Caffeinated doughnuts: a teacher’s nightmare

“Wake up and smell the caffeine doughnut” was a recent headline in Raleigh’s News and Observer , with similar stories published nationwide.

Robert Bohannon, a Durham molecular scientist, has developed a way to add caffeine to baked goods without the bitter taste of caffeine. Each piece of pastry is the equivalent of about two cups of coffee. Read entire story.

Do we think caffeinated pastries are a good idea? If not, why are we giving Dr. Bohannon kudos for using his intellect to invent such a harmful product?

“We don’t need caffeine, but it’s become the most widely used drug in the world,” says Jim Lane, a professor of medical psychology at Duke University. As a former middle school teacher, my first thought after learning about caffeinated pastries was concern not only for children that could be exposed unnecessarily to this most widely used drug, but for their teachers. I do not believe that any advocate for children would condone such a product.

I cannot think of a worse idea than exposing our children to a caffeine-sugar buzz. Sugar by itself can cause changes in activity because it enters the bloodstream quickly, producing rapid fluctuations in blood glucose levels leading to increased activity followed by decreased activity. Adding caffeine to such pastries is a prescription for disaster. (Let’s ignore, for now, the fact that high-sugar foods are also foods low in nutrition that lead to obesity).

Imagine you are teaching a class of 30 sixth grade students, who each bring with them their own social and parental pressures. (Remember sixth grade when every social event was a crises). Now, picture several of these walking hormones have each consumed a high-sugar pastry. Their energy level will be high, until it drops about mid morning when you need them to pay attention. Then, further imagine those same students have also consumed the equivalent of two cups of coffee. You won’t be able to capture their attention with any amount of effort. Science equipment and any lesson plan you may have carefully constructed will erupt into chaos. And when their caffeine-sugar buzz wears off, your listless students will have no energy or desire to learn a little science.

It is hard enough to teach. Children already come to class with a variety of different needs and abilities. They have enough insecurities and distractions without adding more. Let’s not add exposure to caffeine to the challenges facing our teachers.

Dr. Bohannon, there is no market for your caffeinated treats that will ever be acceptable in the eyes of this former teacher.

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