I saw this today in my news feed from Virginia Commonwealth University and I wanted to share it here. While it may not be overly surprising that there is a strong relationship between academic achievement and drug abuse, this article makes the much stronger claim that this relation is actually causal.
In order to accentuate the differences, I shall refer to a common example. In particular, after observing data regarding the amount of ice cream sold at a beach and the number of drownings at the beach, there was an extremely strong correlation. Therefore, can we conclude that ice cream leads to drownings? Well no, in particular, both are related by a third variable, namely the number of people on the beach (which in turn is related to the temperature), so that on a hot day there will be more people at the beach which will lead to more ice cream to be sold and more drownings.
While I did not have access to the full article, we can see in the abstract that the authors do in fact address issues regarding such confounding variables. They looked at groups of related individuals to help account for genetics, made allowances for birth month (which has a correlation with academic achievement) and other factors. Therefore, they claim that the relationship is in fact causal.
I wanted to share this so that I could discuss the implications of this, and see what the readers thought about the subject. This would imply that if everything was exactly the same in a person’s life, but they had gotten better grades in school, they would be less likely to abuse drugs later in life. Therefore, if, as a teacher, I would give all my students ‘A’s in class, this would lead to a decrease in drug abuse.
After reading the abstract, I had two thoughts in mind I wanted to share,
- Do you believe that this conclusion is actually true?
- If we assume the conclusion is true, does this mean that teachers would have a moral obligation to help preserve the health of their students by no longer giving grades other than As?
Instead of sharing my opinions on the matter, which have not been fully developed, I wanted to get your input on the subject. Whether you are a teacher, a student, researcher, or just a casual reader, please comment below. I hope we have a great conversation on the topic.
- Kendler KS, Ohlsson H, Fagan AA, Lichtenstein P, Sundquist J, Sundquist K. Academic Achievement and Drug Abuse Risk Assessed Using Instrumental Variable Analysis and Co-relative Designs. JAMA Psychiatry.Published online September 05, 2018. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2018.2337