Thom Hartmann

Presentation + Questions & Answers
For ADD-Holistic Discussion Group

Subject: Visiting Expert Introduction

It is an honor to introduce our next ADD-Holistic Visiting Expert, Thom Hartmann. The experienced Holistic Medicine practitioner looks at a disease or dysfunction in several ways (physical influences, psychological influences, family and social systems, etc.). Mr. Hartmann will be exploring some very important, but often ignored ways to look at people diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder. I encourage reading completely through his opening post that will follow later today.

Please join me in welcoming Mr. Hartman to the ADD-Holistic discussion group! [clap, clap, clap!]

Biography of Thom Hartmann

Thom Hartmann s books have been written about in Time magazine and he has been on numerous national and international radio and TV shows, including NPR s All Things Considered, CNN, and BBC radio. He has been on the front page of The Wall Street Journal twice, has spoken to over 100,000 people on four continents over the past two decades, and one of his books was selected for inclusion in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian. A best-selling and award-winning author, he is also rostered with the State of Vermont as a psychotherapist, and a licensed and certified NLP Practitioner and NLP Trainer.

Over the past twenty years, he has worked with hundreds of ADD and hyperactive children and adults. In 1978, he and his wife Louise opened the New England Salem Children's Village (NESCV), a residential treatment facility for children on one hundred and thirty-two wooded acres on Stinson Lake in New Hampshire. The Children's Village is based on the family model of the international Salem program located in Germany.

As executive director of NESCV for five years, Hartmann worked with numerous psychologists and psychiatrists, social workers and courts, and hundreds of children and parents. He taught parenting classes, helped train child-care workers, was co-founder of the New Hampshire Group Home Association, and worked closely with that state's governor to develop programs for children in crisis.

NESCV specializes in providing previously institutionalized children with a family model, non-institutional setting, and works, usually, without drugs with children who have nearly all been in some form of drug therapy. It was the subject of three major reports on National Public Radio's All Things Considered afternoon news program, as well as feature articles in Parenting, Prevention, East-West, Country Journal, and over a dozen other national publications and newspapers. In 1998, NESCV will be opening The Hunter School, a residential school for ADD/ADHD children (for more information, call 603 786-9427).

Hartmann also worked with the international Salem program based in Europe to set up famine relief and other, similar programs in Africa, Europe, South America, and Asia, and lived with his family for a year in Germany at the international Salem headquarters. In Uganda, in 1980 (just months after Idi Amin was run out of the country), he entered a war zone and negotiated with the provisional government for land to build a hospital and refugee center, which is still operating and seeing an average of over five hundred patients a day. He has helped set up similar programs in several other countries, most recently traveling to Bogota, Colombia.

From 1972 to 1978, and 1987 to 1991, he taught concentration and meditation techniques through a series of weekly classes, and spoke on these subjects at numerous conferences in the United States and Europe.

As a journalist, Hartmann spent seven years as a radio and television news reporter during and immediately after his college years, and has been published over two hundred times in more than fifty different national and international publications, ranging from the German version of International Business Week and The Christian Science Monitor, to Popular Computing, for which he wrote a monthly column for two years. At one time he was Contributing Editor to, and a columnist for, seven different national magazines, and is the winner of the prestigious Jessie H. Neal award for excellence in reporting. His monograph about dietary intervention in the hyperactive syndrome was published in 1981 in The Journal of Orthomolecular Psychiatry, and one of his short stories won a national award. One of his books (Think Fast!) was selected for inclusion in the permanent exhibit on information technology in medicine at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC.

Additionally, Hartmann has successfully started seven businesses, one of which made the front page of The Wall Street Journal. Enterprises he has started (and, with two exceptions, later sold) include an advertising agency, a newsletter/magazine publishing company, an herbal tea manufacturing company, an international travel wholesaler and travel agency, a training company presenting seminars nationwide, an electronics design and repair company, and a company which sells computer peripherals. He has published nine nonfiction books and written nine novels, is both a licensed pilot and a licensed private detective (neither of which he practices), and a former skydiver.

The founder of the Michigan Healing Arts Center, and a student of "alternative" medicine, he received a C.H. (Chartered Herbalist) degree from Dominion Herbal College, an M.H. (Master of Herbology) degree from Emerson College, and a Ph.D. in Homeopathic Medicine from Brantridge in England (his Ph.D. thesis was published in a national-circulation magazine in the United States, and these degrees qualify him to practice homeopathic and herbal medicine in England, Canada, India, and several dozen other countries). He completed a residential post-graduate course in acupuncture at the Beijing International Acupuncture Institute, the world's largest accredited acupuncture teaching hospital, in Beijing, China, in 1986. He is also a certified and licensed NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practicioner and Trainer, and rostered as a Psychotherapist by the State of Vermont.

A student of technology, he held a radio and TV station broadcast engineering license from the federal government, is a former amateur radio operator, a Certified Electronics Technician, and a former engineer/technician for RCA. He currently holds contracts with CompuServe to supervise and operate the Desktop Publishing and DTP Vendor Forums, Office Automation Forum, ADD Forum, International Trade Forum, and half a dozen others. In this capacity, he daily helps serve the needs of CompuServe's millions of members, and can easily be reached online at "". His books about ADD, business, and spirituality are available in bookstores nationwide.

