ADHD or narcissism?

Many children diagnosed as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder may simply be slow to grow out of “normal childhood narcissism, writes psychologist Enrico Gnaulati in The Atlantic.

In the 1970s, a mere one percent of kids were considered ADHD. By the 1980s, three to five percent was the presumed rate, with steady increases into the 1990s. One eye-opening study showed that ADHD medications were being administered to as many as 17 percent of males in two school districts in southeastern Virginia in 1995.

ADHD symptoms — “problems listening, forgetfulness, distractibility, prematurely ending effortful tasks, excessive talking, fidgetiness, difficulties waiting one’s turn, and being action-oriented” — aren’t all that different from normal childhood challenges, he writes. In the past, a distractible, fidgety child would have been considered slower to mature and learn social skills. Now that child is quickly diagnosed with ADHD.

The core symptoms of ADHD resemble childhood narcissism, which is characterized by “overconfident self-appraisals, attention-craving, a sense of personal entitlement” and weak empathy for others, writes Gnaulati.

“Jonah” falls apart when he can’t master a task immediately. It could be a symptom of ADHD, writes Gnaulati. Perhaps he can’t retain the information needed. But it could be the “magical thinking” common for young children.

He believes mastering tasks should somehow be automatic—not the outcome of commitment, perseverance, and effort. Jonah’s self-esteem may also be so tenuous that it fluctuates greatly. For instance, when Jonah anticipates success, he productively cruises through work, eager to receive the recognition that he expects from parents and teachers. He is on a high. He definitely feels good about himself. But in the face of challenging work, he completely shuts down, expects failure, outside criticism, and wants to just give up.

“Parents who think their kid has ADHD often describe scenarios at home where the kid reacts to minor setbacks with bloodcurdling screams or to modest successes with over-the-top exuberance,” writes Gnaulati. For kids who really have ADHD, completing homework can be torture. But, for others, “dramatic displays of emotion are attempts to get out of tasks that warrant commitment, application, and effort.”

If parents give in, “these kids often do not acquire the emotional self-control necessary to buckle down and do academic work independently.”

I think the technical term is “spoiled brat.”

Gnaulati is the author of  Back to Normal, which is subtitled “why ordinary childhood behavior is mistaken for ADHD, bipolar disorder, and autism spectrum disorders.”

Brainy, introverted boys are over-diagnosed with autism, he writes in Salon. ”If we don’t have a firm grasp of gender differences in how young children communicate and socialize, we can mistake traditional masculine behavior for high-functioning autism.”

No time to play

Today’s children don’t have time to play independently – and to develop social skills — writes psychologist Peter Gray on Aeon. The adults are always in charge.

Growing up in the 1950s, Gray had a “hunter-gatherer education” in addition to formal schooling. The neighborhood kids played after school, often till dark, in mixed-age groups. They played on the weekends and in the summer.

We had time to explore in all sorts of ways, and also time to become bored and figure out how to overcome boredom, time to get into trouble and find our way out of it, time to daydream, time to immerse ourselves in hobbies, and time to read comics and whatever else we wanted to read rather than the books assigned to us.

Since then, adult-directed sports for children have replaced “pickup” games, Gray writes. free-to-learn Adult-directed extracurriculars have replaced hobbies. Parents are afraid to let kids play without supervision.

As children’s free play has declined, children have shown more signs of anxiety and depression, he writes on psychological surveys. Since the ’50s, “the suicide rate for young people aged 15 to 24 has more than doubled, and that for children under age 15 has quadrupled.”

In addition, surveys show “a decline in empathy and a rise in narcissism.”

Children aren’t learning social skills through play, writes Gray. At school, an authoritarian setting, they learn to compete rather than cooperate. Extending the school day will widen the “play deficit” even more, argues Gray.

A Boston College professor, Gray writes the Freedom to Learn blog, and is the author of a new book, Free to Learn.

Kids who want to work — mowing lawns — face “safety” barriers, writes Mollie Hemingway. On the neighborhood listserv, someone asked for feedback on “a group of adorable and entrepreneurial kids (young, maybe 9-11 years old)” looking for mowing jobs. “We didn’t see a parent with them supervising.”

A link was provided to Mowing the Lawn Can Be a Dangerous Chore, which recommended “polycarbonate protective eyewear” for anyone mowing — or in the vicinity.

To fix college, ban ‘I feel’

Among One Hundred Great Ideas for Higher Education collected by the National Association of Scholars, Naomi Schaefer Riley proposes a campaign against narcissism. She recalls a reality show called The Scholar in which ten high school seniors competed for a college scholarship.  Asked what famous person, dead or alive, she’d like to have dinner with, Melissa answered Plato. She said she’d “read his story about the cave” and wanted to “discuss her own ‘process of self-discovery’ with him.” Melissa won the scholarship.

