Thomas Edison Would Have Been Given Adderall Today

Thank God the government schools that exist today weren’t around when Thomas Edison was young. Here is Kerry McDonald writing at the Foundation for Economic Education:

Toddlers on amphetamines! What could go wrong?

“The trouble with our way of educating is that it does not give elasticity to the mind. It casts the brain into a mold. It insists that the child must accept. It does not encourage original thought or reasoning, and it lays more stress on memory than observation.” – Thomas Edison

In 1855, when he was eight years old, Thomas Edison enrolled in school for the first time. After 12 weeks, his teacher, Reverend G. Engle, called him “addled,” or unable to think clearly. Edison apparently hated school and its heavy focus on sitting, memorizing, and repeating. As biographer, Louise Egan, explains: “Tom was confused by Reverend Engle’s way of teaching. He could not learn through fear. Nor could he just sit and memorize. He liked to see things for himself and ask questions.”

Edison’s mother, Nancy Edison, approached Reverend Engle about her son but found his ways too rigid. She felt that he forced things on the children. His mother quickly decided to pull Tom from school and allow him to learn at home, where he developed a passion for books and knowledge. Edison’s education was largely self-directed, with his mother avoiding most top-down instruction and instead allowing Edison to learn naturally. Edison’s biographer, Matthew Josephson, writes: “She avoided forcing or prodding and made an effort to engage his interest by reading him works of good literature and history that she had learned to love…”

Nancy Edison facilitated her son’s learning by noticing the things that interested him and by gathering books and resources to help him explore those topics more fully. Nothing was forced. There was no coercion. Edison became a voracious reader, and by the time he was 12 he had read the great works of Dickens and Shakespeare and many others. He became interested in science so his mother brought him a book on the physical sciences—R.G. Parker’s School of Natural Philosophy—and he performed every experiment within it.

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