In the marketing and advertising field (his specialty), he is currently president of Mythical Books, sold in 1997 an advertising agency and newsletter publishing company, has worked as a consultant to dozens of US Government agencies and hundreds of companies, and has taught seminars on advertising and marketing to over ten thousand companies and individuals in the past fifteen years. His clients include over four hundred seventy of the Fortune 500 firms, and he has been a keynote speaker to groups ranging from a Hong Kong banker's meeting, to a symposium on international travel sponsored by KLM Airlines and American Express in Amsterdam, to the California Teachers Association's annual conference. He has spoken to over 100,000 people on four continents.

An inveterate traveler and sometimes a risk-taker, Hartmann has often found himself in the world's hot spots on behalf of the Salem organization or as a writer, a situation which causes his friends to sometimes wonder aloud if he works for the CIA (he does not). He was, for example, in The Philippines when Ferdinand Marcos fled the country; in Egypt the week Anwar Sadat was shot; in Uganda during the war of liberation by Tanzania; in Hungary when the first East German refugees arrived; in Germany when the wall came down; in Peru when the Shining Path first bombed the presidential palace; in Beijing during the first student demonstrations; in Thailand when they were briefly invaded by Laos, then again when the military coup of 1991 occurred, then again when the military were thrown out in 1992; in Barbados during the recent anti-government strikes and shutdowns; in Bogota and Medellin, Colombia, during the spate of killings of presidential candidates; in Israel, in the West Bank town of Nablus, the week the Intifada started there; on the Czech border the week Chernobyl melted down; in Kenya during the first big wave of crackdowns on dissidents; and in Venezuela during the 1991 coup attempt. He has been successful in avoiding some disasters, however. For example, he was out of the country when George Bush picked Dan Quayle as his running mate.

Born in 1951, he is the father of three children aged sixteen to twenty-four, and has been married to his wife, Louise (a brilliant, very patient, and non-ADD woman), for twenty-five years.

From: Thom Hartmann
Subject: ADD Opening Post from Visiting Expert Thom Hartmann

"Good Science" and the Wounding of America's Children
by Thom Hartmann

At a recent national convention on ADHD, one speaker suggested "good science" argues that ADHD is entirely a pathological condition, a genetic illness, and that there is no value whatsoever in a person "having ADHD." Anybody who may seek to offer hope to ADHD children or parents was accused of telling "stories," the citation again being "good science." The speaker suggested that ADHD is purely a genetic defect; the neo-Darwinist theory being that sometimes genetic problems are simply "weaknesses in the evolution..." and that, "qualities of ADHD place individuals at the lower tail of an adaptive bell curve...."

If this is true, then perhaps we should all just throw up our hands and put ourselves in the care of the pharmaceutical industry, which has been more than generous to many who put forth the above assertion. If not, then the very word "science" itself is being twisted in a dangerous way, reminiscent of how the Eugenicists and Germans used "science" earlier in this century to justify "correcting genetic deficiencies" in the human race.

Which is the case?

True "good science" understands three primary ways a researcher can devise a study to prove pretty much whatever he wants. These methods involve what are called "sample bias"; "experimenter bias" (or "experimenter effect," or "the Heisenberg Principle"); and "model bias" or defects in the actual structure of the experiment itself or the conclusions drawn from it. Let's take a very quick look at how badly most of the supposed "good science" that calls itself "research" into ADHD has been contaminated by these various problems.

Sample Bias

If we wanted to find out what type of people were generally driving cars in, say, New York City, an easy way to do the study would be to approach the New York Police Department. "Let us put a psychologist in the back seat of every police car for two weeks," we could ask, "and whenever the cop stops somebody or arrests somebody, our psychologist will jump out with a clipboard and pen and interview the subject, taking detailed notes."

What would we find? To the no-doubt horror of people living in New York (and the delight of those in Los Angeles), we could "scientifically prove" that virtually all New York drivers studied had committed some sort of crime, these ranging from minor traffic infractions to murder. More than eighty percent were at risk for jail time if they didn't appear in court or pay a fine within a few weeks. Ninety percent had bad or sullen attitudes. Fully fifteen times the population of "normal drivers" (not stopped by the police) were engaged in some sort of active criminal behavior, such as speeding away from a bank robbery or carrying drugs or fleeing the scent of a crime. The picture would be grim, indeed, because the entire study had been done from the back seat of police cars.

Similarly, many of the studies of ADHD individuals have been done from the back seat (metaphorically) of mental institutions; the back seats of the offices of psychiatrists, psychologists, or psychotherapists; the back seats of the youth criminal justice system; or the back seats of counselor's or special education teacher's offices. Those identified to participate in the study in the first place were those who were already crashing and burning, already in crisis, already identified by themselves or somebody else as a person with a problem.

This is sample bias at its worst, and if it weren't so tragic that people take them seriously, many of these purported "studies" of ADHD individuals would be laughable.

Experimenter Bias

David Reilly, M.D., reports on a study done at the University of Glasgow, Scotland, from 1987 to 1990. During this study, a group of asthma patients were given "a new asthma drug" over a period of several months. The patients thought they were getting medications at all times (although realized they were participating in some sort of medical study). The first month the doctors gave the pills, they (the doctors) thought there was a fifty percent chance the pills they were passing out contained some sort of drug, and a fifty percent chance they were handing out placebos (sugar pills), although the doctors themselves didn't know which was which or who was getting which. The reactions from the patients varied, but were not dramatic. The next few weeks, the doctors were told that all of the pills they were passing out contained drugs. The responses of the patients were so sudden and so dramatic that one claimed to be cured of his asthma, whereas another had such a severe and life-threatening asthma attack within minutes of administration of the drug that he threatened to sue the hospital and university supervising the study for giving him such a dangerous experimental drug.

