My Son’s Brain is Not Public Domain

Instatus 04-02-2014 20_20

I remember when I was a Political Science major, I had this amazing professor who had us read a whole list of books on Utopias; just so we would be sure that we knew what a Utopia was, and that we didn’t live in one.

After my son was born I began reading Young Adult Fiction, because it was easy on my brain. As a lover of Science Fiction I found my self drawn to the dystopian genre (dystopia is characterized by an undesirable future society usually occurring as a result of some horrible disaster or war). I devoured Hunger Games, Unwind, Cinder and Divergent, to name a few.

Dystopia was frightening to me. Frightening because I saw little truths in every chapter.

Each dystopian novel has an origin story. How did society get to this place? What was the originating cause?

One that seemed particularly disturbing to me was Unwind by Neal Shusterman. Unwind is about a society that develops after a civil war that started over the issue of abortion. The solution to preserve the peace is to give parents a choice.

Not the choice you think. If you get pregnant you must have the child, but if it turns out that you wish you never had your child, or your child is undesirable to you in some way, between the ages of 13-18 you could choose to have your child unwound.

What is unwound you ask? In a beautiful ceremony devised to make you feel blessed to be “chosen”, you are kept semi-conscious as your limbs are removed carefully, and donated to people who need them. From your toes to your brain, no part goes to waste. There is no longer any “kidney donor waiting lists” because every day someone is unwound, every need is met. And you should feel so proud of yourself, because you are helping someone who desperately needs you.


This is Not Fiction

On October 14, 2013, legislation was introduced in the New York Senate to require mandatory psychological examinations as part of the required health certificate for students. This would include two psychological evaluations in elementary school and two in secondary school and whenever the school decides your child needs one. This is to determine if your child is psychologically fit enough to attend public school. This is not fiction.

And what if these “psychological tests” determine your child is not fit? What then? Will there be a school for the un-psychologically fit? Will it be a happy place? Will it be full of bright colors and happy teachers? Or will it be gray and dark, with wardens. Will they even feel it is necessary to teach these un-fit children anything other than vocational skills? Will this place be mandatory? Will medicating these children be required? Will parents have a choice to pay for somewhere beautiful and happy if they are wealthy, as opposed to sending their children to this glorified prison?

What if your child is deemed to be fit? What will the public school system do with the information gathered? Will your child be pigeonholed by the determination of passive-aggressive tendencies? Co-dependent? Painfully shy?

Will the school system realize that it could be so much more effective by grouping certain personality types together? By focusing certain goals on one type but not on the other?

Will the knowledge gathered by these tests follow your average child for the rest of his life?


It Will Never Happen

As a parent, it is so much easier to stick our head in the sand and say, “It will never happen.”

But it will. If someone thought it, then it is probably a matter of time. Whether it is this year, or 10 years from now. If parents like us, stick our heads in the sand we can be sure it will happen.

Break it down. We may not be making the choice to have our child Unwound, but we are giving the government permission to look inside our child’s brain. Our child. Yours.

Who should decide? Who get’s to decide? What is the motive for a child who pulls a gun on his classroom? Had you tested him at 7 would you have known? Or what about the child who just went through some trauma? At 7 would he test as un-fit, but with love and support be fine by 7 and a half?

What of the children on the spectrum? Special needs? What of them? Well they be relegated to the list of un-fit. How far will they go? Who can stop them once they start?

Can you afford to look the other way while your child’s future is being decided by the government?



23 thoughts on “My Son’s Brain is Not Public Domain

  1. First I have to say you have great taste in books. 🙂

    BUT OH MY LORD that’s awful about the testing kids in school thing! You bring up SO many good points. I genuinely would freak out if I knew they’d be testing my sons. FREAK OUT. It does give a sense of losing control over something, and I personally hate that feeling, but I would unravel if it had to do with my kids.

    great post, I love the way you constructed it. And thanks for bringing this to light. Scary shit!

  2. My daughter just finished reading 1984 for school – same idea of government control. So scary. Thank you for bringing this to our attention, Jen. This stuff can happen because we think it can’t and we sit by complacently.

    • Thank you Dana. That is exactly my point. Like I said to Lizzi, we are like the frog slowly boiling in the pot, thinking we are taking a nice warm bath.

  3. Thank you for writing this post and for writing it so damn well. I had no idea about this legislation, but it is so disturbing. You make such a compelling argument and such valid and important observations in the last paragraph. Loved this: ” Or what about the child who just went through some trauma? At 7 would he test as un-fit, but with love and support be fine by 7 and a half?” as well as the observation regarding children on the spectrum.

