Once upon a time, not so very long ago, there was a town called Edendale that had many little children. The children were very happy. They liked to run and play and giggle and tell stories, much like children have always done.
The parents of Edendale were very busy people. They had jobs to go to, and houses to run, and bills to pay, for the King demanded many taxes and the parents wanted a good life for their happy children.
Then one day a stranger came to town. He was dressed in a white coat, but his heart was black. He said that he was a new kind of doctor from the big University. He said that he was an expert in children's development and had come to examine all the children of Edendale.
At first the parents of Edendale were skeptical about the stranger in the white coat. Their children were doing fine, they said. Look how happy and active they are. Their cheeks glow, their hair is shiny, they all read and write. They are normal children.
Oh no, said the stranger. I have observed your children. They gaze out the window during lessons. They lose their pencils and they run and skip far too much for their own good. They love their parents and they prefer to sing and dance rather than sit still. They have sick brains and sick minds. Every child must be tested! Immediately!
The stranger threatened the Head Master that he would lose his job if the children were not tested. A new Head Master from the capital could be found. So the Head Master told the parents that the children would not be allowed to attend school unless they had the tests.
The stranger brought in a group of testers who also wore white coats. One by one the children were interviewed. "Do you ever feel that other children don't like you?" was one question. "Do you feel nervous about getting up and speaking in front of a group?" was another. "Do your parents ever have arguments at home?" "Have you ever felt sad?"
Many of the children answered yes to some of these questions. When their friends moved away or their pets died, they sometimes did feel sad. And sometimes they did get nervous in front of a group. And, even in Edendale, sometimes the parents had arguments. The tester marked with a big red pen and one by one the children who answered yes were taken to a little office. You are mentally ill, the stranger in the white coat said. You must be put in a special hospital. I want to see my mother and father, each child said. All in good time, when you are better, said the stranger in the white coat.
And many of the brightest and most dynamic children were taken away, locked up in a hospital far away from Edendale.
When the children did not come home from school, their parents went to find them. They asked the Head Master where are the children? The Head Master had no answer. The children had been taken by the man in the white coat.
The parents drove to the hospital. "Why have you taken our children?" they asked the stranger in the white coat. "Your children have an illness in their brains," he told them. You must pay for their drugs and treatment and we will tell you when they are well enough to go home.
"We have never heard of brain illness before," said the parents. How do you know our children have it? "We are doctors, so we know," said the stranger in the white coat. He did not tell them that the only diagnosis was the way the children had answered their test questions.
In the days that followed it was very quiet in Edendale. There was no more laughter heard in the schoolyard, or in the neighborhoods. The children did not run and call to each other to come and play games. The children were afraid to make too much noise, or they might be taken away, too.
The stranger in the white coat stood once again outside the school and observed the children wandering listlessly at recess, or sitting, alone, on the benches. And for the first time he smiled, a very tiny smile.
A fairytale? Like the ones the Brothers Grimm gathered in Europe in the 1800's that formed the basis for Western children's literature? After all, we have rights and we would be protected from doctors who would diagnose psychiatric disorders from a questionnaire. But this is exactly what has happened to many kids and teenagers. The test is called TeenScreen, and it is part of a "mental health initiative" called The New Freedom Commission on Mental Health, established by President George Bush in 2002. Its mission -- to test all American school children. In one school in New York, 50% of the kids were found by this test to be "at risk." The treatment? Psychotropic drugs that carry the all too real risks of suicide, suicidal ideation, homicide and homicidal ideation. Ideation means forming thoughts and ideas about it. And some American kids, after being tested, have been taken straight from school, without their parents' knowledge or consent, to psychiatric facilities for treatment. If you think this could not happen here, please see http://www.ahrp.org/cms/content/view/453/52/
For more information, go to www.ablechild.org and http://www.teenscreentruth.com/.
If you think you are safe because you are past high school, read all about the New Freedom Commission on Mental Health. The real goal is to test everyone, from cradle to nursing home. Call it a Brave New World.