I am writing this in between classes at a high school. My daughter, 38-years-old, is finishing her practice-teaching in an attempt to start a new career. She is supposed to be teaching three classes of adolescents who are there because of a variety of academic problems. There are 25 students in each class. She likes each pupil separately, and feels that if she could just cut each one out of the herd for individualized instruction, she could help.When the class is all assembled, however, the room is transformed into a bad kaleidoscopic dream. They stimulate, goose, and abet each other. Everything is moving except the walls; they are only vibrating. She is baby-sitting and trying to save school property. The learning experience consists of this rule: if you get there on time, you might get a better grade.
She asked me to come and talk about nutrition as she had found out from an assignment what they ate: 50% had no breakfast at all -- except a candy bar or a Danish, 25% had no lunch, 80% had some fast food for dinner (fried hamburger or chicken), but some of them did have Chinese food or fresh-cooked food. Many had noodles for dinner and a candy bar. In short, it was processed food, little vegetables, occasional fruit, fatty cheese, ice cream, and sugar, sugar, sugar. The government-approved breakfast was chocolate milk and a doughnut.
I did my usual cheerful, easy-to-understand message about how the brain works and how important the right diet is to the optimum function of the body and the brain. A few listened, but it was stressful to me to have so many in my audience talking as I was talking. I was speaking to a sea of disconnected spinal cords. Nothing was getting up to the neo-cortex of these students because that part of the brain was not being nourished. My hope is that in ten years they will have some insights into the diet/behavior connection and say, "Who was that nice elderly gentleman who talked to us back in 1990?" Maybe they will finally come to realize that what they put into their mouths gets to their brains.
All of them had a few of the following, and some had all of them: headaches, fatigue, stomachaches, insomnia, trouble falling asleep, poor dream recall, and trouble waking up. White spots on the finger nails indicated a zinc lack; follicular keratitis on the back of the upper arms told me they needed vitamin A; cracks at the corners of the mouth gave away their lack of B2. About 25% of the classes had had ear infections as children, and now most of those have dark circles under their eyes, so I knew they were sensitive to dairy products. And they were the ones who craved milk and ice cream.
I had them smell my bottles of calcium and magnesium; most of them loved both of them. These are but two of the multiple deficiencies they must have. These students are the working force of tomorrow. These are the young people who must grow up and take care of us in our old age. They will be discouraged or even outraged when they cannot get a job any better than a counter worker at a fast-food stand.
Teachers are willing to work with these youngsters if they could just get their attention with smaller classes and better food. Children, more than adults who can fake it, need to eat more frequently. They need protein, vegetables, fruit, and whole grains. My daughter is about to give up her teaching career if it is going to be like that every day. She will apply as a home teacher: that is, she would go to someone's home to teach the lessons.
These children do not have a Ritalin (R) deficiency; they need good food to eat. Some need magnesium to calm themselves down. Maybe this harmless mineral that we all need could be passed out like they used to pass out iodine in the goiter-belt schools. The difference between amnesia and magnesia? With amnesia you don't know where you're going. With magnesia, you know where you are going.