I am sort of sad about the Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens thing. How could Barry jump up and down like that when he hit that dinger that beat out Hammering Hank knowing he had gotten to the place where he could jump up and down like that because he had been using “performance enhancement drugs.” As for Roger Clemens I never liked him much; seemed like a pretty surly number to me.
But maybe it’s not the guys so much as the system we live in these days. Hell, you think you are the best and everybody is getting ahead of you and you know they are using those drugs, so why not use them yourself. It’s the competition thing.
The LA Times re: the steroid scandal ran an article on brain enhancement drugs, all the things people are using these days to enhance the brain. Corporate guys are using them, academics, guys who work a lot with computers, and of course students. The favorite these days among students seems to be Adderall. This is generally described as a sort of super compound of amphetamine salts.
The article in the LA Times says that these drugs make you smarter and, hey, who wants to be dumb? So take the pills, I guess. Certainly they do something, but I don’t think they increase intelligence, though they do help with concentration, whatever that might be. They allow you to take whatever brains you have and use them more effectively and efficiently. So you can do what you need to do without all those interior distractions that pop up and you can stay awake longer doing whatever it is you need to do.
So students take them all the time, especially getting prepped for finals. They stay up a couple of days at a time, but I don’t think that means they learn anything exactly. Back in 1968, the health center where I went to college, was just handing out Dexedrine because the guys were having a hard time, getting depressed and all about the idea of being drafted. I went in and got some.
I had this class in modern philosophy; a whole hunk of the final was going to be about Wittgenstein’s Tractatus. Honestly, I didn’t understand this at all; it was sort of mathematic philosophy related to symbolic logic and what later became known as analytic philosophy. Because I couldn’t understand it, I just decided to memorize, and the Dexedrine helped along with the fact that the whole thing was mathematical, with one axiom leading to another and so on. So when I got to the test I just looked inside my head and wrote down what was there—it was almost as if I were reading from pages engraved in my head. As soon as I stepped out the door—I aced the test—the pages disappeared as if all the pages had been broken like glass.
Conclusion: I didn’t learn a thing. Extra added conclusion: when students use brain enhancement drugs—given that most of what they are tested on is stuff they have to memorize—they don’t learn anything either. They just pass the test. That’s part of the competition thing.