Assume someone has been convicted of a crime. Let's say the punishment is 2,000 days of sitting still in a chair in a room for six hours a day listening to a corrections officer drone on about various topics. Every so often the corrections officer will interrogate the prisoner to ensure that he's been paying attention. If the prisoner isn't paying attention or gets up out of his chair too often, he's forced to take medications against his will. Also note that there's no chance for parole. If the prisoner tries to escape, he's put in a tighter security facility.
From the above description, you might assume that the prisoner committed a really serious crime and has probably been convicted several times. I would imagine it would be a crime at least as serious as grand larceny, maybe even nearly as serious as rape.
However, the punishment I'm talking about is compulsary education (the medication is Ritalin) and the crime is nothing more than managing to survive your first six years of life. For both adult crime and punishment and child survival and compulsary education we do it for the good of society and arguably for the good of the individual. But punishing it is.
For some it's worse than others. Typically boys have a harder time of it than girls. For me personally, sitting there day after day, year after year, alternately looking out of the window while daydreaming and staring at the clock watching the second hand go tick, tick, tick, moving slowly, painfully slowly, toward the dismissal bell, it was cruel punishment. And it was relatively easy for me. Even though I almost never payed attention, I was able to do pretty well on the tests. Even though it was torture to sit there, I was able to do it, so the teachers liked me well enough. For those that don't do well on the tests or just can't sit there, the level of misery is taken to a whole new level. Ritalin is probably a welcome relief.
It always amazes me that this aspect of the educational system is rarely, if ever, contemplated: the huge amount of pain it inflicts on children. For sure, the overwhelming needs of society trumps the freedom of individuals (the draft in wartime is another example), but the sacrifice that we force our children to make against their will should never be taken lightly.