Friday, July 29, 2016

How Do I Not Know About This? Eating Low Salt Suddenly Is Jonesing.

Wait. My modafinil
hasn't kicked in yet!

The hand of modafinil, the drug designed to treat narcolepsy and used by fighter pilots to stay sharp, is all over university coursework these days. But it's not just the students taking the "king of smart drugs" to get verbose essays and dissertations done. Now lecturers are using it to grade the never-ending things, too.
VICE spoke to a number of university lecturers burdened with mounting workloads due to rising student numbers and extra bureaucracy who are breaking the law to import modafinil over the internet in order to plow through the paperwork.

Rachel, a lecturer in her 30s who teaches social sciences at a university in southeast England, loves modafinil. She first started using it a year ago to grade a mountain of 3,000-word undergraduate essays in three weeks—triple the amount of grading compared to a decade ago.

"The use of modafinil by students is just the tip of the iceberg," says Rachel, who buys her pills at 70p [$0.91] a pop from a Chinese website. "It seems bad to say, but grading essays is quite dull work. It's hard to keep focused and motivated when you've got to your fifty-ninth essay answering the same question.

The rest.


  1. $50 says Fab made it up. Whoops, better click the link first. Never mind.

  2. Well that's scary, not least because it sounds a bit tempting. Boring and overwhelming is a bad combination, and that, sadly, does describe much of the ever-increasing grading workload -- ever-increasing, at least in my case, not only because administrators keep trying to nudge up course caps, but also because there are so many small, scaffolding assignments, which do work, but make me so, so jealous of my own professors, who assigned a 3-5 page paper 2-3 sentences, received it a few weeks later, and graded it. How simple.

    As an experienced, if not actually degreed, composition-pedagogy type, I will note that more comments doesn't necessarily mean better comments. Students, too, are easily overwhelmed, and helping them prioritize is part of the job ("there are a good many sentence-level errors, but 1/3 of them arise from problems with this word/concept, so why don't you work on that in the next draft").

    I will also note that, if modafonil leads students to write more, I would not be thrilled with that, especially if, as it seems may be the case, there are issues with organization/adapting the stream of consciousness that seems brilliant inside one's own mind to the needs of an audience.

    It's interesting that the article mentions cocaine, which was the study drug of choice among those who could afford it when I was in college (I know this mostly because one of my dorm-mates dropped dead on a street corner of an undiagnosed heart condition while under the influence). I stuck to caffeine (No-Doz), which I found enabled me to stare at a blank wall for hours in the early a.m., definitely awake, but not very productive.

    These days, I mostly stick to trying to get enough sleep. My concentration could certainly use some help (see temptation, above), but I think I'll try exercise or meditation or just trying to get myself in better habits instead (interestingly, the article says that the effects of the drug seem to last beyond the dosage thanks to its enabling a more productive habit/pattern of work; that's encouraging, since it should be reproducible without the drug).

    1. You'll need to take more drugs to grade longer papers written by students who take more drugs to write longer papers. It's a modafonil arms race.

    2. I drank enough Diet Red-and-White-Branded Caffeinated Beverage during my undergrad finals that I developed a dietary intolerance and still can't tolerate anything more than a weak cup of tea. Decaf coffee is NOT ENOUGH to sustain marking...

      --Grumpy Academic--

  3. "buys her pills at 70p [$0.91] a pop from a Chinese website"

    Don't do that. The pills are likely "fortified" with melamine or who knows what, and after a few years of periodic use, they will have turned your kidneys into something you might find in the lamp section at Ikea.