Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Chewing Gum Police: In schools everywhere

            What pet peeve makes the teacher top 10 every time? Chewing gum, of course. The reason? The long-standing tradition of students sticking their old chewing gum to the undersides of their desks and chairs is unsanitary, messy, and just plain disgusting. Teachers have fought this battle for years, outlawing gum chewing in classrooms across the world.

            I personally stopped waging war on gum years ago, when I discovered the futility of the effort. Students will chew gum, and spending a lot of energy to make them stop simply isn’t worth the effort, in my opinion. However, I may have to change my mind on this issue. A new study has revealed that gum chewing reduces short-term memory processing.

            In education psychology classes, I had been taught that gum-chewing might actually stimulate the brain by increasing the blood flow to it. But now a research study, written up in The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, reveals that the action of chewing gum makes it more difficult for subjects to enter simple random strings of numbers or letters into short term memory storage. Subjects who were not chewing gum were routinely able to score higher on the simple recall tests than gum chewers.

            Does this mean that teachers have been right all along? Well, sure. Now we know that chewing gum decreases student ability to learn AND it’s unsanitary, messy and disgusting when stuck to the underside of a desk or chair. I guess it’s back to being the chewing gum police for me. Sigh.