Everything about college and the process leading to it makes students believe that their innermost feelings are of the utmost importance. Professors (the good ones, anyway) complain that students begin every answer with “I feel.” This is emblematic of a certain self-absorption combined with postmodern fuzzy thinking.

. . . Every paper turned in during the first year of college should depend entirely for its argument on the writings and thoughts of others without any reference to the student’s personal experience. The writing should include a general thesis backed up by specific quotations or examples from third parties. The only way to make eighteen-year-olds into intelligible writers and speakers is to force them to look beyond themselves.

Riley is the author of The Faculty Lounges: And Other Reasons Why You Won’t Get the College Education You Pay For.

Charles Murray of the American Enterprise Institute calls for banning grade inflation: ”Pass a federal law that no teacher in a college or university that receives federal funds shall be allowed to award an A to more than 7 percent of the students in any course, and a B to more than an additional 18 percent.”

I’d like to tell ninth graders whether they’re on track to earn a bachelor’s degree, train for a skilled job, flunk out of a community college remedial course or drop out of high school. If they knew early enough, they could work harder to improve their odds — or set more realistic goals. Colleges wouldn’t have to provide so many remedial courses, which usually come too late to help.

Listening to students (narcissistic fools)

Education Nation is Full of Narcissistic Fools, writes Math Curmudgeon in a brilliant, read-it-all rant.

He didn’t actually watch NBC’s Education Nation, but he read The Innovative Educator’s list of what students want.

For example: “I can’t learn from you if you are not willing to connect with me.”

Teachers can connect but it’s a two-way street and you’re not playing. If you can’t learn without the touchy-feely crap then you’ll never learn from Salman Khan, a computer, an online program, a disinterested presenter or any teacher who is even slightly less than your ideal of perfection.  That’s a damn shame.

“Teaching by the book is not teaching. It’s just talking.”

Teaching by the book is accepting that someone smarter than I and with more time and help from his graduate students, has put together a pretty damn good calculus book.  Why would I change it radically?

“Caring about each student is more important than teaching the class.”

 Teaching is a profession and one that I enjoy but I am not your parent, your priest or your counselor. I am the teacher.

This is my job.

“Every young person has a dream. Your job is to help bring us closer to our dreams.”

Curmudgeon disagrees. His job is to teach math. Nor does he aspire to be a “life coach” for students, though he wishes someone would say: “Stop being a navel-gazing narcissist and grow up.”

“Us youth love all the new technologies that come out. When you acknowledge this and use technology in your teaching it makes learning much more interesting.”

I love them, too. Now get out your iPads and load up the Kindle version of the textbook and get to work. If you can’t connect to the school’s network, then set up a wi-fi hotspot off your iPhone, go to wolframalpha.com, find the answer to the first part of the question and incorporate it into the Excel spreadsheet to further analyze the problem, dump the results to Powerpoint, send it to your portable printer or convert it to one of the four acceptable electronic formats.  Then, don’t send it to my email account but rather submit it to the class Moodle in the proper forum.  You know how to do that, right? By the end of the week, I’ll want you to be able to explain all this and apply your knowledge to something completely different, so you need to get cracking.

“Our teachers have too many students to enable them to connect with us in they way we need them to.”

Seek out the teachers.  The good ones will be there. Just wait until you get to college and have the privilege of sitting with 400 of your closest friends in a lecture hall listening to a TA with a heavy foreign accent.

“Education leaders, teachers, funders, and policy makers need to start listening to student voice in all areas including teacher evaluations.”

Nope. Until you have some experience, your “opinion” is worthless and people will blow you off.  When you have that experience, you’ll find we already do listen.

“You need to love a student before you can teach a student.”

Awesomely silly.  And false.

Via Darren, who’s also a math teacher rather than a parent, counselor,  life coach, Facebook friend or XBox consultant.

Teaching empathy to the ‘Me’ Generation

In hopes of Teaching Empathy to the ‘Me’ Generation, Capital University’s Empathy Experiment immerses students in the experiences of the working poor, reports Miller McCune Online. The Columbus, Ohio recruited six volunteers for a no-credit course.

 The eight-week program required, for example, that students undergo a temporary eviction, be processed and stay a night at a homeless shelter, and go a night without eating. “It was a good chance for students to, frankly, get out of their comfort zone,” (trustee Ronald) St. Pierre says. They were to move from sympathy to empathy.

College students are 40 percent less empathetic than students a generation ago, concludes  University of Michigan psychologist Sara Konrath.