Interestingly, there were never any drugs involved in the study whatsoever: at all times, the pills passed out were placebos. But when the doctors were certain that all of the pills they were passing out were drugs, the patients began to react much more strongly to the sugar pills than they had when the doctors were unsure about whether the pills contained drugs or were merely placebos.

A similarly dramatic study was published in the British medical Journal Lancet in 1985 by Gracley, Dubner, Deeter, and Wolksee. Titled, "Clinicians' expectations influence placebo analgesia," this study found that when doctors thought they were giving out powerful pain drugs (to people really in severe pain) the patients' pain usually dropped, sometimes even more dramatically than under morphine. On the other hand, when doctors gave real painkillers but thought they were passing out sugar pills, patients' pain often wasn't significantly diminished, even though the painkillers were among the most powerful in existence.

Over the years, many similar studies have been done, always with similar results, and have been printed in publications ranging from The Journal of the American Medical Association to the British Medical Journal to Psychoneuroimmunology to Clinical Psychology Reviews.

In the field of education, numerous similar studies show the power of experimenters' or patients' expectations. Classics include studies where teachers are told they have bright or slow students and the students perform to the teacher's expectations, or the famous classroom experiment where children were told that blue eyes indicated higher intelligence or status and brown eyes lower, and within days the children had socially reorganized themselves.

In physics, this is referred to as The Heisenberg Principle: the observer will always have some effect on the experiment, and the mere act of being observed alters the way things are, thus changing the outcome of the study. At least in physics, scientists understand this: some "scientists" appear to have missed that week of science class, or perhaps never studied the scientific method at all.

Thus, we have studies where children are "identified" at an early age as having a "disorder" and being "deficient." They, or their parents, or their teachers, or all, are told of the child's "deficit." And then these children are "observed" over time to determine their "outcome."

If such research weren't so destructive, it would be comedic. The sad fact is that if a control group of "normal" children were to be introduced to the study, and these fully "normal" children were told they had a brain "deficit" that was a psychological "disorder," and their parents and teachers were similarly informed, and they were then observed for a number of years, the damage that would be done to the "normal" children by this change in their self-story is so obvious and predictable that the experimenters could find themselves in jail for child abuse. Certainly such a study of "normal" children would never pass a research review board...yet we routinely inflict this on "disordered" children.

Model Bias or Experiment Model Defects

This area is the most pernicious and destructive of all among the so-called "scientific" studies of ADHD children, precisely because it's so transparent that most people never even realize it's present.

The basis of virtually all of the arguments put forward that ADHD is purely a defect rest on research done among public schoolchildren in the United States, or of adults who were students of American public schools.

While education for the first six thousand years of our civilization was most often a mentorship and interactive process, in the past 170 years it's become something that even University of Virginia founder Thomas Jefferson would not recognize.

For example, in the early years of education teachers were expected to develop personal relationships with their students. If you were a student of Rembrandt, you got to know him and he got to know you. Or Hippocrates, or Pasteur, or Leonardo da Vinci. Even today, this is the primary model of graduate school, particularly when people are working on their Ph.D. or the latter years of their M.D. degrees.

However, in the 1800's several changes were made in our schools. First, in the 1830's, the German schools introduced the notion that children must ask the question, "May I ask a question?" before they could ask a question. This two-step process or raising one's hand and then being called on was inserted into German education to produce children more fearful and respectful of authority figures. (And, apparently, it worked.)

Second, in the 1880's, a Cambridge instructor named William Farish earned the distinction of being the world's first and most famous lazy (or profitable) teacher. The industrial revolution was well under way by this time, and Cambridge was experimenting with the idea of paying teachers piece-rate (per student) instead of salaries. It increased the productivity of factory workers, went the idea, so may increase the productivity of teachers as well. But Farish was also stuck in a six-thousand-year-old system of education where teachers were expected to get to know their students well enough to know if the students understood the material being taught. That took time and work. There had to be a way, Farish reasoned, to turn children from pupils and students into items on an assembly line. If they could be somehow organized into "learned" and "hasn't yet learned" categories by an objective measure, then Farish wouldn't have to take the time to get to know them. And so he invented grades.

The invention of grades and standardized testing by Farish in the 1880s so increased his income (he could "teach" nearly three times as many students, so his piece-rate pay skyrocketed) that other teachers stampeded to follow. Grades became a major fad in England, moving to the United States by the turn of the century and becoming firmly entrenched by the 1920's.

Thomas Jefferson, educated in the 1700's, never had to raise his hand and never took a test to determine his grade.

Between these two major changes - the sit-down-shut-up-raise-your-hand-to-speak German invention and the measurement-of-knowledge-with-paper-and-pen-instead-of-by-another-person-ge tting-to-know-you - schools were transformed from the Jeffersonian ideal of a theatre of ideas and interaction into the Henry Ford ideal of an assembly line. And, as with Ford's factories, any product on the assembly line that wasn't "Grade A Standard" had to be pushed off the conveyor belt and dumped into the trash bin, or else rebuilt by a different group of workers whose job was to repair "defective goods."

Many people alive today remember the fate of left-handed children in many schools earlier in this century. In my father's time, many left-handed children literally had their left arms tied to their bodies during the first few years of school so they could learn to write "properly" with their right hands. They were, of course, suffering from what was believed to be a defect of brain wiring: left-handed disorder. I remember a friend, now in his late 70's, telling me with tears in his eyes what a humiliating and painful experience it was to be so segregated from his peers, what a struggle it was to try to cut paper for art class or learn good penmanship, and how he was labeled a "slow learner" because he was focusing so much of his energy on trying to use his right hand.

