Wednesday, December 08, 2021
The War on Children   by Stuart Jeanne Bramhall

My next two posts relate to the unspeakable trauma Americans experience as children.

war on children
  • The first film concerns the transformation of American schools into virtual prisons.
  • The second discusses the deliberate targeting of children by corporate advertising.
  • In both cases, parents are largely helpless to protect their kids. The scars created carry into adulthood.
The War On Kids (film review) from: The Most Revolutionary Act
Introduction

The main focus of The War on Kids is the Zero Tolerance approach to school discipline.

  • The goal of Zero Tolerance is to keep guns, drugs and so-called “super-predators” out of public schools by treating all students like criminals.

The film is full of examples of high performing students receiving lengthy suspensions (as long as six months) for bringing so-called “contraband” to school.

  • This includes nail clippers, nail files (“weapons”) and Scope mouthwash, Alka Seltzer, Midol and ibuprofen (“drugs”).
  • The documentary describes one girl being suspended for drawing a soldier with a machine gun.
  • A boy who threatened to throw a spitball at another student was referred to police and charged with felony assault.

The increasing presence of armed police in public schools is especially chilling.

  • Instead of allowing school principals to deal with minor behavior problems, police are called and alleged perpetrators (as young as six) are handcuffed and taken to jail.

Often these arrests violate children’s Fifth Amendment rights, especially when the principal asks the alleged perpetrator to write out a statement and hand it over to the police.

  • This typically happens in the absence of legal representation, parental notification or a Miranda warning that students may be incriminating themselves.
Teaching Learned Helplessness

As part of Zero Tolerance, schools demand absolute conformity in dress, appearance, attitude and behavior.

  • Teachers enforce conformity by constantly bullying and yelling at kids.
  • Curiosity and creativity are systematically discouraged by an educational approach that force feeds kids with information.

Near daily exposure to this brutally oppressive environment is inducing a state of learned helplessness and apathy that persists into adulthood.

  • Students are leaving high school with absolutely no idea how a democratic society functions.
  • In a recent survey, 36% of high school students indicated that all newspapers should seek government approval for the news stories they publish.
Erroneous Information about ADHD

The two parts of the film I have a problem with are one that blames declining achievement on teachers’ unions (an urban myth promoted by neoliberal champions of the charter schools movement) and one in which psychiatrist Peter Breggin and two psychologists assert that ADHD is a fictitious disorder promoted by lazy teachers and drug companies.

Breggin, who is an adult psychiatrist without specialized child psychiatry training, makes a number of assertions that are factually inaccurate.

  • The first relates to the diagnosis of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD). Here Breggin quotes out of context from the American Psychiatric Association’s to make it appear that schools and teachers are deliberately trying to drug bright and energetic children to shut them up.
  • He also makes claims that Ritalin and similar stimulants cause permanent brain damage and lead to drug addiction.
  • These are also urban myths which are totally unsubstantiated by peer reviewed research evidence.

The assertion by one of the psychologists that Britain has banned the use of Ritalin in children is a blatant fabrication. In 2010, UK doctors dispensed Ritalin prescriptions for 661,413 British children.

Although ADHD is a genuine disorder documented by decades of careful peer reviewed research, the real issue is that:

  • It’s being over diagnosed in the US compared to other countries and
  • American kids who take Ritalin and similar stimulants aren’t receiving adequate medical monitoring.
  • There’s also an alarming increase in children’s prescriptions for antidepressants and antipsychotics – despite the lack of efficacy or safety research in patients under eighteen.

It would have been far more helpful if the filmmakers had stuck to established facts, rather than focusing on urban myths and half truths.

The Myth of Homework

The documentary features excellent segments at the end on cliques, bullying and the failure of homework to enhance learning.

Link to film:
https://www.filmsforaction.org/watch/the_war_on_kids_2009/

(The video at right was not in the original document.)

Child Marketers: a New Kind of Pedophile  from: The Most Revolutionary Act
Introduction

The Commercialization of Childhood is about the constant, insidious targeting of American children with corporate marketing.

The US is the only country in the industrialized world that refuses to regulate children’s advertising.

  • In 1984 the Reagan administration stripped the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) of any ability to regulate any children’s advertising or programming.
  • Starting from age three or earlier, American children are bombarded with an average of 3,000 commercial messages a day.
  • Because children under twelve lack the critical faculties to recognize deception, this constant bombardment with pro-consumption messaging has a profoundly negative impact on their psychological development and physical health.
The Nag Factor

Most child marketing is centered around what public relations specialists call the “nag factor” – children’s ability to make their parents miserable if they don’t buy them want they want.

  • In addition to the $40 billion kids themselves spend every year, they also influence their parents’ spending to the tune of $700 billion a year.
  • It’s often children who determine where families spend their holidays and what kind of car, computer and cellphone aps they buy.

Children’s advertising is no longer limited to TV ads and cereal boxes but intentionally pervades every area of their lives.

  • Many contemporary children’s programs are deliberately centered around branded products, such as Sponge Bob Square Pants and Teenage Ninja Turtles.
  • Marketers then play on children’s identification with these toys to get their parents to buy them Sponge Bob and Teenage Ninja Turtles video games, lunch boxes, tee shirts, cookies, crackers and even macaroni and cheese.

Meanwhile financially strapped schools make extra money by displaying brand logos in hallways and auditoriums and on sports fields.

  • Many get free computers and satellite dishes by playing Channel One informercials at the beginning of the school day.
Child Marketers are Like Pedophiles

One of the psychologists interviewed compares child marketers to pedophiles.

  • In addition to maximizing the nag factor, children’s marketing deliberately taps into powerful developmental needs.
  • Public relations specialists spend hundreds of hours filming children’s in supermarkets, at school and even in the bathtub.
  • As well as organizing special focus group slumber parties to expose them to new products, they get them to join fake online social media groups.
  • Here they can earn money and free products by providing personal information about their friends. In most cases, these activities take place without the parents’ knowledge.

This continual bombardment with corporate messaging is leading to a total remodeling of children’s psyche.

  • One particularly alarming example is the sexualization of young girls via “tween” marketing.
  • This is designed to heavily promotes short skirts, skimpy tops and sexy make-up and hair products to 6-12 twelve year olds.
  • After years of this insidious brainwashing, western society is left with a staggering number of young women who think they only have worth if they’re pretty and thin and wear designer clothes. As well as an alarming increasing in anorexia nervosa, which is often fatal.

Meanwhile enticing ads for junk food and soft drinks is responsible for an epidemic of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and strokes – conditions that were once extremely rare in childhood.

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