According to this test from Channel 4, I most definitely am. Of course the idea that you can give someone a questionnaire and from that identify their personality traits has been around for a long time, but I’m sceptical.
Maybe that’s because I’ve just read ‘The Psycopath Test’ by Jon Ronson. It is a well written and interesting book that starts with an intriguing mystery and turns into the author’s journey through society’s differing approaches to mental illness. And it is a real roller coaster, from LSD soaked encounter therapies in the 60s, to the checklist driven approach of the DSM (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Illness) and the ever increasing drive to classify children’s behaviour in terms of mental illness. I recommend it to anyone, particularly if you work with kids.
The issue that worries me is that if you take normal behaviour and diagnose it as an illness then the label sticks for life. Some kids have a lot of energy and if they’re stuck in a boring classroom with a boring teacher doing something that doesn’t interest them, then that energy is going to come out, probably in a way that gets them into trouble. If you’re a naughty kid then you get the chance to shrug that label off, if you are diagnosed as bipolar you’ve got it for life.
I realise that one of those classrooms can be mine sometimes.
I’m not talking here about genuine cases, I have taught quite a few kids who were, for example, clearly autistic or dyslexic and they needed care and support. What worries me is that education is being pushed down an ever narrowing route, and that leaves less scope for kids to be themselves. If you narrow the definition of normal behaviour (and if you read the Ofsted criteria for ‘good’ behaviour you might as well write ‘traditional middle class’), then you just identify more and more people as abnormal.
Jon Ronson comes to the conclusion that you shouldn’t classify people by their extremes and I think I agree. There is no such thing as normal, unless you are talking statistics. And normal doesn’t necessarily mean better, slavery was normal in the 17th century, doesn’t mean it was a good idea.
I faked the test by the way. I’m not really a psychopath. My uncle was. He had a certificate and everything. He got it because he faked being mad and impulsive so he could get discharged from the Navy, but then that’s exactly the sort of thing a Psychopath would do isn’t it?