The Free Press, Mankato, MN

October 13, 2012

Our View: Doping kids disturbing byproduct of uncaring society


The Free Press

— A disturbing trend is happening in education that actually is occurring outside of school walls. The New York Times recently reported that doctors are prescribing stimulants to children, stimulants ordinarily prescribed for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), in order to improve academic performance in inadequate schools.

Dr. Michael Anderson in the Atlanta area told the Times reporter, “We’ve decided as a society that it’s too expensive to modify the kid’s environment. So we have to modify the kid.”

The Times reported that Anderson is one of a growing number of doctors who are prescribing stimulants to struggling students in schools starved of extra money — not to treat ADHD, necessarily, but to boost their academic performance.

Proponents of this method point to the inability of poor families to pay for behavior-based therapies like tutoring and family counseling. So they turn to medication which is covered by Medicaid.

It was noted that the diagnosis for ADHD among children has risen sharply as school funding has declined. A school superintendent quoted in the article said, “It’s scary to think that this is what we’ve come to; how not funding public education to meet the needs of all kids has led to this.”

Since such drugs are relatively new, it is unknown what the long-term effects are on children. But that’s clearly beside the point. There are parents who feel the need to drug their children in order to succeed or at least survive in schools ill-equipped to serve them and that’s just wrong. Use of drugs for control can lead to dependence and there are real concerns for illegal diversion, especially in low income areas where illegal drugs are pervasive.

We as a society must stop examining school operations as though they are factories, trying to determine what minimum amounts of money are necessary to get the minimum effective output.

The trend is exacerbated by parents who are willing to use the meds to “control” their children because they either can’t or won’t take the extra time and effort necessary to actually parent. Comedian Stephen Colbert calls the trend “psychopharmaparenting.” But this is no laughing matter.

Effective parenting requires time, it’s not a chore. Learning to cope and control is part of growing up. Drugs are a crutch.

As a society, we need to acknowledge that education and parenting are investments with predictable negative outcomes when shortchanged.