Hi Dr. Hurd, I have a “reader question” for you. I work as a mental health clinician in a school-based setting, and over the past couple of years, I’ve seen the term “executive functioning” thrown around quite a bit. However, it seems that whenever I hear it… it SOUNDS like an excuse for some behavior or another. (“My son can’t do such and such because he struggles with executive functioning issues.”) What’s your take? Is there some legitimacy to this “disorder,” or is this yet another instance of people of hiding behind a label? Thanks!!
Dr. Hurd replies: “My son can’t do such and such because he struggles with executive functioning issues.” Let’s translate. What is “executive functioning”? It refers to the operation of the mind and the brain. Operation by whom? By the child, under the guidance of teachers.
We’re not talking about an illness here. We’re talking about a failure to perform. It takes more than physiological capability to initiate the actions of the mind and brain. It takes choice. That’s the essence of free will, in young people or adults.
The central purpose of childhood education is to train a child how to use his or her mind rationally, properly and effectively. By labeling kids this way, teachers and parents are confessing their own failure to teach their children to intellectually perform.
Look at the definition of executive functioning skills provided by one website:
Analyze a task. Figure out what needs to be done.
Plan how to handle the task.
Get organized. Break down the plan into a series of steps.
Figure out how much time is needed to carry out the plan, and set aside the time.
Make adjustments as needed
Finish the task in the time allotted.
All of these tasks involve habits, choices and the initiation of thought by the student-child. It’s fundamentally the child’s job to do all this. Nobody can get into the child’s mind, and do the thinking/learning for him or her. It’s the job of the teacher and school to find effective ways to inspire and motivate the child to engage his or her mind.
To admit to “executive functioning” issues is simply to acknowledge that a child is not engaging his or her brain. It’s a problem, but it’s not an illness. Yet it’s dressed up to sound like an illness, to obscure the real truth so as to avoid responsibility on anyone’s part.
When someone says their child “struggles with executive functioning issues” what they’re really saying is, “My son struggles with initiating his brain functions.” In other words, he does not want to think. It does not refer to a brain disease or a disorder; those would involve problems or breakdowns in the actual physiology of the brain, as in a birth defect, a real medical disease, or an accident.
It’s more of the same shifting of responsibility we have seen for decades now, particularly in our government-run public school system. Such a tactic is convenient for everyone. The child, who’s perhaps frightened, unmotivated, or even plain lazy does not have to work. The parent, who feels like the child’s poor performance is a reflection on him- or herself, does not have to take any blame. And the school officials and teachers do not have to take any blame, either. Instead, the school can call on the local school board or the state or federal government to … you guessed it! Provide more funding to address the “growing and tragic problem of executive functioning issues.” Perhaps something’s in the water. No, it’s climate change. Taxes are too low. Capitalism did this; that’s it!
Our educational system is one massive responsibility-shifting anti-learning/indoctrination mill. We’re progressively moving towards a new stone age of the mind. You know it’s really bad when little kids’ minds start to break down. We wonder why grown kids are living with their parents into their 20s and 30s, even when not working or studying, and mass numbers of them are voting for a nasty old responsibility-shifting socialist for president. This is where it all leads.
It’s just like “Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder,” or ADHD. I knew that sooner or later that label would play out its usefulness. It’s time to move on to something new. Same old excuses; newer labels.
To paraphrase the late comedian George Carlin: It’s bulls**t, ladies and gentlemen…and it’s bad for you.”
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