Monday, February 10, 2014

Days of Our Work Lives: An unvarnished look at work today: Part I: David's Saga. Episode 12: ADHD and a $300 Dog-Off-Leash Ticket

Part I: David's Saga

Episode 12
ADHD and a $300 Off-Leash Ticket

In the previous episode, David had a huge win at work:  His white paper led to Congress's passing a single-payer health care bill, signed into law by President Hillary Clinton.

Alas, David had little time to bask--there was a problem at home: His son Adam's teacher had referred him for special ed testing and the diagnosis came back: attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD.)

David and Susan had always known Adam was an active boy. They had observed him in class and saw that Adam had a hard time sitting still but David said, "I don't remember having to sit for so long and do so much academic stuff in 2nd grade. They hardly even have any recess." They considered Adam to be a normal active boy.

But when the school called David and Susan to attend a meeting with Adam's teacher, a special education teacher, the school psychologist, and the principal, they were sobered. 

The school psychologist explained:  "Perhaps in the old days, when 2nd grade curriculum was more loosey-goosey, Adam's not paying attention, his distracting the other kids, could have been tolerated but now with the Common-Core Curriculum's ratcheted-up standards, we just can't let it go--not for his sake and not for the class's. We recommend he see a psychiatrist to be evaluated for Ritalin." 

His teacher nodded. The special education teacher nodded. The principal nodded. David and Susan didn't nod. And David, as only David would, responded: 

"You put active boys on a Ritalin leash because it makes life easy for you. Sure, you want every kid to be a compliant little worksheet doer but if you made the lessons more interesting than 'Do problems 1-48 the odds' and allowed active boys to move around more, you wouldn't need to drug them. Put my son on an amphetamine to make your tenured life easier? No way!!"

David felt a bit of that pressure in his chest but took a couple of deep breaths and it went away. And David stormed out with Susan, embarrassed, following. She said, "Let's take the dog for a walk in the park. We can be calmer there." 

At the park, David said, "Let's let Casanova off the leash."

"David, you know it's dogs on leash here. Don't."

"Screw it, "David said. "Silly rule."

They turned their attention to Adam's ADHD diagnosis and David said, "When I was a kid, I was just like Adam. If they had drugged me, I never would had the opportunity to learn how to cope with myself, how to adapt. I'd have to be on uppers for the rest of my life, which would probably be shortened because that."

Susan and David agreed that the problem was not mainly Adam but an overly constraining school with its teachers that insist on passivity. But they felt they couldn't send Adam to either of the other two local public schools: Most of the kids there were from deprived backgrounds so the curriculum had to be dumbed-down--Adam would learn far less than he could and should. And those schools simply were not safe. Susan said, "Knife fights, razor-blade an elementary school?!"

Their musings were rudely interrupted by a man's voice: "Stop right there!" It was a park policeman. "Your dog is not on a leash." 

"Brilliant deduction," David sneered. 

"I'm sorry officer." said Susan.

"Put that dog on the leash!" And David did. "Now give me your driver's license." And he wrote David a ticket.

David couldn't restrain himself: "I can't believe you're doing this. You couldn't make it as a regular cop so you're showing how powerful you are, Mr. Park Policeman?!  What this going to cost me?"

"I don't know."

"Bullshit. You know."

"$300. "

$300!"  David felt a bit of that chest pressure again, so he took deep breaths, and it went away.

After the cop left, David said, "Susan, we gotta move out of the Bay Area. This place is crazy: the schools, the traffic, the crime,  the keep-up-with-the-Joneses, and shit like this--$300 for having your dog off the leash in an empty park?!"

"And lose your job? My music students? And make Adam change schools?"

The next episode is HERE.

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