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That iPhone Under The Desk May Be Telling You Something


Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is now the most prevalent psychiatric illness of young people in America, affecting 11 percent of them at some point between the ages of 4 and 17…. you may wonder whether something that affects so many people can really be a disease. – Richard A. Friedman, “A Natural Fix for ADHD,” The New York Times, October 31, 2014 (emphasis added)

Astonishing news here: Boredom is caused by…boredom.

No way!

And here I was thinking that it was a dis-ease.

Only human beings are so odd as to turn normal human reactions to abnormal situations into mystifying, stupefied clinical diagnoses.

The average child is full of wonder and energy. The classroom is set up for adults’ convenience.

Plop the child into an average classroom, with the average boring teacher and dried-up curriculum, and watch them begin to wriggle and writhe. As if in pain.

They are in pain!

Put the average opinionated teenager in a classroom full of 36 kids and make them raise their hand before they speak.

It isn’t long before they’re skating out into detention, or “behavioral reform review,” or whatever they’re calling it nowadays.

As a teen bored out of my mind by high school, my favorite character in The Breakfast Club (1985) was Bender. Only Judd Nelson could have played him like this.

This character was smart, he was angry, he was opinionated and he didn’t give a shit.

I felt like I wanted to be him.

I wanted the courage to talk back to lazy, smug, abusive teachers who acted more like prison wardens than mentors. As Bender did in this exchange with Vernon, the detention master:

Richard Vernon: You’re not fooling anyone, Bender. The next screw that falls out will be you.

John Bender: Eat my shorts.

Richard Vernon: What was that?

John Bender: Eat… My… Shorts.

Richard Vernon: You just bought yourself another Saturday.

John Bender: Ooh, I’m crushed.

Richard Vernon: You just bought one more.

John Bender: Well I’m free the Saturday after that. Beyond that, I’m going to have to check my calendar.

Richard Vernon: Good, cause it’s going to be filled. We’ll keep going. You want another one? Just say the word say it. Instead of going to prison you’ll come here. Are you through?

John Bender: No.

Richard Vernon: I’m doing society a favor.

John Bender: So?

Richard Vernon: That’s another one right now! I’ve got you for the rest of your natural born life if you don’t watch your step. You want another one?

John Bender: Yes.

Richard Vernon: You got it! You got another one right there! That’s another one pal!

Claire Standish: Cut it out!

Richard Vernon: You through?

John Bender: Not even close bud!

Bender doesn’t win anything as a result of standing up to authority.

But watching the movie we know who is going to succeed professionally…Claire.

The one who secretly sided with Bender, but openly told him to pipe down.

Organizations always reward conformists – like Claire.

But it’s the independent thinkers – the Benders – who provide the creative input that adds value.

The Claires of the world tell their bosses what they want to hear.

They are dressed perfectly at all times.

They show up at 9 and leave at 5 and think in boxes so that they can get an “A.”

Most of the time they’re just as smart as the Bender. But their spirits are broken. They’ve been “socialized,” meaning they’re mowed down by the machine.

You are fooled by them, because it seems so natural.

But while they’re looking at you and nodding, there’s this hum of tapping that’s almost indiscernible to the ear.

That creativity they have – it’s flowing into an iPhone. Into texting, and Facebook, and Instagram, and Pinterest and anything else they can do to keep from going insane while they grind away at the mind-numbing tasks you’ve given them.

They know you don’t want to hear what they really have to say. So they’re sharing their true thoughts and feelings in such a way that you will never be able to access them.

How would you diagnose that kind of ADHD?


Disclaimer: This blog is written by Dannielle Blumenthal in her personal capacity. The opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of the National Archives and Records Administration, or the United States government. Photo by Julie Edgley via Flickr

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