Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Good-Grade Pills Fit Right In With The No Excuses Education Reform Philosophy

I remember seeing some fluff piece in the Times a while back about KIPP founder David Levin and how he works 75-90 hour weeks and only sees his own child on Sundays.

There's no time Monday to Saturday to see his kid, you see, because KIPP keeps him that busy and he just can't break away from his 12.5 to 15 hour work days to spend time with the family.

Nowhere in the fluff piece from the Times does anybody say "Uh, maybe you've got a problem, David. You'd rather work 90 hours a week rather than spend time with your family. Are you familiar with this condition called workaholism? It's similar to alcoholism and drug addiction, in that it allows sufferers to numb out from feelings and escape from anxiety and low self-esteem, only workaholism is a more socially respectable form of addiction and avoidance from uncomfortable emotions."

But no, the word "workaholism" never comes up in the Times piece. Instead David Levin and his 75-90 hour work weeks are fetishized as some grand thing.

I was thinking about that story when I saw this NY Times story about teens so obsessed with grades and achievements that they're loading up on stimulants and ADHD drugs to work longer and harder:

At high schools across the United States, pressure over grades and competition for college admissions are encouraging students to abuse prescription stimulants, according to interviews with students, parents and doctors. Pills that have been a staple in some college and graduate school circles are going from rare to routine in many academically competitive high schools, where teenagers say they get them from friends, buy them from student dealers or fake symptoms to their parents and doctors to get prescriptions.


The D.E.A. lists prescription stimulants like Adderall and Vyvanse (amphetamines) and Ritalin and Focalin (methylphenidates) as Class 2 controlled substances — the same as cocaine and morphine — because they rank among the most addictive substances that have a medical use. (By comparison, the long-abused anti-anxiety drug Valium is in the lower Class 4.) So they carry high legal risks, too, as few teenagers appreciate that merely giving a friend an Adderall or Vyvanse pill is the same as selling it and can be prosecuted as a felony.

While these medicines tend to calm people with A.D.H.D., those without the disorder find that just one pill can jolt them with the energy and focus to push through all-night homework binges and stay awake during exams afterward. “It’s like it does your work for you,” said William, a recent graduate of the Birch Wathen Lenox School on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

But abuse of prescription stimulants can lead to depression and mood swings (from sleep deprivation), heart irregularities and acute exhaustion or psychosis during withdrawal, doctors say. Little is known about the long-term effects of abuse of stimulants among the young. Drug counselors say that for some teenagers, the pills eventually become an entry to the abuse of painkillers and sleep aids.

“Once you break the seal on using pills, or any of that stuff, it’s not scary anymore — especially when you’re getting A’s,” said the boy who snorted Adderall in the parking lot. He spoke from the couch of his drug counselor, detailing how he later became addicted to the painkiller Percocet and eventually heroin.


The number of prescriptions for A.D.H.D. medications dispensed for young people ages 10 to 19 has risen 26 percent since 2007, to almost 21 million yearly, according to IMS Health, a health care information company — a number that experts estimate corresponds to more than two million individuals. But there is no reliable research on how many high school students take stimulants as a study aid. Doctors and teenagers from more than 15 schools across the nation with high academic standards estimated that the portion of students who do so ranges from 15 percent to 40 percent.

“They’re the A students, sometimes the B students, who are trying to get good grades,” said one senior at Lower Merion High School in Ardmore, a Philadelphia suburb, who said he makes hundreds of dollars a week selling prescription drugs, usually priced at $5 to $20 per pill, to classmates as young as freshmen. “They’re the quote-unquote good kids, basically.”

The trend was driven home last month to Nan Radulovic, a psychotherapist in Santa Monica, Calif. Within a few days, she said, an 11th grader, a ninth grader and an eighth grader asked for prescriptions for Adderall solely for better grades. From one girl, she recalled, it was not quite a request.

“If you don’t give me the prescription,” Dr. Radulovic said the girl told her, “I’ll just get it from kids at school.”

Read the rest of that story and tell me that you don't see a connection between these kids taking drugs to achieve higher grades and the founder of the KIPP schools who works 75-90 hours a week, sleeps just a few hours a night and brags about his addictive lifestyle like it's a badge of honor rather than an illness.

And tell me this isn't EXACTLY the kind of lifestyle the charter industry, especially KIPP, and the education reformers champion.

Work 75-90 hours a week, do whatever you have to do to overachieve and out-compete the competition - including putting your health at risk - these are the lessons so many in the charters and education reform movement try and teach kids.

And why not?

This is the lesson our corporate overlords want the kids to be taught - that in our neo-feudal future, everybody is going to have to work a lot longer and a lot harder to out-compete the competition and bring home an ever-diminishing paycheck.

It's survival of the fittest in a world where resources are decreasing because our corporate overlords are stealing them.

And it's our corporate overlords who fund the education reformers and their charter schools with the 75-90 hour work weeks.

Which brings me back to David Levin, our intrepid KIPP founder (corporate-sponsored, of course.)

If he's doing his 75-90 hour work week sans stimulants, more power to him.

But either way, the lifestyle he is leading isn't healthy for him, it isn't healthy for his kids or his marriage, and it definitely sends the wrong message to his son - you are what you work at and how long you work at it.

Nothing else in life matters - not children, not your spouse, not your other relationships, not hobbies, not time for reflection or meditation.

Nope - the only thing that matters is how well you do on your tests so you can get into a good college and get a good job and out-compete the crowd in our neo-feudal, survival of the fittest world.

Now go work 75-90 hours a week.


  1. I used to work in a KIPP school. None of the teachers had kids and there was a 50% turnover rate every year for staff. You simply can not have a life when you work in a KIPP school. The funny thing is that they brag about how you can't have a life other than the KIPP life. Their entire mantra is "Work Hard, be Nice". I actually felt like I was in a cult when I worked there.

  2. The good grade pills are a "win-win-win-win-win"
    situation for big pharmaceutical companies, for Pearson publishing, for health care providers, for imperial politicians and for so called education reformers. What is there not to like about big time profits? What is there not to like about better test scores? Isn't everyone a winner with good grade pills?

  3. Lets harvest our kids for more profits!
    Go KIPP! Way to go David Levin!

  4. It's unbelieveable! I all against use of any pills..


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