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The Myth of the Hyperactive Child: And Other Means of Child Control

Though this book was published back in 1975, it was ahead of it’s time.  Authors Peter Schrag and Diane Divoky produced a very well-researched book that is backed up by bold and insightful arguments.  Schrag and Divoky examine the landscape of mental health profession, the public school system, and how they are shifting into a more authoritarian role, and are no longer advocates for our children.  The authors expose the loose haphazard research done on “disorders” such as MBD (minimal brain dysfunction) and the lack of evidence of the effectiveness of psychiatric drugs like Ritalin, as well as the dangerous side effects of these drugs.  The book also gives an in-depth analysis of the increased implementation of practices such as psychological testing, data banks, “predelinquency screenings” and behavior modification, to “fix” our children, many of whom are perfectly healthy and normal.

The authors warn parents of the psychiatric labels and psychotropic drugs that could be forced on their kids, who have no defense.  And much of this psychiatric treatment, under the guise of “helping” the child, is likely to in fact cause further psychological damage.  This begins a vicious cycle that leaves your child a slave to the government system, with various psychiatric labels that follow them around for their lifetime.  The Myth of the Hyperactive Child is written from a unique perspective that explains the big picture of the mental health industry (and society in general) that was taking place in 1975, and is still taking place now in 2021.  Specifically the book puts the focus on the increasing power of institutions over individuals, and their interference with human liberties.  The book also points out that while the safety of psychotropic drugs is a concern, there is a bigger issue we are facing that threatens our children and society at large: the “ideology of drugging” and early intervention.

About the Author

Peter Schrag is an American writer, editor and scholar of California politics and political history.  Schrag was a columnist and page editor at the daily newspaper the Sacramento Bee for nineteen years.  He wrote for the weekly magazine The Nation for nearly a half century.  Schrag is also a former visiting scholar at the Institute of Government Studies at the University of California.

A notable honor Schrag received during his career was being listed as a notable editor and writer by Marquis Who’s Who.  He was a Guggenheim fellow from 1971072, and a National Endowment of the Arts fellow from 1976-77.  He was born in Germany, and received his Bachelor of Arts from Amherst College in Massachusetts.   Some of the other books Schrag has published include When Europe Was a Prison Camp: Father and Son Memoirs, 1940-41 (Indiana University Press, 2015), Paradise Lost: California’s Experience, America’s Future, and Final Test: The Battle for Adequacy in America’s Schools.

Reviews

Aryeh Neier, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union:

“For the last half century, Americans have been responding to real and imagined social problems by pinning derogatory labels on people, excluding them from opportunities available to others, and then bemoaning the worsening of the problems. Some of the newest and most dangerous labels stigmatize young children. They are called ‘hyperactive,’ ‘predelinquent,’ or are said to suffer from ‘learning disabilities.’ In their fine book, Diane Divoky and Peter Schrag give us an absorbing account of what is going on. The information they gather and the insights they share with us give us a chance to save our children from the awful things done to them in the guise of helping them.”

The New York Times:

“Schrag and Divoky present us with fine polemical writing in a well‐researched and thoughtfully argued brief intended to stimulate informed action against the widespread use of drugs, psychological testing, data banks, “predelinquency” screening, [and] behavior modification[.]”