Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Should We Ban Cognitive Enhancing Drugs from Schools?

Barbara Sahakian wonders if cognitive enhancing drugs, such as Ritalin and modafinil, should be banned from schools the way performance enhancing drugs are banned form sports. (The abstract of her talk is here; a write up from the Guardian is here.) Anders Sandberg at Practical Ethics does a good job at undercutting this argument, especially when he points out that at rock bottom, school is not a place for competition, but for learning.

Missing from this discussion, though, is the fact that very common mild stimulants like coffee and cigarettes are excellent cognitive enhancers. (I recently learned that someone i went to college with took up smoking in medical school because it gave her a cognitive edge. She is now a transplant surgeon. I don't know if she does lung transplants.) Do coffee drinking students have an unfair advantage over Mormon students because they can caffeinate before a test?

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