Teaching the Restless: One School's Remarkable no-Ritalin Approach to Helping Children Learn and Succeed
Author: Chris Mercogliano
We've all read the stories about medicating hyperactive (ADHD) kids. The controversy shows no signs of ending, as parents and doctors debate the merits of diagnosing and medicating children at younger and younger ages. Chris Mercogliano has a strong opinion on the matter, and he enters the debate as an educator. In Teaching the Restless, Mercogliano issues an urgent call for a shift in how our society perceives hyperactive children—away from theories of faulty brain chemistry and toward an understanding of children's lives.
Mercogliano codirects the Albany Free School in Albany, New York. There, he and his faculty have developed numerous ways to help hyperactive children relax, focus, modulate emotional expression, make responsible choices, and forge lasting friendships—all prerequisites for learning—without assigning pathological labels to the children or resorting to the use of biopsychiatric drugs.
Teaching the Restless profiles a handful of Free School students, six boys and three girls. All were either labeled and drugged in their previous schools, or would have been had they not thrown in their lot with the Free School. While in Mercogliano's mind there is no such thing as a "typical" child, these nine kids represent the legions of children across the country—estimates currently run as high as 6 million—that have been diagnosed with learning and behavioral disorders and prescribed corresponding drugs.
Speaking both to parents who worry that their kids cannot attend classes without drugs and to educators who wonder how to best teach these hyperactive kids, Teaching the Restless should bring new hope into anovercharged debate.
"TEACHING THE RESTLESS is a very important book for our time. That we continue to prescribe drugs to our children in such massive numbers is appalling. There are no historical precendents for a society perpetrating such a travesty on its offspring. Chris Mercogliano deserves a medal for his courage and insight, as well as his years of hard work on behalf of America's children."
—Joseph Chilton Pearce, author of MAGICAL CHILD
"Take a ride with master teacher Chris Mercogliano as he writes his way straight into your heart. This powerful tale reflects his work as a master educator and writer and gives us an up-close look at what is possible for America's school children when we choose not to drug them into silence. The Albany Free School is a hermitage for children, a model to the nation of how a school environment built on love, honor, respect, and responsibility can effect profound changes in kids' lives."
—Yehudah Fine, family therapist and author of TIMES SQUARE RABBI: FINDING THE HOPE IN LOST KIDS' LIVES
"TEACHING THE RESTLESS is a finely crafted moral commentary on a society that would rather "tranquilize our children than create a more tranquil world for them to grow up in." Chris Mercogliano is a gifted writer as well as a superb observer of children's lives. Here, he offers a rich blend of insights and observations based on his own extensive teaching experience. His stories of real kids struggling against the cultural constraints on their lives, including inappropriate labeling and drugging, are deeply moving and convincing."
—Ron Miller, executive editor, Paths of Learning magazine, educational historian, author of WHAT ARE SCHOOLS FOR?
"God bless Chris Mercogliano. He has turned his lifelong commitment to the creation of free learning communities for children and families toward a passionate defense against the oppression of children by psychiatry and the schools. May his longstanding drug-free school zone in Albany extend throughout our country and the world."
—John Breeding, clinical psychologist, author of THE WILDEST COLTS MAKE THE BEST HORSES
"A wonderful contribution to the growing literature on the sad practice of labeling and drugging America's "free spirits." Chris Mercogliano sees past the scientific jargon and deficit-ridden orientation of the ADD/ADHD paradigm, and reveals with great humanistic sensibility the passionate worlds of active kids who don't fit into the tight little boxes of most American classrooms."
—Thomas Armstrong, Ph.D., author of THE MYTH OF THE A.D.D. CHILD
Mercogliano (Making It Up As We Go Along) has 30 years of experience in a "privately funded, freedom-based inner-city" alternative school for children ages two to 14 in Albany, N.Y. Half of the 50 students have had behavioral problems in their previous schools, for which medications such as Ritalin have been prescribed or recommended. The Free School doesn't use drugs, asserting that every child is unique, and that the school must be run as a true community with the emotional health not the test scores of each child paramount. At the Free School, children choose what they want to learn and where in the school to spend their time. Freedom works: "kids learn faster and more easily when the motivation comes from inside them [and] behave better when they are expected to be responsible for themselves and for each other." This is especially true for children with a history of oppositional behavior. When a child disrupts a class or disrespects another student, anyone in the school community can convene a "Council Meeting" of the entire school to handle the problem. While teachers, parents and professionals work surreptitiously to address more fundamental problems e.g., absent parents, harsh disciplinary styles at home, etc. the school community teaches children that behavior has very real consequences. This laid-back approach to academics, where teachers wait for the right "mental weather" rather than push children to read or do math before they're ready, may be hard for some parents to accept, but Mercogliano makes a strong case against medicating these children into submission. (Jan.) Forecast: While Mercogliano is describing experiences at one particular school, parents all over will find his critique of contemporary education provocative. Beacon plans a national publicity campaign and ads in education media. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
This is Mercogliano's second book about the Albany Free School, a 50-student, independent, inner-city school for children ages two through 14 where he has taught for 30 years and been codirector since 1985. While his first book, Making It Up As We Go Along, examined the history and teaching style of the school, this book applies its core values to the 50 percent of the school's enrollment who have either used Ritalin or other behavioral medication in the past or who were slated to do so in a previous school. Mercogliano contends that children labeled as having ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) do not necessarily have organic brain abnormalities and need not be treated with drug therapy. He makes his case persuasively in a readable, anecdotal recounting of the academic year as observed through nine students. The result is an encouraging success story that demonstrates an alternative to the ever-growing use of drugs for ever-younger children and calls into question the basis for the diagnostic labeling and use of biopsychiatric pharmaceuticals in the classroom. Recommended for all public libraries.-Ari Sigal, Marion, NC Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
New interesting textbook: Harriet Jacobs or Richard Nixon
Body Fascism: Salvation in the Technology of Physical Fitness
Author: Brian Pronger
In the last three decades of the twentieth century, the physically fit body became the ideal of modern western societies. Images of lean, sculpted men and women dominate the cultural landscape and are now ubiquitous on billboards, in magazines, film, television, and video. Science and popular culture are profoundly mixed in the contemporary scene, and have lead to a host of exercising and dieting technologies that will make actual bodies fit the taught, muscular ideal. Many people desire this body and the attractiveness, health, longevity, and personal security that it represents. But, as Brian Pronger argues, this approach transforms more than the body's functions and contours; it diminishes its transcendent power, compelling it conform to a profoundly limited imagination of what the body can do.
Calling upon an impressive array of philosophers and other writers who have been critical of modern techno-scientific approaches to life, Pronger pries open the texts that form the technology of physical fitness in order to consider what they try to produce. Body Fascism views technology not simply as a tool for other projects, but as a project itself, producing its own realities that Pronger argues are ultimately nihilistic. Indeed, he says there are disquieting parallels between what technology has done to the environment and what it is doing to the body. Exploring fascinating intersections between postmodern Western and Zen approaches to life, he develops a theory of the body and of science and technology that shows how the body's energy is vulnerable to insidious forms of exploitation as well as harbouring the potential for transcendence. The sheer scope of this book makeit unique in the discipline and it will be of great interest not only to scholars of the body, society, science and technology, but also to those who are personally drawn to modern technologies of physical fitness.