While it's obvious to us all what a wounding experience not fitting into those schools left-handers had, most miss entirely how painful it is for ADHD children in today's public schools. The brains of ADHD children are not wired to be good items for an assembly line, and they don't fit into the factories that our schools have become.

So should it surprise anybody that a study of them would find that in these factory schools they don't perform as well as their "normal" peers?

Again, the experiments are so pathetically designed that it's astounding anybody would dare call them "science." The "control groups" are "normal" students - those whose brains are wired in a way that allows them to sit on the assembly line for 12 or more years with no problem at all. The researchers say they're measuring the abilities of one group of students against another, that there is only one major factor being tested.

How sadly naive. What's really being measured is the school, not the students.

What's being demonstrated by this so-called "good science" is that our public schools will work fine for one group of kids, but will wound another group of kids (those we call ADHD) so badly that they'll end up at risk for drug abuse, develop attitudinal and self-esteem problems, and spin into a free-fall of dysregulation and despair.

If the "control groups" in these studies were ADHD students in private school environments, or homeschooling ADHD kids - who were never wounded by public school, even in their early years - then the results would be much different. As psychologist and former psychology professor Dr. Stephen Larsen points out from the experience of his own two children, "Public schools wound kids who are not what we call 'average,' and that wounding can be severe and lifelong. Get those kids out of public schools and into a true learning environment and they will outperform any norm you can measure them against."

Ask any parent whose gone through the process, who's watched the wounding of their child because he wasn't a "standardized product" for the factory of "standardized education" and then seem him blossom in a private school, charter school, or homeschooling environment, and you'll hear the same story: ADHD children can succeed. And when their childhood self-esteem isn't destroyed by so-called "experts" telling them that because they're not just like every other car on the assembly line they have a "deficit" and a "disorder," it turns out it is possible that these ADHD children can grow up to be highly functional and successful adults.


Far from showing America has an army of genetically defective children, "good science" has proven that we have a severely dysfunctional educational system. Between one and three million children in the United States alone must daily take psychoactive drugs ranging from stimulants to antidepressants just to rewire their brains enough that they can stay on the conveyor belt. Another several million require "educational intervention," and over one million have given up on the public schools, turning to homeschooling. (This is the first time in history that more children are being homeschooled for academic reasons than for religious reasons.) The system is broken, and out of that brokenness has come an army of so-called experts who perform what they call "research" on these children to prove their "defects," and a billion-dollar "therapeutic" industry supplying the children wounded by our dysfunctional schools with diagnosis, therapy, special education, and drugs.

We must confront a difficult question.

When my son couldn't succeed in a public school without taking drugs because he had a "disorder" called ADHD, yet this same child jumped two full grade levels in a single year without medications in a private school where children didn't have to raise their hands and emphasis was on mentoring and teaching instead of testing, I realized I'd been asking the wrong question. It wasn't, "What's wrong with my son?" Instead, if the disorder existed when he was in the public school, but vanished in the private school, then where was the disorder? Concluding the disorder was in the school and not the child, we homeschooled his younger sister for her high school years, and this "bad student" completed four years of schooling in two years, never working more than two hours a day, and began college at the age of sixteen. She, too, had been told she had a disorder, and again I had to ask myself, "Where is the real disorder?"

I believe it's critically important that we all ask our "scientists" and ourselves the same question. Then we can get on with taking education back to the model that worked so well for six thousand years, but has recently been twisted into a destructive and wounding machine by the belief that cars on assembly lines and children in schools are essentially the same thing.

Subject: Visiting Expert Thom Hartmann addendum


I was supposed to tack on Thom Hartmann's web page resources, but forgot. The following web page points to Mr. Hartmann's ADD Books and training information:
Please feel free to post any questions you have related to his work or his opening post.

Best Wishes,
- Mark

Holistic Healing Web Page

Subject: Re: ADD Opening Post from Visiting Expert Thom Hartmann

Date: Tue, 2 Nov 1999 10:29:06 EST

In a message dated 11/1/99 9:28:51 PM, writes: < >>

Hi Thom,

Happy to have you this week. I could not agree more with the above paragraph. This is why I am now homeschooling my boys Brian - 8 adhd and Mike - 12 Asperger's syndrome. Brian has learned to read and read well now that he is in a loving, supportive environment that meets his needs!!!!! I have read several of your books and I have thoroughly enjoyed them! I especially like the idea of thinking of our kiddos or ourselves not in the deficit or disorder model - I hate those words!!!! I refused to turn my children over to the drug companies and the public schools to ruin their chances of a good future. The public school of course wanted my Brian on drugs. I do have my Asperger's child on some very low dose meds but only until I can finish adding the dietary and supplement changes to his world! Thanks again Thom for your great work !
Sharon in TX:-)

From: Thom Hartmann
Subject: Re: ADD Opening Post from Visiting Expert Thom Hartmann

Date: Wed, 3 Nov 1999 08:48:45 -0500

Message text written by Mark Gold
>I especially like the idea of thinking of our kiddos or
ourselves not in the deficit or disorder model...<

Thanks! I think it's important for us to acknowledge that those of us and our kids who share this brain wiring or these personality characteristics are different from those who easily succeed in schools or factories. However, I, like you, disagree with using very powerful words like "deficient" and "disordered" to tell children to apply to themselves. I prefer to tell my son that he and I are "Hunters stuck in a world that's been taken over by Farmers."


