A Sticky Situation
Andrew Carrere ‘19
Many students, I included, are habitual gum-chewers and love the many sensations that chewing gum has to offer. Not only does it make our breath fresh and minty, but it also keeps us focused on what we are doing—most importantly during homework and other study efforts.
What are the arguments against chewing gum in class? It’s distracting and just plain disgusting. After all, no one wants to hear people smacking away on Juicy Fruit during an exam, nor do they like reaching under their desk to discover a wet, sticky surprise of freshly chewed bubble-gum.
However, gum provides a stable mode of relaxation and serenity for chewers, and ways abound to prevent such messiness and distractions in the classroom.
Although smacking could be an issue with chewing gum in class, teachers can enforce non-smacking, chew-with-your-mouth-closed rules to alleviate the concerns of in-class distractions, while still allowing their pupils to reap the cognitive benefits of chewing gum in class. With these rules, teachers can mitigate some of the major downsides of gum, making it a more acceptable practice in school.
Perhaps the most common argument against students being able to enjoy the delicacy of gum in the classroom is that it causes a disgusting, sticky mess when stuck to the bottom of desks. With the legalization of chewing gum on campus, students would not be scared of punishments and disciplinary action resulting from chewing gum. This would make students feel less inclined to stick it on the bottom of their desk and more likely to opt for the trash can instead.
Another benefit of gum is that it can be used to mellow out chewers, particularly those with ADHD or just the occasional jitters. The constancy of rhythmically chewing gum can also provide a degree of subconscious support for those that suffer from anxiety or are just a bit nervous for a test.
A 2009 study at the Baylor College of Medicine, conducted right here in Houston, followed 108 eighth-grade math students, tracking their academic performance over a 14-week span. Half of the students were instructed to chew gum during homework and in-class assessments while the other half were not allowed to chew gum.
The gum-chewers saw a three percent rise in standardized test scores and improved their overall grades relative to non-gum-chewers.
In a similar study, scientists in the British Journal of Psychology discovered that gum also enhances cognitive functions, providing students significant academic benefits like increased short and long-term memory.
Therefore, there are scientifically-backed reasons for why gum chewing could be a great asset for school students, with alternative rule possibilities that could alleviate common teacher concerns for gum in class. Perhaps younger children may not be mature enough to handle the responsibilities of not distracting others or sticking it in odd places, but there’s no reason to prohibit older students like high schoolers from enjoying the delicacy of chewing gum.