Speed Reading: Ritalin In The American Classroom

| December 7, 2000

Speed Reading: Ritalin In The American Classroom

This year, nearly six million U.S. children will take Ritalin, a powerful stimulant with effects similar to cocaine and speed, driven in no small part, some maintain, by increasing pressure to achieve at school. No other drug has held such a stranglehold over its market, says Leonard Sax in World & I Magazine.

Ritalin has been on the market for 40 years now, but use has increased rapidly in the last 25 years--and skyrocketed in the last decade. Ritalin, known formally as methylphenidate, is prescribed to children with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), who generally feel bored and easily distracted in the classroom.

Why are so many kids taking Ritalin these days? Do more children have attention deficit disorders, or are more are being medicated? According to Sax, there are three major theories to explain the rise in Ritalin: a dependence on television, the success of Prozac and the Modern reliance on standardized school testing.

Some researchers note that an apparent rise in Attention Deficit Disorders became more common in the mid 1980s--a childhood disorder linked to the first generation to be raised indoors, parked in front of the tube and its jumpy, frenetic reality. Others trace the situation to the widespread dispensing of Prozac, which gave doctors the green light for handing out Ritalin as well.

A third camp blames an influential 1983 study by the U.S. Department of Education called 'a nation at risk,' which warned that without higher academic standards this country would fall behind countries like Japan. That fear led to an increased emphasis on standardized tests--and a corresponding tendency to ignore skills that weren't tested.

'Because the tests do not measure skills in music, art, gym, or playground social skills--such as learning to play fair in a game of kickball--less time will be devoted to music, art, gym, and recess,' explains Sax. 'After all, if your mandate is to raise test scores, what's the point of recess?' What's more, with so many kids being deprived of these natural antidotes to add, no wonder Ritalin has become the performance enhancer of choice.

Together, he argues, these three influences have created a need for speed. 'Twenty years ago, it was OK to wait until first grade to teach Johnny how to read,' writes Sax. 'Now he has to learn to read in kindergarten. We are in a hurry, and we have no time to 'waste'--or so we believe.'
--Amanda Luker
Go there>>

View A Nation at Risk

Pay Now Save $5!

Utne Summer 2016Want to gain a fresh perspective? Read stories that matter? Feel optimistic about the future? It's all here! Utne Reader offers provocative writing from diverse perspectives, insightful analysis of art and media, down-to-earth news and in-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.

Save Even More Money By Paying NOW!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You save an additional $5 and get 4 issues of Utne Reader for only $40.00 (USA only).

Or Bill Me Later and pay just $45 for 4 issues of Utne Reader!

Facebook Instagram Twitter