Tag Archives: biopolitics

“No child left unmedicated?”

I borrow the title of this post, and the link, from the indomitable Tyler Cowen. The reference is to this study by Bokhari and Schneider in the Journal of Health Economics titled “School accountability laws and the consumption of psychostimulants“.

Here is the abstract, written in that cool academic chill (emphasis mine):

Over the past decade, several states introduced varying degrees of accountability systems for schools, which became federal law with the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. The intent of these accountability laws was to improve academic performance and to make school quality more observable. Nonetheless, schools have reacted to these pressures in several different ways, some of which were not intended. We make use of the variation across states and over time in specific provisions of these accountability laws and find that accountability pressures effect medical diagnoses and subsequent treatment options of school aged children. Specifically, children in states with more stringent accountability laws are more likely to be diagnosed with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and consequently prescribed psychostimulant drugs for controlling the symptoms. However, conditional on diagnosis, accountability laws do not further change the probability of receiving medication therapy.

Foucault is relevant here. The state’s biopolitical power to regulate and control life itself is brutally manifested in the overmedication of children, driven by bureaucratic and federal incentives. This is a powerful argument against the acceptance of federal dollars or incentives to regulate America’s education system.
My generation grew up in a world where medication became, transparently, a mechanism for social control. It will be interesting how our politics shape the future.
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