In the 1950's and 60's, few people understood the nuances of ADD. Kids who had ADD were seen as 'problem children', 'lazy' and 'disobedient'. But they were also, usually, smart. And so, one way or another, they managed to worm their way through school - until they got to high school. There, the habit of just promoting a kid to the next grade to 'move them along' stopped. In high school, not 'doing the work' - a difficult if not impossible task for an undiagnosed and untreated ADD - would not 'get you promoted'. No. It would get you 'Failed'.
Of course, not all classes were as homework dependent as others, so some classes would be passed. Some teachers recognized that passing the tests indicated a knowledge and understanding of the materials presented in class, and so would 'pass' an ADD kid, albeit with nominal grades - grades nowhere near reflective of the real power of the mind that 'earned' the grade. ADD kids got marginalized. Most of them did not or could not go to college - the scholarships that 'Straight A' kids earned were never within reach for them ... their grade point average was never good enough. Of course, not all of them failed - ACT scores and SAT scores would sometimes earn an ADD kid a spot in college - on scholarship. Sometimes. Rare sometimes. But more often, the ADD kids went to work, or went in the service, or otherwise started their lives without the benefit of the type of education that would truly serve them for the rest of their lives. They became 'underachievers'.
Today, there is an alleged epidemic of ADD. 1 in 100 kids, today, is said to be an ADD kid. This epidemic is 'recent'. More and more doctors are prescribing Ritalin and Concerta and Wellbutrin and other medications intended to help those ADD kids to 'focus'. But some will tell you the 'epidemic' is far older than the medical community is willing to admit. There are, literally, millions of adults, today, who are lifelong undiagnosed ADD's. And you know them.
They smoke. Nicotine does the same for them that Ritalin does for kids under treament.
They drink coffee. Caffeine does the same for them that Ritalin does for kids under treatment.
You KNOW these people. They're the ones who can't function until they get that first smoke sucked down - or that first cup of coffee in their stomach. What they're doing, unconsciously, is self-medicating. Over time they have learned, intellectually, how to deal with their affliction - more or less. At least well enough to get by, day to day.
There is this thing called the Law of Unintended Consequences. Our diet has changed dramatically in the last hundred years. Our largely agrarian society has become truly urbanized and industrialized and we no longer eat 'wild' meats and 'unprocessed' foods. The processing of foods, necessary to feed an urbanized society, has added ingredients to the food supply whose impact is STILL not truly understood.
More nutrition? Yes. Obviously. We're bigger, stronger, faster. Healthier? Physically? Yes. But mental and emotional health, to my mind, have never been properly assessed. The impact of the added ingredients on the human brain? Who knows? Do you? I don't. I'm not sure anyone does. At all.
But the older I get, the more experience I garner, the more I think I see the "Law" at work. Unintended Consequences. At work. On all of us.