This is in response to the “Popped an Addy, I’m Studying, Woo” article published in last week’s Scout. I take great issue with the author making a blanket statement that “people cannot sit with discomfort anymore…. it’s kind of pathetic”. This suggests that students are simply too lazy or distracted to learn to study on their own. But I believe such a statement largely ignores the driving force for why these students to choose to take study drugs in the first place: stress.
This generation is the more prone to be distracted, but it also has the highest expectations of it. A high school diploma will not get you as far in life as it once did, making a Bachelor’s degree almost a necessity for most fields. Even then, potential employers will compare your GPA and class rank to your peers. This puts a huge amount of pressure on students to do well and outperform their classmates.
This brings me to another topic: how instructors choose to measure performance in the classroom. I have taken several classes, both gen-eds and courses in my major (engineering) where 100% of the grades are based off of exams. This type of course structure promotes cramming. With most students taking 12-15 credit hours, we all know you cannot really afford to drop everything and just focus on one class. But with such a large portion of their grade on the line, students will pull all-nighters or take study drugs to ensure they are prepared for exams.
I am not saying we should do away with exams entirely, but that perhaps instructors should promote alternative methods for evaluating student performance. For example, term papers and research projects involve much more critical thinking than just solving a math problem on an exam (plug and chug!). Students could demonstrate the same level of proficiency in a subject over a time of a few weeks instead of being force to cram and regurgitate that material during a single class period. This also would allow them to manage their time more effectively and focus on their other courses.
In conclusion, I believe the main drive force for using/abusing study drugs comes from the immense level of stress and pressure that students experience. A student could have wonderful understanding of course material, but a single exam could be enough to ruin their grade beyond recovery or cause them to drop the course. Naturally, students will do anything in their power to avoid such a situation. Thus, if there were fewer of these “big ticket” items counting toward their grades, there wouldn’t be the same pressure to cram, and fewer students would take study drugs illegally.
– Andrew Davis, graduate student