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Gum-Chewing Essay

I like to debate the issues with my colleagues, and one debate I had with one of my best of friends was over his choice to allow his 8th-grade students to chew gum.  I, on the other hand, am fervently opposed to allowing it in my 7th-grade classroom.  In fact, we teachers shouldn’t be chewing gum in class either. It might seem trivial to many teachers, but there are reasons why we shouldn’t permit our students to chew gum in class.

1.  The classroom is not a barn yard. Chomp-clack-chomp-clack. When I taught at a high school where gum was permitted, that’s all you heard in the sea of students. Looking out at them made me think of a host of cows chewing cud on my brother-in-law’s farm.

2.  It’s terrible for public speaking. There’s nothing more awful than students who have just delivered the GREATEST PRESENTATION OF ALL MANKIND, but the whole time you can’t think about anything beyond how they fit 6 pieces of gum in their mouth. It also muffles the voice from operating in a proper manner, and a piece of gum sitting on one’s tongue or stuffed in their cheek just looks silly. Want to get in a debate and win against someone? Give your competitor a piece of chewing gum.

3. It will destroy your class and school. This is probably the number 1 reason to prevent gum chewing. Our middle school is nearly 60 years old, and it’s in pretty decent condition. A large reason behind that is the fact that gum is and has been prohibited. Compared to the high school that I taught at, which is less than 10 years old – I still remember going to get a drink from a water fountain that was splattered with gum, someone even wrapping their gum around the faucet. Nasty!

4. Gum snapping and bubble blowing is distracting. There are silly things that students do unconsciously or even consciously when you turn your back to make one another laugh. Why give them another?

5. Gum sharing is inconsiderate. It become a popularity contest to share gum, and students act selfish by giving to a select group of people while neglecting others. I operate by the policy if you have something in this class, there needs to be enough for everyone. Period.

6. People try to claim that it stimulates concentration. But I don’t buy it. Do you really think a slap of Big Red or 2 pieces of Orbit are going to make you do that much better on the test? How about an interactive, stimulating classroom, a healthy breakfast, or 8 hours of sleep? That’s what I’d rather focus on for my students.

7. Opening Pandora’s box to a host of other classroom discussions. If students can chew gum (which I’m opposed to), why can’t they carry around a water bottle (which I support)? Why can’t they eat snacks or bring in soda pop?

8. It sets a negative precedent for years to come. We are animals of habit. If we can model good behaviors in our students in any age, they can become standards for years to come. If teachers restrict the ability to chew gum in class, it’s possible that students will go to college and be on interviews and think to themselves – I shouldn’t have gum in a professional setting. It’s amazing how many young adults – or even the President of the United States – forget about that.

I’m curious to know your thoughts on gum chewing in schools. Please share below!

Related

Want a brain boost? Grab a stick of gum and get chewing, new research suggests. Though you may want to ditch that wad before trying any mental gymnastics, as gum only helps improve test scores if chewed before, not during, testing.

The chewing motion gets blood flowing to the head, the researchers suggest, where it improves memory, according to how quickly a test-taker can recall information in the lab. The effect only lasted a few minutes, but researchers think chewing gum before a test could give students an advantage in some ways.

"I do not know how things would work when you're testing something learned days or weeks ago, but given the study's findings, I can speculate that if both working memory, episodic memory and general speed of information-processing benefit from gum-chewing, so would many testing situations, which presumably rely extensively on those mental capacities," study researcher Serge Onyper, of St. Lawrence University, in Canton, N.Y., told LiveScience.

Gum in the lab

The researchers tested 224 undergraduates from St. Lawrence University, dividing them into three groups. One chewed gum before and during the test, another chewed gum for five minutes before being tested and a third didn't chew anything. The researchers then gave them a battery of tests to determine their brainpower.

They found that a burst of gum-chewing before testing improved a student's performance on several of the tests, but only for a short period. The effect was strongest right after gum-chewing, and dropped to normal levels within 20 minutes. The gum-chewing helped during recall and memory tasks especially.

"Within the 15-to-20-minute 'window' of the effect, the chewing-gum group recalled 25-to-50-percent more items than the controls, which is statistically significant, but in practical terms amounts to a difference of two-to-three words," Onyper said.

Your brain on gum

The researchers think that this improvement in brainpower is because the chewing warms up the brain, a phenomenon they call by the suggestive name "mastication-induced arousal." This arousal turns the brain on just before test taking, and gets more blood (and therefore energy-giving sugar) flowing to the head.

Chewing gum is known to increase heart rate and blood pressure, sending more blood to the brain for a total of about 15 to 20 minutes. Mild exercise probably has the same effect, as it also gets your heart rate up, Onyper said.

The test takers who chewed gum the entire time didn't show this improvement. The researchers think the extra brainpower it takes to actually chew the gum takes away from the brain's ability to take the tests, so the benefits of pre-chewing don't show up in test scores. This could explain why results of previous studies have seemed contradictory: Some tested participants while they were chewing continually.

Because the participants were specifically asked to chew the gum, it's possible they were thinking about it a little more than they would be normally, Onyper said. "In real-world situations the chewing might be more unconscious, automated, in which case it would take up very little cognitive resources and probably not affect performance much."

The study was published in the October/November 2011 issue of the journal Appetite.

You can follow LiveScience staff writer Jennifer Welsh on Twitter @microbelover. Follow LiveScience for the latest in science news and discoveries on Twitter @livescience and on Facebook.