I find this article in today’s New York Times extremely disturbing:
When Dr. Michael Anderson hears about his low-income patients struggling in elementary school, he usually gives them a taste of some powerful medicine: Adderall.
The pills boost focus and impulse control in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Although A.D.H.D is the diagnosis Dr. Anderson makes, he calls the disorder “made up” and “an excuse” to prescribe the pills to treat what he considers the children’s true ill — poor academic performance in inadequate schools.
“I don’t have a whole lot of choice,” said Dr. Anderson, a pediatrician for many poor families in Cherokee County, north of Atlanta. “We’ve decided as a society that it’s too expensive to modify the kid’s environment. So we have to modify the kid.”
Sadly the doctor is correct that many schools refuse to change a child’s environment to improve academic success, namely that they are cutting out activities like recess and P.E. in order to make more time for studying.
However, P.E., recess, and just getting outside for a quick breath of fresh air have all shown to also be extremely effective ways to improve attention and academic success. Yet because these activities are getting cut out of the school day, doctor’s feel like they must prescribe these incredibly strong, brain-chemistry changing medications to growing brains, many of these drugs with strong side effects .
I have no problem with using these drugs for what they were originally intended for, but prescribing them basically as “performance-enhancing” drugs just seems unethical to me. We frown upon athletes and grown-ups in the business world from taking speed and other kinds of drugs that are supposed to improve performance (other than coffee of course, that seems pretty much like a must-have for adults), but it’s okay for students so they can do well in elementary and middle school? To put in mildly, yuck!
I hope other people will be as outraged as I am and stand up for a child’s right to recess and P.E., and actually NOT studying from time to time, rather than encouraging giving them strong medications in order to perform well on standardized tests.