Two weeks ago in lecture, we were asked the question; “Should the use of Adderall count as cheating in school?”. As I am personally affected by this dissorder, I was disappointed with this kind of question and the ensuing comments made by the professor. He used the next slide to explain how under the Rawlsian principle that, freedom and equality require fairness, the use of Adderall IS in fact cheating in school.
Before I get into why Rawls would agree with the exact opposite case, I am going to elaborate a little bit on ADHD and what Adderall is itself.
ADHD or, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a serious disorder that affects approximately 5 % of children globally. These children have a TON of trouble focusing in school due to hyperactivity that they quite frankly cannot control. As a result of this, the students are at a HUGE disadvantage in school compared to their counterparts.
Adderall is a stimulant pill that is used to combat this attention disorder. In order to be prescribed to Adderall, a child must go through an extensive six hour test to see whether or not they would benefit from taking the substance. As a result of this strict regulation, children who don’t have ADHD will have a very tough time obtaining a prescription for the drug. Also, this ensures that the drug will only fall into the right hands. Finally, ADHD is a developmental problem among young kids and it is often the case that a person will grow out of it as he/she gets older.
If John Rawls were to take a look at this situation, he would be in support of the use of Adderall because it can be directly applied to his difference principle. He states that under the Difference Principle, “The basic structure is perfectly just, when the prospects of the least fortunate are as great as they can be” (Rawls p. 38). Adderall gives the students who are worst off (have a learning disability) the ability to remain in school and to live a normal life like all other students. Furthermore, Rawls argues that “Trade-offs across lives should be avoided, and replaced by a system of priorities for the most serious needs and interests” (Rawls p. 39). In the modern world, the education of our youth has become a top priority. The fact is that this drug is a simple solution to a serious problem and can provide a great result with a very small amount of cost.
A counter argument to this, made by the professor, is the fact that college students all over the country have admitted to taking the substance without being prescribed to it. The students who use this drug without a just cause are actually going against Rawls belief “that justice requires fairness not only in the distribution of material and social advantage, but also toward different conceptions of the good” (Rawls p. 40). They are cheaters abusing the system that has been set in place for the distribution and use of the drug Adderall.
Despite this point that these students who abuse the drug are actually going directly against Rawlsian principles, the fact remains that distribution and use of the drug without the proper prescription is HIGHLY illegal. People who are caught doing such an act can be sentenced to jail time . Furthermore, in any society, there will always be people who break the laws. [This common knowledge of wrongdoers is already factored into any argument made by any political theorist, including John Rawls]. [Edit: Even though some students cheat and take adderall without a prescription, the amount of people who cheat is not significant enough to deny adderall to the students who actually need the medicine.]
In sum, ADHD does put children at a significant disadvantage and the use of Adderall among students is fully justified by Rawls difference principle.