    • Thanks Katia. Sometimes I feel like people just skim stuff like this when I read their comments. But I’m glad you really read it. I tried to keep the words down to make it more digestible. People need to pay attention.

    • You said it MJM, but stuff like this is happening all the time. And it’s not until it directly affects us that we say, “Hey! You can’t do that!” but by then it’s too late.

  4. Wow, I did not know this about NY law. My little ones aren’t in school yet, and my teen is graduated (I know) so I’m out of the loop. I do know, having a son who was ADHD, ODD and a bunch of other letters, I have attended TONS and tons of meetings about my son’s unique brain. What to do, where to put him, I’ve had more arguments with people who wanted to push meds down my son’s throat than I care to think about. I actually MOVED to a different school district, one that I knew wouldn’t push the meds, or make my son feel like a freak. We still struggled, he still hated school, I don’t know how much those meetings helped, because he didn’t fall in a neat little category, like most kids he’s completely unique and can’t be pigeon-holed.
    I’m interested to know what ACTION they are taking with these test.
    This was very interesting. Disturbing, yes, you are correct (and I totally want to read “Unwind” now) and thank you for bringing this to our attention.

  5. On the one hand, the law is a little creepy. On the other hand, public schools can mandate such things. Also, maybe this could be the start to an improved mental health care system. Catch the problems when they start and people can get treatment faster.

  6. This is what happens when fear is allowed to take over. Sigh. It’s scary. How about we evaluate them, and if they need help, we get it for them? Meanwhile, allow them to stay in school and give them opportunities to thrive. Who elects these people, anyway? 🙂 PS: I was a poli sci major too!

  7. So scary. And so gonna happen. They’re already trying over here to bring us back to the days of Victorian England, where only the rich and gifted get schooled. Not sure what the rest of us will do…

  8. Bizarre stuff, Jen. I believe western psychiatry is the most damaging peace-time institution in the history of man-kind. No doubt they’ll ‘diagnose’ a raft of kids with dubious mental illness and then drug them with toxic medications to shorten their life expectancies. Be scared; be very scared!

    Sorry for the rant – it’s a topic I harbor strong feelings about.

  9. Holy crap. I have not heard of this law and am horrified. Seriously. This is just wrong and you bring up so many good points – mostly what the ______ will they do with the kids who are deemed NOT fit for public school? UGH. This is infuriating. Thanks for letting me know that this is being considered. Yuck.

  10. Hey Jen. I had not heard about this and I need to read the actual legislation proposal before opining. But I just wanted to let you know I read this and will formulate a thought soon. 🙂 I marvel at how similar and different we are, though. It’s striking and bizarre. How can we be so alike and so different??

  11. Okay, read it and some of the internet commentary. First I will say that I’m glad you wrote out of your comfort zone. Because if not here, where else??

    Second, I will agree that the language of the bill is vague (perhaps there is a longer version elsewhere that provides more detail). But in general, I think mental health is just as important as physical health to a child’s ability to learn. And testing is just a way to ascertain that. I think most qualified psychologists could understand the difference between having a hard day and something deeper. Most of the commentary I read seemed fairly alarmist and smacked of conspiracies that “the government is out to get us,” which, frankly, I just don’t believe. And I think that making the leap from “let’s make sure children are getting the attention they need” (because you are so attentive to Isaiah, but not every parent is as conscientious) to harvesting organs is a bit of a stretch.

    If anything, I would disagree with the bill because it just adds to the bureaucracy of New York State’s over-legislated, bloated existence, as well as the burden of the underfunded and overworked public schools. Not because I perceive anything sinister in the ideas of a state legislator whose other sponsored bills include, “Enables senior citizens to cash social security checks without maintaining an account at the bank honoring such check.”

    I’m sure you knew I would not agree with you on this. I almost didn’t respond but then I decided that if you were going to write this, then I should give you the courtesy of my honest, thoughtful answer as opposed to the knee-jerk “terrible!” “awful!” “good point!” comment so common in the cs bureaucracy.

  12. I had no idea! Not only is it intrusive, it’s an invasion of privacy. I don’t like the rules that NYS already has in place in regards to the information that school systems are allowed to demand. I think the laws as they stand NOW go against our federal right to an education. Plus, it’s just going to create MORE bureaucracy! Just what school systems need (sarcasm there).

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