Creative Deficiency Disorder
Hyperactive kids are often diagnosed with ADHD, but I have my own diagnosis for the parents and school officials who allow disruptive children to be medicated: CDD, or Creative Deficiency Disorder.
As a child, I was constantly distracted and disruptive in elementary school, dying to create something without realizing it (see more in my autobiography). Hence the artful spitball designs I made on the ceiling over my seat in Miss Nieman’s 4th grade music class. And my sneakiness in stealing and snapping pencils in half from Geraldine, who sat beside me. Today, I’d be sent to the nurse’s office for a fix of Ritalin or Adderal. I can only wonder what that would have done to my creativity. Sadly, many teachers don’t understand that the best remedy for most children is creating. I got high on it every day with no negative side effects — except the mischief I created because I had no constructive ways to direct my energy.
Only after I saw a movie with a jazz drummer did I play drums, start my own band, write my own arrangements and find my drug: jazz. But would I have developed faster musically if my teachers hadn’t had CDD? They could have shown me a method for writing and performing my own music in elementary school. Oh, how I would have loved to direct my energy on that! My 6th grade music teacher wrote in my report card: “If Michael would stop fooling around and pay attention in music class he might learn something about music.”
My bumpy road through school got me interested in doing creative projects with middle school kids, helping them create their own musical notation and write their own compositions. I have done it in many schools and find that kids throw themselves into this free-wheeling creative process. They work through it with intense concentration and have fun performing the music at the end. Sometimes it gets played by school bands and occasionally by professional musicians.
A French teacher invited me to coax her teenage students to write a piece for symphony orchestra. They did it in three days, and the following week the very excited class came to a concert by the Esprit Orchestra in Toronto to hear their work. Here is a terrific sample.
Some educators understand that it is unnatural for children to sit still and learn about the theories of life. They want to live it and feel it on their bodies. The Waldorf education system teaches all subjects through activities. The children move about, create and learn without boredom. The school recognizes that not all children learn the same way. This method of teaching may require more ingenuity and skill than most teachers are able to muster, but it surely sounds better than prescribing drugs on a large scale. I sense that education is ready for a big change, partly with the help of technology – and that’s a good thing.