No. 403: "Field Work"

No. 403: "Field Work"

No. 403: "Field Work"

Testing your knowledge of what happened this week
March 22 2000 3:00 AM

No. 403: "Field Work"

According to a report in the New York Times, the behavior included "sudden hand clappings, semaphoric arm wavings and occasional gatherings in circles." What's going on here? 

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Send your answer by noon ET Wednesday to newsquiz@slate.com.

Monday's Question (No. 402)—"Child Dish":

Fill in the blank as Dr. Steven Hyman of the National Institute of Mental Health underscores a new White House policy: "As a rule of thumb, doctors, psychologists, and social workers should attempt to modify the behavior of a child and deal with family crises before ______________."   

"Sending him back to Cuba."—Floyd Elliot (Jeff Samuels had a similar answer.)

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"Teaching him how to disarm the trigger lock."—Charles Star

"Going back to watching television."—Paul Tullis

"Selling the little ones on eBay."—Colleen Clish

"Patsy Ramsey does."—Chris Kelly (similarly, Jeff Samuels)

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Click for more answers.

Randy's Wrap-Up

If I understand Dr. Hyman, what once seemed progressive now is regarded as cruel and soul-deadening. No, not the shows on Fox, but the modern ways we "attempt to modify the behavior of a child." Many new techniques for accomplishing this were intended as humane alternatives to that traditional classroom reformative, beating the child with a stick. As far back as 1775, Dr. Johnson was unconvinced that progress had been made, observing to Boswell: "There is now less flogging in our great schools than formerly, but then less is learned there; so that what the boys get at one end, they lose at the other." (For those of you scoring at home, one of the earliest recorded ass jokes. For those of you scoring at home in England, arse jokes.) Today, few educators agree with Johnson (at least publicly). Most schools have foresworn corporal punishment, and even the strictest Christian academies have, for the most part, disconnected those electric shock devices from the children's desks. Indeed, nearly all experts now renounce physical chastisement, asserting that anyone who must strike a child rather than manipulate them through guilt and fear hasn't earned the title "parent."

The Kids Sure Are Quiet … Maybe A Little Too Quiet Answer

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"… should attempt to modify the behavior of a child and deal with family crises before drugs are prescribed."

Dr. Hyman's remarks are in line with the Clinton administration's new efforts to reduce the use of Ritalin, Prozac, and other powerful psychotropic medications on children.

In last month's Journal of the American Medical Association, Dr. Joseph Coyle asserts that children with behavioral disorders are "increasingly subjected to quick and inexpensive pharmacologic fixes," although "there is no empirical evidence to support psychotropic drug treatment in very young children."

(For five points extra credit: What is the most commonly diagnosed psychiatric disorder in children? Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.) 

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Hyman notes that while these drugs are overprescribed, they can be useful. "If a kid is engaged in aggressive behavior, self-mutilation, head banging, and is otherwise uncontrollable, you should try medication," he said. "And give something to the kid, too," he did not add.

"We are not here to bash the use of these medications. They have literally been a godsend," Hillary Clinton concurred. "Although most folks prefer to literally pick them up at the Rite Aid," she did not add.

Chen-Bush Comparison Extra

Observers have drawn few parallels between Chen Shui-bian's victory in the Taiwanese presidential election and G.W. Bush's triumph in America's Republican presidential primary. Perhaps this is because there are none, or perhaps they haven't looked hard enough, kind of hunching forward and squinting. Below, a closer look.

  • Chen: Victory speech included modest thanks to entire nation.
    Bush: Victory speech included "woo woo" noise and frequent use of phrase "kick McCain butt."
  • Chen: In subtle show of friendship to China, did not give victory speech in Taiwanese language.
    Bush: In subtle show of maturity, did not give victory speech in his boxer shorts, swigging from can of Budweiser.
  • Chen: Critics call him remote and impersonal.
    Bush: Campus cops may have called him drunk and disorderly.
  • Chen: Spent early years living in mud hut.
    Bush: Spent recent months slinging mud.
  • Chen: Graduated from primary school first in the nation.
    Bush: Would have done better in third grade if art teacher hadn't had it in for him.
  • Chen: As a young activist, spent time in jail.
    Bush: As a young governor, executed a lot of guys in jail.
  • Chen: As a candidate, ended 50 years of Nationalist Party dominance of Taiwan.
    Bush: As a student, ended 50 years of Tri-Delt dominance of Greek Week.
  • Chen: Thousands of Taiwanese riot in wake of his victory.
    Bush: Millions of Americans creeped out by his Letterman appearance.
  • Chen: Showed devotion to peace, saying, "As a father, I understand the fear of parents who don't want to put their children into danger."
    Bush: Showed devotion to peace, saying, "As a father, I understand the thrift of parents who don't want to buy their children posts in the National Guard."
  • Chen: Believes Taiwan's political future should be decided by its people.
    Bush: Believes Taiwan's political future should be decided by people of South Carolina.

Common Denominator

G.W. = Troubled youth.

Hyman = Funny name.