26 October 2012 20,023 One Comment
(A guest post by Dr. Doug Green at http://www.drdouggreen.com/).
With all of the news about Lance Armstrong, who seems to be the poster boy for performance enhancing drugs (PEDs), I think it’s time to look at how this situation impacts schools. School districts in many districts have been testing high school students for a while to see it they are engaged in the kind of cheating that Lance has been accused of. In some districts the testing goes beyond sports to extra curricular activities. You have to wonder what kind of PED’s the chess team is taking. At the same time, we also are hearing outcries about medications given to students so that they can perform better in the classroom. The most common efforts involve prescriptions for drugs like Ritalin and Adderall for children who supposedly have attention deficit disorder, which may also feature hyperactivity or ADHD. The idea is that drugs such as these will help the child focus and sit still. The opposing view that is getting more air today, is that if we can’t change the environment, let’s change the kids. If you listen to Sir Ken Robinson, what we are doing is drugging kids so that they can focus on boring stuff.
In some districts, the results of standardized tests are used to determine which middle school or high school a student can attend. That could mean that kids who take study drugs, like I did in college, have an unfair advantage similar to a bicycle racer who takes testosterone. That’s right, I took amphetamines my senior year in college to help me cram for some finals. At the time, the infirmary at the girl’s school across town would give diet pills to anyone who asked. It was common for guys in my fraternity to get some from their girl friends, and I can assure you that they helped me focus on boring stuff.
My point here is that the current system encourages drug taking and a testing system that serves to stress students and teachers alike. While I don’t have high hopes that our policy makers will wake up anytime soon to the folly of the No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top testing culture, there may be hope from parents who are keeping their kids home on testing days. An article in the October 14, 2012 New York Times http://nyti.ms/QZsIO3 tells of how 90% of parents in an upper middle class school in Brooklyn are keeping their kids home for state field tests. These are tests the test makers give to fine tune the items before they show up on the real thing. As you might expect, poorer parents whose kids have the most to lose are less likely to do so. If you are reading this, I encourage you to raise your voice so the time will come sooner when the harmful test culture will come to an end. As we have seen from other Internet viral responses to stupid things, together we can do it.