Subject: To Thom Hartman

Date: Wed, 3 Nov 1999 21:41:21 +0000

Hi Thom,
Great to see you on the list. I have been hear quite some time. I have not posted though in months. I mostly just read when there's time. I attended the whole day conference you had in Chicago this past summer, and thought I would take this opportunity to say Thanks for such an experience. I wrote to you long ago when the Adda conference was originaly cancled hoping that if they rescheduled, you would be there. And sure enough, I counted on meeting and getting the oppourtunity to hear you for such a long time. It is unfortunte that I suffered from such sever tooth pain that day, and spent the whole with a heating pad attached to the side of my face. But I would tell anyone to go to great lengths to have the opportunity, to hear your powerfull message, since reading your books, and hearing you speak my life, my son's, and my family's life is changed forever. The world needs to take another look at "what is add" and "why" I think if they ask you they will have the TRUTH and the only answer the world needs. Let's treat these people like the rest of us what's to be treated, Normal.
Somehow I am sure Thom that I will see you again.
Rachel Jarvey,
Marinette WI

From: Thom Hartmann
Subject: Re: To Thom Hartman

Thanks, Rachel - I'm glad the all-day NLP/ADHD training I did was of value to you! Now, "tag - you're 'it'," it's your turn to share the message with someone else!

Best regards,


To: ADD- Holistic List
From: "Dr. Gary Erkfritz"
Subject: ADD Hi, Thom

Date: Wed, 03 Nov 1999 07:20:14 -0800

Thanks for joining the list. Interestingly, I just purchased a couple of your books last week, but I haven't had time to get into them yet. I was at your webpage and I know you speak of the concept of children being "hunters" or "farmers." I remember a book from a while back that introduced that concept -- I believe it was initially printed in 1952, but the author escapes me at present (many senior moments these days). Anyhow, would you be kind enough to elaborate on this concept?

From: Thom Hartmann
Subject: Re: Hi, Thom

Date: Thu, 4 Nov 1999 10:05:19 -0500

Hmmm... dunno about any writers from the 50's (or any other time) who wrote about ADHD and "hunters and farmers." (In fact, ADD as a category didn't exist until the 1980's, as I recall.) But regarding my take on it, here's a clip from "Focus Your Energy," a book I wrote a few years ago:

Throughout pre-history, virtually all humans on the planet were members of hunting societies. Then, 10,000 years ago, anthropologists tell us that humanity experienced the agricultural revolution: on several continents people began herding animals or planting crops, settling down, and creating farming societies. This led to a huge expansion in the number of people on the planet, and, like with the industrial revolution, was the force behind the creation of a whole new type of human culture.

But those early, pre-agricultural-revolution hunting societies probably had an unique lifestyle, quite different from that of the farming societies to come and from modern-day culture. There was certainly a different set of cultural norms, and a vastly different type of personality was necessary for survival.

When viewed in an anthropological or historical view, the criteria for diagnosing ADD could also be seen as characteristics which would be survival skills for a person in a hunting society.

For success in the field, forest, or jungle, a hunter must be easily distractible, constantly scanning his environment. He must be able to juggle many tasks or pursue many possible prey at the same time. He must feel unafraid of taking risks, as risk is the daily life of a hunter. If, after starting after one animal, he sees a better opportunity, he must then quickly (impulsively) have the ability to make the decision to alter course and pursue the new prey. A sense of impending doom would keep him aware at all times of the possibility of predators, and on alert against them. And he would thrive on the adrenaline high of the hunt, while finding boring tasks like cleaning his living area to be so tedious that he'd procrastinate when faced with them. His sense of time would be either very fast or very slow, he'd be either excited or bored "just by life at the moment." Characteristics of a Successful Hunter

As you can see from the above analysis, the most successful hunters of the past (and the present, for that matter) would be classified as ADD by modern psychologists. And there's growing evidence that, consistent with Darwin's theories, these tendencies are passed from generation to generation, ensuring the survival of future hunting societies. There's even a specific gene which some researchers believe may "cause" or affect some percentage of ADD cases. It was first identified several years ago in association with alcohol and drug dependence, and is referred to as the D2A1 variant. It can apparently be transmitted by either the father or the mother, and travels from generation to generation.

Farmers, on the other hand, faced different challenges. To live successfully in an agricultural society, a farmer must endure long stretches of boredom, and stay put in one place. It takes months for crops to grow, and farmers spend much of that time in tedious tasks of picking bugs off plants or pulling weeds. They may develop good auditory-processing skills through hours of sitting with other farmers and talking to pass the time while the crops grow, or during the winters when the crops are in storage. Their communities would be more social and interdependent. They cannot afford to be easily distracted, restless, or impulsive: if an impatient farmer were to pull the seedling out of the ground every few days to see how it was growing, it would die. And the Hunter's sense of doom would have to be replaced by a calmer sense of quiet confidence that even though the soil hasn't moved in a week, those seeds are germinating and will eventually break through. A Farmer's sense of time must be linear and even, and he's only excited or bored when confronted with a truly exciting or boring situation. Unlike a Hunter, he doesn't constantly feel the restive push to hunt, the persistent alert for danger, the internally created sensations of boredom or excitement.

Just as we now have people with all shades of skin, eye color, hair color, etc., as the result of the past years of genetic intermixing, we've also now produced an "averaging" of these two Hunter and Farmer traits, and this has become our "normal" person. But there still remain among us those who are, to greater or lesser degrees, the overfocused Farmers, and the highly-distractible Hunters. Why are there so few Hunters?