Spending a day in a wheelchair may teach students something about the challenges of mobility for the disabled. I don’t think it’s that easy to simulate poverty.

 

Cutting academics, adding ‘diversity’ czars

The University of California’s budget has been “cut to the bone,” says a spokesman.  Campuses are cutting academic programs — but adding “diversity” functionaries, writes Heather Mac Donald in City Journal.

The University of California at San Diego, for example, is creating a new full-time “vice chancellor for equity, diversity, and inclusion.” This position would augment UC San Diego’s already massive diversity apparatus, which includes the Chancellor’s Diversity Office, the associate vice chancellor for faculty equity, the assistant vice chancellor for diversity, the faculty equity advisors, the graduate diversity coordinators, the staff diversity liaison, the undergraduate student diversity liaison, the graduate student diversity liaison, the chief diversity officer, the director of development for diversity initiatives, the Office of Academic Diversity and Equal Opportunity, the Committee on Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Issues, the Committee on the Status of Women, the Campus Council on Climate, Culture and Inclusion, the Diversity Council, and the directors of the Cross-Cultural Center, the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Resource Center, and the Women’s Center.

Gibor Basri, UC Berkeley’s vice chancellor for equity and inclusion, earns $194,000 in base pay and has 17 people in his office. That could pay for a lot of assistant professors, who start at  $53,000, Mac Donald writes.

To save money, UC San Diego’s Academic Senate has cut master’s programs in electrical and computer engineering and comparative literature and dropped courses in French, German, Spanish, and English literature.

At the same time, the body mandated a new campus-wide diversity requirement for graduation. The cultivation of “a student’s understanding of her or his identity,” as the diversity requirement proposal put it, would focus on “African Americans, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, Hispanics, Chicanos, Latinos, Native Americans, or other groups” through the “framework” of “race, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexuality, language, ability/disability, class or age.”

“Diversity” is “a code word for narcissism,” Mac Donald concludes.

Asian-Americans make up nearly half of UC-San Diego students (pdf); many major in math, science or engineering. Perhaps “me studies” has to be required because students are too busy taking academic courses in hopes of being able to pay back their student loans.

UC tuition is rising.

 

Trophy kids in therapy

Parents who protect their children from frustration and disappointment, who turn every failure into “good try!” and every routine task into “great job!,” who devote themselves to making their children happy all the time are raising empty, confused, anxious, unhappy young adults who can’t deal with the normal frustrations of life, writes therapist Lori Gottlieb in The Atlantic.

Patients in their 20s or early 30s  report depression, anxiety,  difficulty choosing or committing to a satisfying career path, poor relationships, a sense of emptiness or lack of purpose — and loving, caring, endlessly supportive parents who are “my best friends in the whole world” and “always there for me.”

Since the 1980s, self-esteem has risen in tandem with rates of anxiety and depression, says Jean Twenge, co-author of The Narcissism Epidemic and professor of psychology at San Diego State University.

“Narcissists are happy when they’re younger, because they’re the center of the universe,” Twenge explains. “Their parents act like their servants, shuttling them to any activity they choose and catering to their every desire. Parents are constantly telling their children how special and talented they are.”

. . . In early adulthood, this becomes a big problem. “People who feel like they’re unusually special end up alienating those around them,” Twenge says. “They don’t know how to work on teams as well or deal with limits. They get into the workplace and expect to be stimulated all the time, because their worlds were so structured with activities. They don’t like being told by a boss that their work might need improvement, and they feel insecure if they don’t get a constant stream of praise. . . . They grew up in a bubble, so they get out into the real world and they start to feel lost and helpless. Kids who always have problems solved for them believe that they don’t know how to solve problems. And they’re right—they don’t.”

Instead of learning to face frustration at the age if six, when a better soccer team wins the game, overprotected kids face it for the first time in college, says Wendy Mogel, a clinical psychologist and author of The Blessing of a Skinned Knee. And that’s only if Mom and Dad don’t swoop in to save the day.

Parents refuse to believe their children might be average, Mogel says. “Every child is either learning-disabled, gifted, or both.” Parents prefer a learning-disability diagnosis to the possibility their child just isn’t all that smart. “They believe that ‘average’ is bad for self-esteem.” (A friend who was a school psychologist in an affluent suburb told me the exact same thing.)

Self-esteem doesn’t predict happiness, writes Gottlieb, “especially if the self-esteem comes from constant accommodation and praise rather than earned accomplishment.” Perseverance, resiliency, and reality-testing are better predictors of fulfillment and success.

It makes me feel thankful I wasn’t that nice to my kid. Her father and I made a habit of singing “You can’t always get what you want” to her when she confused her desires with reality.