Mod Note: Blast from the Past - "Best of Eddie". This one is originally from February 2012.
This is something I've been meaning to bring up on the site for awhile, and the recent thread on ADD really got me thinking about it. I'd really rather this didn't turn into a flame war over whether or not ADD is real; for my purposes it doesn't matter. For what it's worth, I received several very thought provoking PM's on both sides of the issue after the comments I made on the above mentioned thread.
What I'm increasingly concerned about is whether or not I should be thinking about drugging my kids so they're not at any competitive disadvantage in their respective marketplace (at the moment, grammar school). My concern is that, no matter how naturally gifted your kid might be, he's gonna look like a utility shmoe batting next to a juicehead like Mark McGuire or Barry Bonds. Academically speaking, of course.
To complicate matters, there's a difference of opinion in my own home. For those who don't know, I have two boys aged 7 & 8. They were raised in a Russian orphanage until we adopted them at 3 & 4, respectively. So they had a lot to overcome right out of the gate, not the least of which is the fact that neither of them had ever heard a word of English before the first time I said hello.
Their development has been nothing short of remarkable. Studies have shown that children raised in Russian orphanages lose an average of 10 IQ points for every year they're there from age 3 on. Both my boys are able to speak, read, and write English at their grade level and they're lower-middle of the pack in the math (my older boy is actually beginning to grasp mathematics at an accelerated pace).
However, there have been behavioral/maturity issues along the way, especially with my older boy. To me, this sort of thing is natural - I was a complete dick at his age (some would argue nothing has changed). But my wife is especially distressed by it, and the go-to American solution is to drug the kid into a compliant zombie state.
If you couldn't tell, I happen to be against this particular course of action. I'm of the "boys will be boys" school of thought, and the kid has made remarkable progress. I'm not certain ADD even exists; with that said, I AM certain that even if it does my kids don't have it. They're just 7 & 8 year old boys being boys, and school is MAD boring.
My particular concern is what to do when we eventually return to the States and my sons encounter an entire generation of their peers who've been raised on performance enhancing drugs. Let's face it - there is no asterisk in life, only winners and losers.
Assuming for the moment that my kids are solidly average in ability, am I costing them opportunities by withholding the performance enhancing drugs that might take them to the next level? I realize the drugs don't make you smarter, but the increased focus and compliance most likely correlates with better academic results (though I could be completely wrong about that) and, by extension, better opportunities later in life.
I'm really hoping to hear from you guys, because you're really the first generation of Americans to have spent your youth doped to the high heavens. When I was a kid, drugs were something you kept from your parents - not something they forced down your throat with the military efficiency of Nurse Ratchet (but, if you grew up on Ritalin, odds are you don't know who Nurse Ratchet is).
Some of you got in touch with me and told me that your school years on drugs were a nightmare. Others got in touch and told me that ADD/ADHD is very real and even more kids need to be on drugs than already are.
Is it worth giving up a carefree childhood to have a drug-enhanced focus on multiplication tables and Tolstoy? You guys need to know that I'm being totally serious here. My kids started out life with a pretty hideous deficit, and I'll do almost anything to make up for it. I'm curious to see if you think drugs are the answer, and even more important, if my kids will suffer a heavy opportunity cost if I withhold them.