In 1981, when I first put forth the concept that the "symptoms" of ADD might be vestigial survival skills handed down to us from primitive hunting societies, it was largely a leap of logic. There is solid evidence that ADD is genetic, and certainly other genetic conditions that are liabilities in modern society were adaptive and aided survival in more primitive societies (such as Sickle Cell Anemia, which offers some resistance against malaria). But, if the "hunting gene" was useful for survival of people with it, why have hunting societies largely died out around the world, and why is ADD seen only among 5 percent to 20 percent of the population, instead of 50 percent or some other number?

Now I believe we've found the answer to even that last detail.

There's a remarkable research effort summarized in an article in the February, 1994 issue of Discover magazine that discusses how hunting societies are always wiped out by farming societies over time. It points out that fewer than 10 percent of hunting society members will normally survive when their culture collides with an agricultural society. And it has nothing to do with the hunter's "attention deficits," or with any inherent superiority of the farmers.

The authors traced the root languages of the peoples living across central Africa. They found that at one time the area was dominated by hunter-gathers: the Khoisans and the Pygmies. But over a period of several thousand years, virtually all of the Khoisans and Pygmies, the "Hottentots" and the "Bushmen" as they've been referred to in Western literature, were wiped out...and replaced by Bantu-speaking farmers. Two entire groups of people were destroyed by the millions, rendering them nearly extinct, while the Bantu-speaking farmers flooded across the continent, dominating central Africa.

The reasons for this startling transformation are several.

First, agriculture is more efficient than hunting in terms of generating calories. Because the same amount of land can support up to ten times more people when farming than if they're hunting, farming societies generally have roughly ten times the population density of hunting societies. In war, numbers are always an advantage: particularly in these ratios. Few armies in history have survived an onslaught by another army ten times larger.

Second, diseases such as chicken pox, influenza, and measles, which have virtually wiped out vulnerable populations (such as Native North and South Americans who died by the thousands of measles when they were exposed to this disease by invading Europeans), began as diseases of domesticated animals. The farmers who were regularly exposed to such diseases developed relative immunities. While measles would make them ill, it wouldn't kill them. Those with no prior exposure, however, would often die. So when farmers encountered hunters, they killed them off just by the exposure to their diseases.

And finally, agriculture provides physical stability to a culture. The tribe stays in one spot, while their population grows. This provides them with time to specialize individual jobs: some people become tool- and weapon-makers, others build devices which can be used in war, and create governments, armies, and kingdoms. This gives farmers a huge technological advantage over hunting societies, which are generally more focused on day-to-day survival issues.

While the article points out that "that's not to say that farmers are happier, healthier, or in any way superior to hunter-gathers," it does go on to show how their greater numbers, immunity to disease, and specialization of jobs will always enable (and, ultimately, cause) them to destroy the hunting societies with which they come in contact.

So now we have an answer to the question: "Where have all the Hunters gone?" Most were killed off, from Europe to Asia to Africa to the Americas. Those who survived were brought into farming cultures (either through assimilation, kidnapping, or cultural change) and became the ancestors of that 5 percent to 20 percent of the gene pool with ADD in Western society.

Subject: Re: ADD Opening Post from Visiting Expert Thom Hartmann

Date: Thu, 4 Nov 1999 14:51:31 EST


For a few years now we have been trying to get other school personnel to look at all students in the Hunter/Gatherer model. Schools need to accept that we live in a hunter's world these days and the agrarian society of yesterday is rapidly coming to a close. So return kids to play, recess and PE and let them finger paint in Kindergarten for Pete's sake. As adults we can choose careers in which we succeed because we don't have to be strapped to a chair. So much for teaching kids how to survive in the "real world".


Subject: ADD Questions for Thom Hartmann


I was hoping that you would answer a few questions from myself and that perhaps would interest the group as well.

  1. Your opening post discussed the crucial importance of changing the education model. I believe you suggested home schooling and private schools.

    • Are their particular things to look for in private schools that parents on our group could look for that would make the more beneficial (less detrimental)?

    • Do you know of a list of schools (public or private) that fit the model you describe?

    • If public school is the only choice at the moment, do you know of any suggestions that might improve the situation.

    If the answers are in one of your books, please let me know.

  2. There are various factors discussed when a person is diagnosed with ADD/ADHD. Some of those factors include the effects of labeling a person as deficient or dysfunctional, diet, education system, toxic exposure (pre-natal, post-natal), genetic tendencies (e.g., hunter/gatherer), family/social issues, etc.

    Am I correct in assuming that your experience is that changing the education system on an individual and societal basis and avoiding negative labels have had significant positive effects. Personally, I admire your efforts and think they have and will benefit many, many people. But how does your view of ADD/ADHD diagnosis relate to some of the other items mentioned above?

  3. Given you long experience working on the issue of ADD/ADHD, I was hoping you might be able to give some of the people on the group a few practical steps that could be used to help our society realize the changes you have deliniated.

Thank you again for being the Visiting Expert!

Best Wishes,

- Mark

Holistic Healing Web Page

From: Thom Hartmann
Subject: Re: ADD Questions for Thom Hartmann

Date: Mon, 8 Nov 1999 09:40:36 -0500

Thanks, Mark. Yes, the major things to look for are small classrooms and a school which places more emphasis on self-esteem and critical thinking than on rote memorization and "discipline" or "structure." At least in my experience. I think in my previous answer I've addressed most of your other questions. Sorry for the gap in my replies: I was speaking at a conference in Montreal yesterday; leaving for another in Boston in a few hours...


