Doping in Academia?
It is probably surprising that the drug backfired only once, when I stayed up on Adderall for 72 hours before a philosophy final. My appearance in the testing hall the next day was so tangled and shaky that the professor removed me from the room. I was sent away with permission to return later and finish the exam in his office. Instead, I slept. In the end it didn't matter that I failed the exam, because a semester of A+ Adderall papers had left me with a decent grade in the class. If the proof is in the transcript, then Adderall is hardly a self-punishing habit. Sometimes I think about how Marion Jones has to return all the prize money she earned while taking steroids, and I wonder whether I should be stripped of all the A's I received for papers written on Adderall. This is a haunting or a comical thought, depending on my mood.
Of course, I could have studied in college without Adderall, just like I did in high school--I just couldn't have studied with such ecstasy. Theoretical texts, in particular, were transformed into exercises as conquerable as a Tuesday crossword. I could work out in the gym with a Xeroxed packet of Gayatri Spivak perched on the elliptical machine in front of me, reading and burning calories at the same time. The efficacy of the multitasking was exhilarating. On Adderall, the densest writing became penetrable. I had an illusion of mastery, at least, that lasted long enough to write the necessary papers and presentations. I could never remember what I had written the next day, but I justified this forgetfulness as an accelerated version of what would happen anyway after I graduated.
Jonah says, "I'd always get annoyed before taking an exam that was going to be graded on a steep curve. I'd look around at my competition and see all these sunken eyes and twitchy hands and I'd feel like a pitcher that didn't dabble in HGH." Personally, I've never noticed anything like that, but I wouldn't be too surprised if kids in some of my classes were on some kind of drugs while taking tests or writing papers, especially in those big, freshman classes.
What I'm actually curious about is how many people in physics do this. It's a small enough group of people that I could actually ask, but I doubt anyone would be so candid as to admit it.
At any rate, it's certainly an interesting problem. Should we have random drug testing for people at college? Most would find the idea abhorrent. But how is it different than testing professional athletes? I'm not so sure it would be. There's this idea that our work should be pure, untainted. I don't really see the line between this being true in Baseball but not Philosophy exams. Is there one?
Personally I think it's stupid to outlaw this stuff no matter where it's done. If baseball players want to take HGH or steroids, why stop them? If the philosophy student wants to take Adderall, why stop them? I guess you can argue that, if it enhances their performance, it practically mandates that everyone else competing with them do it too. But that assumes that these things help (and it seems like they hurt about as often as they help), and it assumes that the area is actually competitive. In baseball it's obviously true, but in Philosophy? Yes, I recognize that college is competitive, but I think it shouldn't be (I have a laid-back attitude about grades, preferring to, you know, learn rather than obsess about getting the A).