Founder and Executive Director, National Foundation for Gifted and Creative Children.
interview by Douglas Eby
"The drugging of gifted children and putting negative labels on creatively gifted children is a major issue," Marie Friedel says. She notes one of the books related to this topic is "When Children Don't Learn" by Diane McGuinness: "It tells how it all started here in Rhode Island, and M.D.s used terms like 'minimal brain damage' and 'soft neurological impairment'. Bradley Hospital, a children's hospital, was very instrumental: they accepted quite a bit of funding from Ciba-Geigy to do the research, which is definitely against the law; no drug company is allowed to give research money on children, but they did it.
"It was 1937 when Dr. Bradley began this, and around 1948 or 1950 when Bradley Hospital accepted the money from Ciba-Geigy, who set up a place in Rhode Island at that time, though they're not around any longer.
"But it is atrocious that they were allowed to do that. I could never get a lawyer to fight it, because the Bishop is controlling things here. But the research that started in Rhode Island has reached all over the world. I can't believe how much they're drugging these kids.
She refers to her son Lance, now a symphony conductor. "He's adopted; usually giftedness is inherited," Friedel notes. "I lived in New Jersey and we adopted Lance when he was only three days old, and the pediatrician said he was a very unusual child and wanted him tested, before he was a year old. I said I didn't want my child tested, so he gave me a little pamphlet called "Your Gifted Child" and if I hadn't read that, I tell you, I think my boy would have been destroyed.
"When we started him in school in Rhode Island, I started going to public libraries and the Brown University library, and I couldn't find a single book on the gifted. They had them all hidden in the back. I worked really hard on this thing, and found out that the Catholic Church considered creatively gifted children sick. There's a book "American Freedom and Catholic Power" by Paul Blanshard that talks about how the Church will take over education.
"On page 10, paragraph 2 of Blanshard's book it says: "One night in 1951, at the end of a crowded meeting in Princeton, a frail old gentleman with towering brow and white, bushy hair stood up in the audience and said: "I wish to express my gratitude to a man who is fighting the abuses of a powerful organization. We are grateful to him for his efforts." For that one brief comment, Albert Einstein was hounded continuously in the Catholic Press until his death. He did not waiver his view. In a reply to a letter of violent protest from a Catholic Devotee, he wrote:
'I am convinced that some political and social activities and practices of the Catholic organizations are detrimental and even dangerous for the community as a whole, here and everywhere. I mention here only the fight against birth control at a time when overpopulation in various countries has become a serious threat to the health of people and a grave obstacle to any attempt to organize peace on this planet...'
"Now, we live in the only Catholic state in the union. Everybody thinks I'm Jewish, but I'm Catholic; I was Catholic. I gave it up when I was a little girl.
"When they told me it was the priests, I went to the Bishop and asked him why they don't like gifted children, and he said 'Remember what Christ said: "If ye are not with me, ye are against me."' I said 'What does that mean?' And I began to realize it was a religious thing, and wondered how I was going to fight it. I had a whole bunch of Harvard lawyers through the years who wanted to do a class action suit against the state of Rhode Island, but they couldn't go through with it because of the politics of the state: the Catholic Church runs the state, which I didn't know; I thought it was a democracy. And I found there were a lot of good people in Rhode Island who were afraid to help me with this; there would be reprisals.
"Psychologists can't really make a determination of a disorder
are characteristics of giftedness. You need an M.D. to do that kind of
to make a definition of pathology. There is a neurological test, I
that can determine if there is ADD.
"But I just don't believe in ADD. I absolutely do not accept it. I think bipolar disorder can be discovered by a psychiatrist, but I've found many gifted kids develop that. You see, gifted children haven't been taken care of, and the creatively gifted have been neglected even more. And they may not exhibit a high IQ. The Torrance Tests are the ones you have to use, because those discover the child's learning preference.
"There definitely are disorders like depression, but it takes
an M.D. to determine that. The labeling of disorder like ADD in
is almost always from psychologists, and they don't have a medical
"Dr. Stanley Krippner told me this all the time, because he was alarmed when he found children being labeled. I used to work with adults, too, though I don't any more. When they would bring the children here, the mother or father would realize they went through a lot of this themselves. Many parents wake up when they read our information packet, and realize they too were underachievers or been troubled for the same reasons. Giftedness is often a genetic thing.
"One of my parents is a brilliant woman and she's been on Prozac now for twelve years. She can't function without it. She was hurt very deeply as a child. The gifted don't know how to learn the way the schools want them to learn; they're different. But the Torrance Tests are terrific. They're the most popular tests used for creativity. You can have high creativity, and not have a high IQ, and these creatively gifted children are often lost, and labeled negatively. But they may have very high measures of flexibility, originality, intuitiveness, elaboration, and fluency that those tests can measure.
"Dr. Krippner taught me about all the intuitiveness in these children. I could see it, but I didn't realize how much until he worked with me a great deal. And I found so many children called bipolar, because they were so intense. I am not denying they become ill, but it's brought on by being miseducated and misunderstood. I've worked with many children, and took them all off medication. I think out of all the many we've worked with, there was one little boy we couldn't do much with, but Dr. Krippner thought it was because his father was beating him so much. But with most of these children, I was told that they were 'little animals', couldn't sit still, were disruptive, couldn't do anything; under my guidance, I found them to be beautiful; they would die for you.
"Sometimes one of them would say, 'Miss Friedel, I think there's a better way to do what you're doing' -- and usually the child was right. So I began to tell my people who were working with these children that the learning has to be an exchange of ideas; the children have something to give. But you see what they do with them in schools? Crucify them.
"Gifted women have been neglected terribly. I'm one of them. I was born into a very Catholic family, one of seven children, and never brought up to think I could do anything great. And you sort of become subservient. My mother was a very subservient woman, and I think she could have been many things. And many religions continue this keeping women down.
"The president of Rhode Island College at the time asked me to
on learning disabled children. A Sister Rosalia gave the whole course,
when I went, of course, I was saying everything opposite to what she
"But two of the parents, who were studying to be teachers, came to my home afterward, weeping. They had boys that were gifted, and called ADD and so forth, and on drugs. The story they were told by Sister Rosalia was that if you see a child in school when you're teaching, and the child is not paying attention, and too much energy and running around, you must recommend drugs. And usually his name will be David.
"So I asked someone later what that was about, and they said it was because David was king of the Jews. It's religious prejudice, in this day and age! One of the books on our reading list is 'The Myth of the Hyperactive Child' by Schrag and Divoky. It's dedicated 'To David.'"
The National Foundation for
and Creative Children
395 Diamond Hill Road, Warwick, Rhode Island 02886
Michele Ward, Asst. Phone: 401-738-0937 E-mail: [email protected]
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