From: "Dr. Gary Erkfritz"
Subject: Re: ADD Re: To Thom Hartman

Date: Fri, 05 Nov 1999 20:22:50 -0800

I am a certified NLP practitioner, certified by John Grinder. Admitedly, it's been a number of years since I've really practiced NLP, but I'm really interested in how you have applied NLP to the ADHD situation. I assume that you do trainings based on the note below. How do I find out when you are giving these??

Thom Hartmann wrote:
> Thanks, Rachel - I'm glad the all-day NLP/ADHD training I did was of value
> to you! Now, "tag - you're 'it'," it's your turn to share the message
> with someone else!
> Best regards,
> Thom

From: Thom Hartmann
Subject: Re: ADD Re: To Thom Hartman

Date: Mon, 8 Nov 1999 09:40:38 -0500

I don't think I have any scheduled right now, but it's possible I'll be doing something like this for ADDA at their conference next May. You may want to contact their director, Dr. Peter Jaksa, at to find out. Other trainings are on my web site at although I've been radically cutting back so I can get more writing done...


Subject: Re: ADD Opening Post from Visiting Expert Thom Hartmann

Date: Thu, 4 Nov 1999 17:16:39 EST

The hunter waiting very alert quiet and physically relaxed is not what I see when I see an ADD child. Tomm

From: Thom Hartmann
Subject: Re: ADD Opening Post from Visiting Expert Thom Hartmann

Date: Mon, 8 Nov 1999 09:40:32 -0500

(quoting here from chapter 4 of ADD:ADP):
Many thoughtful people on all sides of the ADD issue have asked me this question. One of the most articulate put it quite succinctly when he said that if he'd been alive 10,000 years ago he would have been doomed because "I'd forget to take my spear with me when we left for the hunt!"

Others have taken pains to point out to me the necessity of organized cooperative action for most primitive hunting parties. The ideal of a hyperactive loner going through the woods looking for dinner doesn't at all characterize how most anthropologists describe primitive (or today's) hunter/gatherer methods.

At first glance, it would appear that these considerations blow a hole in the hypothesis that modern people with ADD are carrying around a remnant of hunter/gatherer genetic material. It lends credibility to the notion that ADD is, in fact, a "disease" or at least "not normal," and may not have ever been "normal" in human history.

But that overlooks a critical issue: cultural context, the effect of what we learn to believe about ourselves as we're growing up.

Cultural anthropologists are quick to point out that it's extremely difficult for any one culture to clearly view another. We instinctively assume when observing their behaviors that they're motivated in the same ways we are, that they behave the way they do for the same reasons we would if we were in their situation, and that they share our assumptions about how the world works and humanity's role in the world.

This is a dangerous error, which even tripped up Margaret Mead when she was writing Coming of Age in Samoa. Since her well-intentioned but well-publicized error, few anthropologists would make this mistake. But it's easy for somebody untrained in the field.

The problem, essentially, is that most people, when thinking of "primitive times," imagine themselves running around in the woods wearing animal skins and carrying a spear. In their mind's eye, they transport a twentieth century person back into a fantasy past. But these "Connecticut Yankees in King Arthur's Court" don't represent what it was like to grow up in those times; they arrive in a different era complete with all our acculturation, carrying along all the damage done to them by our culture. They haul along the preparations we've received for a Farmers/Industrialists life, but utterly lacking preparation for a Hunters/Gatherers life.

The fact of the matter is that people in hunter/gatherer tribes live very different lives than we do, and therefore grow up to be very different persons from us.

ADDers are damaged by growing up in our society, not in hunting cultures

Cultural anthropologist Jay Fikes pointed this out to me when we first discussed the idea of hunters and farmers as an explanation for many modern psychological differences among people. His research showed that individuals living among the historically agricultural Native Americans, such as the Hopi and other Pueblo Indians, are relatively sedate and risk-averse. On the other hand, Fikes said, members of the hunting tribes such as the Navajo are "constantly scanning their environment and are more immediately sensitive to nuances. They're also the ultimate risk takers. They and the Apaches were great raiders and warriors."

Navajo children grow up in a society of Navajo hunter and warrior adults (at least they did before we conquered them, destroyed their culture, shattered their religions, stole their land, and murdered most of their citizens). The Navajo raised their children as hunters and warriors. Until we arrived with horses and guns, they were extraordinarily successful, and had survived as an intact culture for thousands of years longer than we have.

But we today are not a society of hunters, raiders, and warriors. We are farmers, office- and factory-workers. Therefore, we punish and discourage hunter and warrior behavior in our children and adults.

When people grow up being punished for being the way they are, they become damaged. They think of themselves as misfits and incompetents. They lose their own personal power, become shaken and fearful, and develop a variety of compensating behaviors-many of which are less than useful.

What you-the parent, teacher, counselor, or physician-what you tell the ADD child about himself can have a decisive effect. Children respond very differently to being told "This is how you work" instead of "You just don't work right."

To think that these modern ADD people-damaged, shaken, hurt, and weakened by growing up in the wrong time and culture-could somehow solve all their problems by simply transporting themselves back to some mythical prehistoric hunting era is a fantasy. It wouldn't work. They weren't raised and trained to survive in that environment; they weren't taught to channel their energies into being hunters and warriors.

Instead, they were spanked and slapped, told to shut up and given detention, and-the ultimate insult-told that they are damaged goods and have a brain disease worthy of the labels "deficit" and "disorder."

