that he doesn't color within the lines.
Have we lost our minds? That we are now applying judgment to the way that a three year old colors on a sheet of paper, because he doesn't choose to stay inside the line? My suggestion to him was, take a copy of a Picasso, a Degas, da Vinci, and take them in and show that there are other artists who decided not to color within the lines. Take any impressionist painting in, that's worth multiple millions of dollars, and prove to that school that coloring inside the lines is not an edict, it's not the way it must be, it's the way that some choose to be.
And here's the challenge for entrepreneurial children today. Entrepreneurial kids are more curious, more animated, more excited, more self driven and motivated to do, see, and explore what they want to see. When an entrepreneurial kid is following their own will, doing what they want, they can focus and achieve for hours. But when we put them in a situation where it's 30 prisoners and one guard, and the most important thing is to memorize, sit still, pay attention, be quite and comply, entrepreneurial kids just can't.
I remember this myself. I remember going through this, and having such a challenge with sitting still that I would lock myself into my school seat. See, brilliant children are restless to show their brilliance, and here's what happens in schools today. There has been an increased emphasis on standardization, an increased emphasis on being just like everyone else, an increased emphasis on turning out children who think the same way, talk the same way, look the same way, act the same way, because the school system today is literally focused almost exclusively on standardizing human beings. In fact, the testing systems, the curriculum, everything, is meant not just how to teach someone how to act, but meant to teach someone how to think.
And here's the challenge with brilliant children. They are restless, motivated, they have more questions than most, they have more energy than most, and they have the fraction of the awareness and understanding that we do as adults. They are seen as an irritation, a nuisance, or a threat in school, both to educators and to other students, because they might upset the balance of a class, where everybody is doing the same thing.
If we read the book of modern history of education, you can see that the modern school system, with the bells, the timing, the whistles, the lunch breaks, everything, was meant to create people who would comply with working in a factory. And children who are able to sit still, pay attention, comply, and be like everyone else are rewarded in school, when the entrepreneurial children, who wanna do something different, guide themselves, find their own outcomes and race towards them, are seen as a behavioral disorder for being themselves.
Here's the challenge. As parents, we don't talk about our kids' problems in school. We don't tell other parents that our child has been diagnosed. We don't tell other parents that we had the meeting with the administrators, the school teachers, the guidance counselor, the nurse, and everyone else, so that they could tell us, in a panel presentation, what's wrong with our children. And if you don't think this is happening today, it is shocking how often I talk to an entrepreneur that is being told there's something fundamentally wrong with their kid, because their kid is acting like just that; unexcited, impressionable, highly aware, highly intelligent, empowered human being that has very little awareness and very little understanding of the world, and wants to go make things happen.
If we talked about the challenges that are shared with us about our children, we would all take them so much less seriously. When the number of children that are being told they have behavioral disorders, or learning disabilities, or challenges in the class, let's be honest, today ADD, ADHD, any of those terms have become code words that a child needs medication to sit in class, so that they don't affect the teacher. And the fact is, that most of the modifications suggested for children today are more for the stability of the environment, not for the benefit of the child.
Today kids are constantly recommended for stimulants, or medications, or sitting down with a pediatrician to figure out how they can possibly sit through class like everyone else. One of the latest innovation in this regard is using high blood pressure medications, off label, with children, to calm them down. And if you look up why, I'll read to you an article that I pulled up, "Experts aren't sure, but it's clear that blood pressure medications have an affect on certain areas of the brain," so they don't even know why. But they know that if they give them to kids here's what happens: they're calmer, they comply, they don't move around as much. They basically act like the kids who aren't entrepreneurial, who aren't excited, who aren't overactive. So we're literally medicating brilliance out of children.
Because when I reach back, throughout all of history, we see children that didn't comply, we see children that didn't belong, we see children that didn't fit in with the other kids, who went on to create brilliant outcomes in the world. Thomas Edison was kept home from school because he just was too slow. Albert Einstein failed algebra twice, and could never really comply with school rules. Newton was seen as a totally anti-social person, in fact, he was sitting under a tree when the apple hit him on the head and he was alone, like he always was.
I hear stories today that would blow you away. It's not just the three year old with academic challenges. Another entrepreneur told me that he found out his son, at nine years old, was being separated from the classroom and put in a room by himself. When his son got upset and started moving things around in the room, and knocking things off of tables, they put him in a room with nothing else; in prison this is called solitary confinement. But today, this is seen as a behavioral modification for a child. I wonder what will happen to the kid who ends up in a room all by himself, without stimulation, without any type of feedback, without any other human being. What is that child's adulthood going to look like? What are they going to feel? How are they going to trust? See, when a child lives with judgment, they learn to be judged.
