Kids have sometimes been identified as the “canaries in the coal mine.” The teenager acts out in some way – falling grades, drug abuse, “Oppositional Defiant Disorder” – as a result of an unhealthy family dynamic, and they are subsequently put into therapy, on medication, etc. in order to arrest the behaviors that are making everyone uncomfortable. This of course is not always the case, but way too often parents cannot, or will not, see their behavior as contributing to the problem. So the kid ends up in Utah, where after 6 months the behavior stops, only to have them reappear when they return home.
Apply this to schools, where we face kids engaged in all kinds of self-destructive (or otherwise – spilling mercury in the halls is a current example) and we have to wonder what the behaviors are saying not about the kids but about the institution.
Now I know this is no great revelation, and that is precisely what I find so infuriating. If it’s only common sense that our children are more and more unhappy with the stress, fear and de-humanizing environment we force them to endure in our high shools, why do we keep constructing them that way and then treat the kids as patients? Or more commonly, as problems to be solved?