Hunters are both born and made.

Every type of culture puts enormous amounts of effort into educating and inculcating cultural values into their citizens. That's how it becomes a culture.

In hundreds of ways, we are daily taught and reminded of what is expected of us, what the limits and boundaries are, and what are appropriate and inappropriate goals and behaviors. Most of this teaching is so subtle we're totally unaware of it - a glance from a stranger when we talk too loud in a restaurant, for example - but our days are filled with it. It shapes us and molds our beliefs, our assumptions, and ultimately our reality.

We come face-to-face with these differences when we encounter other cultures. I remember my shock and dismay at discovering, the first time I was in Japan negotiating on behalf of my company, that I had committed dozens of major cultural blunders in my interactions. Even more shocking confrontations occur when we meet people from far disparate tribes: I remember how odd I felt when, deep in the jungle of central Uganda, I stood in a village of people who were mostly naked. My jeans, shoes, shirt, and carried jacket seemed an oddity to them, and began to seem that way to me after a few hours.

And so we train our young. We reinforce and strengthen in them those behaviors, assumptions, and beliefs that we find useful as a society, and we discourage or crush in them those that are not useful or even counterproductive to the orderly flow of our culture and its work.

Farming societies teach their young how to be good farmers. Hunting societies train their children in the ways of the hunt. Industrial societies raise their children to be good factory workers. Warrior cultures teach warfare to their children.

By the time a young man in the Ugandan Ik hunter/gatherer tribe is ready to go out on a hunt with the men, he has been trained his entire life for that moment. He's played at it virtually from birth. He's had a personal mentor for half his lifetime, an adult who has taught him the lore of the jungle and the prey. He's practiced for thousands of hours. He may be high-energy, impulsive, distractible, and a risk-taker, but he is also a brilliant and proficient hunter, a master killing machine. He has been trained from his first steps to focus and concentrate that wild energy on this one task, and to exploit and use his scanning and quick-thinking and love of adventure to cooperate with the other men in the jungle to bring home dinner.

In this context, you can see how na´ve it is to ask if a "person with ADD" (which is, after all, a "disorder" defined only by, and unique to our culture) could succeed in a hunting/gathering society.

There's little doubt that a child who's had his ego bashed from thirty different directions since he was little, who's spent his life being told "don't be that way" and "sit down and shut up," whose only well-honed hunting skill is finding MTV with his remote control, would fail in the jungle. Anyone who's always been told they're no good will lack confidence and will fail to perform.

This was perfectly illustrated by a story in Newsweek in 1994. It was an account of an ongoing study of a group of now-adults with ADD who were diagnosed as having ADD in elementary school in the 1960s: some had significantly lower outcomes in life than people not diagnosed with ADD.

But nowhere in the study, or the article, was it mentioned that only the ADD subjects were told they were "disordered" and required to take drugs for their "mind sickness" while still children.

For the study to have statistical validity, a matching population of non-ADD children would have to have been treated the same way, and their outcome would have to be compared against the ADD population.

Of course no ethical researcher would dare take a perfectly ordinary child and tell him such things: too many past studies in the field of psychology have shown how destructive the outcome could be. But that's exactly what we've been doing with our ADD children.

If that same child with the bashed ego had been born into a hunting tribe, so that his traits were developed instead of being beaten out of him, he may well have turned out to be the mightiest of their warriors, the most brilliant of their hunters, the wisest of their elders.

Subject: Thom Hartmann

Hi! I want to thank Thom Hartmann for taking time out of his schedule to be the honored Visiting Expert on the ADD-Holistic discussion group. Thank you!

Please visit his web page at:

Best Wishes,

- Mark

Holistic Healing Web Page

Home of ADD/ADHD Holistic Mailing List
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Approved: addadd
From: "George von Hilsheimer"
Subject: Late response to Hartmann

Date: Tue, 9 Nov 1999 10:46:54 -0500

I have to confess that I haven't read Hartmann's books, but his essay here is accurate and insightful. The cursorial lonely hunter may not be the major method of hunting in hunter/gatherer societies; but this is another generalization error, actually worse than Margaret Meade's juvenile pufferies. The suggestion that the ADD/hunter would forget his spear could only be made by someone who hasn't observed ADD kids at the tasks at which they are highly successful.

The main issue is that ADD kids are barraged in our society with "you are flawed" messages. Stop doing it! Right on! Thom!

George von Hilsheimer, Ph.D.
-----Original Message-----
From: Thom Hartmann
Subject: Re: ADD Opening Post from Visiting Expert Thom Hartmann
> Many thoughtful people on all sides of the ADD issue have asked me this

From: Rich
Subject: ADD Neurofeedback [Repost]

Date: Mon, 08 Nov 1999 20:43:54 -0600


My name is Rich, I lurk to this list sometimes.

I first heard about Neurofeedback while reading Attention Deficit Disorder: A Different Perception.

A damn good book by the way.

I finished the bulk of it in the time it took my flight to go round trip from St. Louis to Portland Oregon(I hate flying and welcome any distraction, but I digress).

My question to you is this:

Has your opinions regarding Neurofeedback as a form of treatment for ADHD changed at all from when you wrote ADD: A different perception?



From: Thom Hartmann
Subject: ADD-Holistic: Final Question

Date: Thu, 11 Nov 1999 09:50:16 -0500


Yes. I've attended several EEG conferences, and am increasingly impressed by the quality and results of the research. I also bought a machine and tried it myself. I'm personally convinced that it's a powerful and useful therapeutic modality for attentional training...