My daughters are 10 and eight years old. For most of their lives they've been outside of the traditional school system. My wife and I moved, and we lived in an area that was rated as the highest rated school system in Texas, so we decided we would try traditional school with our kids, just to see how it went. We barely made it three months. We were told that my 10 year old was having problems at paying attention in class. My eight year old, at the time she was six, came to us and told us that she felt like she was going to fail out of life, because she had knocked an iPad on the floor and her teacher had gotten so upset with her that she had been put in the hallway for the rest of the week, that same solitary confinement that I'm talking about, and she felt like she was a complete failure.
I spend a lot of time with my kids, and I know just how phenomenally incredibly brilliant they are. My younger daughter, the one who broke the iPad, can listen to any song on the radio and sing it back to you, knowing all the words, in perfect pitch. And if you ask her to sing it like the artist themselves, she can do that. And if you ask her to sing it like another artist, she can do that as well. She's absolutely brilliant, and has skills and abilities that I have never had, and I don't know how she possibly conjured up at such a young age.
My 10 year old is a social media phenomenon; she's got people following her on Instagram, she has people commenting to her all the time. Recently, she rebranded a nutrition bar company that I was consulting with. I came home, and my daughter had been writing all kinds of different brands for this company that she really loved. When I went in the next day and I shared the ideas she had, the owner of the company accused me of being a genius, and I had to, in all candor and transparency, say, "My 10 year old came up with this." Everybody in the room was blown away. She also recently was drawing, and took a picture of her drawing on Instagram, and about 48 hours later one of her followers contacted her and, somebody I know, purchased the drawing as a logo for his company. So don't tell me there's anything wrong with my kids, because they have skills, they have abilities that I've never seen before, in myself or in any adult. They're so far beyond their years, they're truly extraordinary.
And I think one of the biggest challenges we have today, as entrepreneurs, is that when we raise our children we tell them they are capable, they are intelligent, they can do anything they want, that the world is open to them, and that all they have to do is decide, and they can go out and achieve. Then we put them in a structure, in a situation that does not support people like us. Schools today are not set up to handle the kid that has too much energy, that wants to move around, that is kinesthetic and physiologically activated. The student that wants to ask too many questions, change how things are done, figure out a new way to do things, and think for themselves. In fact, schools today are set up almost exclusively to create compliance and standardization. The stated goal is to standardize human beings. That's where the funding comes from, that's what the testing is about, that's what the pre-testing, the preparation, and everything else is about.
And here's the biggest worry I have about this generation of entrepreneurs. We're medicating them. We're forcing them into compliance. We're telling them to sit still, stop moving, not get out of their chairs. We're telling them not to think for themselves, to stop trying to do things different. We're giving them things like Adderall, which is one hydrogen atom away from being crystal meth. We're giving them blood pressure medications, that cause children to be drowsy, and not be able to focus, but they do comply with the rest of the class. And we have an entire generation of entrepreneurs that is suffering through a level of judgment that is unprecedented throughout history. A three year old being judged on academic ability, for coloring outside the lines.
Here's my message to anyone raising a brilliant child. Screw the lines. Every great entrepreneur in history didn't pay attention to the lines society set up. They colored wherever they wanted to, and they changed the world. And today, the brilliant child sitting in school, being told to sit down, stop moving, stop wiggling, stop asking so many questions, for 18 years, has picked up a habit that, by the time they get out of that system, they have trouble creating forward momentum. So if you have a child who's being judged, here's my firm suggestion for you. If your child has trouble paying attention in class, if they aren't learning, if they're not able to comply, I suggest you call the school immediately, set up a meeting with the administrators, go in and inform them their school has a teaching disorder.
Because the fact is that we are asking children to comply with a system that you, me, and any adult I know, wouldn't be able to comply with. How many of us could sit still, not move, not even so much as get up and get a glass of water or go to the bathroom, for six to eight hours a day, with only asking for permission to do anything, and focus on something that someone else wants us to focus on. I don't have a single client who could do what we're asking our kids to do. So the next time someone tells you your child is broken, or diagnosed, or disordered, or any of those things, I want you to know something. Throughout history, the children who didn't show up like everyone else, talk like everyone else, learn at the same speeds as everyone else, and socially interact like everyone else, are exactly the children who went on to change the world and create their greatest contribution. So if you have a child that doesn't fit into a system hell bent on standardizing human beings, you should be proud of that child, you should be excited for that child, and you should look at your baby and understand that they are brilliant, and they are not broken.
And for you, I want you to know that it doesn't matter what you're dealing with, what your child's dealing with, what symptoms, what diagnosis, what issues, what challenges, what disability, what disorder, whatever it is, someone in history who was just like us was dealing with the same thing, overcame it, and was able to change the world. So I sincerely say, to everyone listening, there is nothing wrong with you, and there is nothing wrong with your baby, and you are not alone.
Thanks for listening to the Entrepreneurial Personality Type podcast. Join us for episode 29, one of the greatest transitions in an entrepreneurs life. You'll understand it when you hear about it; the transition we make from running away from things in our life, to running towards what we actually want. Thanks for being with me.