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Kalyanpur '13: Work harder, play harder

The accomplishments of modern medicine are undeniable, including cutting-edge vaccines and easy access to Tylenol, but we often fail to value its wonders. Instead we reserve our revel for mostly illicit or prescription substances. Ignoring cannabis, the Brown student's most common drug of choice has to be Adderall. Although its use may be necessary for some, it has become a fixation that demeans the faith and beliefs behind the Brown system.

Our liberal curriculum is a thing of sheer beauty that few universities have been able to replicate — giving a student the ability to study whatever he or she wishes is truly underrated. But we still perpetually hear complaints of frustration with classes.

The reason for this is that we often fail to live up to what is expected of us. To paraphrase President Ruth Simmons, the purpose of a liberal arts education is not for you to prepare for a job but rather to pursue your area or areas of intellectual curiosity. This is a notion we hardly recognize, despite living in the system that epitomizes it. Many of us choose majors to maximize future monetary gain rather than achieve our learning potential.

Our "addy" obsession clearly illustrates this point. Other than making music sound breathtaking, Adderall's effects need little explanation because a large portion of the student body has probably experimented with this wonder drug. Its prevalent use raises a plethora of questions, one being whether it constitutes cheating. Considering how wary we are of plagiarism, it shocks me how ready students are to pop this study drug. At the end of the day, it is a performance-enhancing drug. If a student-athlete were caught taking steroids, it would create serious controversy on campus, yet enhancing our academic abilities through banned substances barely raises an eyebrow these days.

But the more pressing issue is consumer demand. It does not seem to stem from the desire to learn. It comes from the perceived need to perform better on a midterm or a paper. The drug seems to have made students lose faith in their own abilities. We seem to have forgotten that we did not get into Brown on account of a capacity for swallowing, but rather on the merit of our intelligence.

We are heralded as the laid-back Ivy. The lack of GPAs and the option of taking any course Satisfactory/No Credit are in place to dispel the theoretical stress. But we still obsess over getting that A, and grade inflation does not help mitigate the anxiety, since we know that a B is often synonymous with "bottom."

Adderall eases many of these pressures. Though it is certainly biologically effective, even the placebo effect seems to work as it assures people of their capability to pay attention. But it gives us far too many excuses to live by a work-hard, play-hard philosophy. You can tell yourself you will go out and get smashed tonight knowing full well that you have that 15 milligrams waiting for you the next day to pick up the slack.

That philosophy does not contradict Brunonian principles whatsoever, but the way it is being practiced certainly does. The motive behind Adderall use is self-indulgence, not self-interest. I sympathize with those who fear receiving poor grades, especially when many of them were not accustomed to being challenged in high school. Nonetheless, we must ask ourselves if that fear is a sufficient excuse to degrade the idea of liberal education.

We are constantly planning. The inability to live in the moment is a hackneyed cliche, but it is reflected by many of us who feel the need to look for that next big internship or who constantly spend hours on Mocha looking for enticing classes. It is virtually in our nature. We cannot get over the fact that we must have a good GPA in order to be successful. But this comes down to how you define success, and that is a whole other debate. I am not trying to condemn anyone who thinks about the future, nor am I trying to completely condemn Adderall users because there is a time and a place for its use. That said, I do not think it would hurt any of us to pay closer attention to the implications of acts that we now view as conventional.

Nikhil Kalyanpur '13 is a junior who can be reached at


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