By Billerica Minuteman
April 2, 2010
Have you ever imagined what the world would have been like if Albert Einstein had been on Ritalin? Would we ever have unlocked the mysteries of the universe and developed the technologies we depend on today? Well, had Einstein been born a century later, I’m certain that his genius would have been wholly misunderstood.
I make this supposition because this man, who possessed such a masterful mind, spoke not a word of English until he reached the age of four and was unable to read until his seventh birthday. As a student, Einstein was considered deficient. His teachers described him as “mentally slow, unsociable and adrift in foolish dreams.” In fact, he was alternately expelled and then refused admittance to the Zurich Polytech Institute.
It’s easy to see what sort of fate Einstein would have suffered had he been a student in today’s culture. He surely would have been labeled “Learning Disabled” and his parents would have sat through school conference after school conference where the teachers and guidance counselors complained that he was disruptive and unable to stay “on task.” Ultimately, someone would have advised that he begin taking Ritalin so that he could become a “better citizen and student”.
What’s even more shocking is that Einstein was only one of many brilliant achievers and inventors whose academic performance was less than perfect. Did you know that Isaac Newton did very poorly in grade school or that Winston Churchill failed the sixth grade? Opera singer Enrico Caruso’s teacher once told him he had neither the talent nor the voice to sing, and Beethoven’s teacher chastised him for the clumsy way in which he handled the violin and composed music. Would these geniuses have been candidates for Ritalin today?
Recently, I overheard a conversation between a woman and a middle school teacher, who was being questioned about what percentage of her students were taking Ritalin. The teacher’s retort was that “Yes, many of them were, but not enough!”
Isn’t it sad that just because a parent or a school identifies that a child may be learning or behaving in a different way than other children, they see a need to medicate them-especially when there have been no studies done on the long-term effects of these drugs? Whatever happened to respecting the unique differences that make the human race interesting, and have we forgotten that “situational” depression is a common occurrence amongst teens and adults?