Americans are cheaters. Our massive Adonis-complex has transcended sports, business, politics and has even found its way into our education. Children take Adderall, Vyvanse and other drugs to compete academically in wholly unnatural ways. Luckily our superior morality allows us to admonish this behavior as well, but we haven’t found a way to diminish the problem.
The emphasis in American culture is on success first and that is a good thing. We are naturally competitive and we always want to do better. However, our culture defines success too narrowly, especially for kids in school.
We don’t encourage students to cheat and take Adderall. But every student is pressured to excel academically regardless of what they want to do in life. Some of my best friends took Adderall to excel in class and on standardized tests. These people were not sinister. They’re our classmates. Students who use Adderall do so because they are told from birth that the only way to succeed is to score high on the SAT, get into a good college and get a good job.
Success is a value our generation has been raised on. If you are a 10-year-old naturally gifted fisherman in Northern Virginia, you’re still raised to go to school and get an education so you can be a doctor or a lawyer. And bringing B’s home on a report card just won’t cut it. So people take Adderall and get A’s when they are naturally gifted in non-academic fields and struggle in the classroom.
Fairness is important, but so is the ability for people to find what they are good at and do it. We judge success with blinders on and then we pressure kids into doing things they aren’t comfortable with. Are you shocked that some of those kids cheat? A successful high school student makes friends, stars on the varsity team, gets straight A’s and gets into a great college. Nobody cares if you can fish when your older brother is going to law school in the fall.
Parents and friends need to realize that a student can be successful by finding out that they are talented in something other than school. If we broaden our definition of success in high school and college to include developing talents rather than developing a high GPA, we can be more successful in stemming the use of Adderall in school. If two people find that they are meant for each other and decide to start a family instead of going to college, that is just as successful of a life outcome as getting a 4.0 and going to Harvard. We should celebrate that success too.
We can cry all we want about students using Adderall, yet until we can define success as something other than doing well on the SAT, getting into college and making tons of money we are going to continue to have people who use drugs like Adderall to boost their test scores. After all, success is what matters.