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QotD: Dumber

Question: Are kids today dumber than they were 20 years ago? 50?

My Answer: I'm not sure they're dumber, but they sure as heck act like it. Whether it's a lack of work, crappy education standards, or what, I don't know, but Carey graded some tests today that were simply amazing… in the wrong sense of the word. The fear of being left behind is no longer a motivating factor. Granted, I was in the "advanced" classes, but I simply can't imagine kids even ten to fifteen years ago being as dumb as some of the kids she's had in her classes (she's student teaching).

I don't blame the kids, mind you. I blame the government and the parents.

You are encouraged to answer the Question of the Day for yourself in the comments or on your blog.

6 Responses to "QotD: Dumber"

  1. The kids are the problem. I should know - I'm 16.

    I would have to say that around 80% of my peers absolutely don't care. Out of the 3000 students at my high school, 2400 of them absolutely don't give a crap about being there and doing a good job with the work they are assigned. They are rude, obnoxious, and they have the attention span of first graders.

    I blame the media and drugs as well as the parents and government.

  2. I don't know for sure if they truly are dumber, but it does seem like it most of the time. I mean-- look at fashion trends. When I was in high school anybody who let their underwear show above their pants would be called a dumbass.

    Possibly, it's easier for us to look at kids with a condescening eye because we're "older and wiser". But I always see things just make me shake my head and wonder what the hell some of these kids are thinking.

    I agree with Erik on who gets the blame The government for not funding schools enough and testing teachers for their qualifications (I knew a teacher who didn't know who the hell Bill Clinton was while he was President.) And parents, not all but most, for not teaching their kids common freakin' sense among other things.

  3. I blame the teachers for largely not understanding how to connect to the kids. I mean, if the majority of the students are doing badly, then it is squarely the teacher's fault for not teaching in a way that encourages kids to learn.

  4. I think it's true that they perform worse, but it's not as much due to intelligence -- it's a lack of effort. I'm not sure that all teachers are entirely to blame, although some definitely are. Parents now tend to reward kids for both good and bad performance ("It doesn't matter if you win. Everybody's a winner!"). It's rarer to see kids that accept poor performance as their own fault and that they should try harder (or request help) to succeed. The teacher is to blame for everything and a good grade is their right, not something to be earned. School administrations are more concerned with keeping students happy than with the quality of teaching and testing, even though giving instant gratification for substandard performance is doing the student more harm with respect to their future careers. Standardized tests have gotten easier, and both school and test grades have been steadily "inflated".

    I'm a graduate teacher, and I've seen the performance of my students go downhill over the past 10-15 years with the same difficulty level of course material and exams. Exam questions that tap critical thinking are now too difficult (i.e., "tricky" or "meant to deprive them of the A's that they deserve"). Students complain that they don't get printed copies of my verbatim lecture notes and PowerPoint presentations, or sample exam questions (they insist that these must match those on the exam or else I'm trying to trick them!).

    I don't think that it's my fault for "not encouraging kids to learn". Both my better students and more mature students can handle my courses as easily as did students from 10-15 years ago, and find my courses to be very engaging. The problem is with the rest.

  5. Michael S has the point right on. I believe that a large chunk of the blame lies in the schools. They have turned the most important period of learning in to 'edutainment'. IT lessons are a sham. Here in Britain, there is no longer any direct route to computer science. We used to have a qualification called A-level Computing. This was the nerds course. It mixed hacking and fairly high level maths, and it not only got people on to university CS courses, but also got many in to the world of work. But because it was too difficult, we replaced it with an utterly useless qualification called AVCE ICT (among other things). This 'qualification' teaches little more than how to operate Word and Excel. We are handing out A-level equivalent qualifications on the basis that the person knows how to operate Office. That's dumbing down if I ever saw it.

    At my school, this wretched and meaningless qualification was forced on us. I had the great job of explaining that I had spent the last five or so years hacking stuff for the web, and was at that time learning how to use Unix (all the non-Mac bits of OS X) and PHP. Eventually I left the class after explaining to the teacher and a few of the congregated students that, in terms of university applications, it would be essentially useless.

    A lot of people want to do well, and have the brains to succeed, but are put off because our school system (which is miles ahead, apparently, of the American school system) discourages people from actually challenging themselves.

    Our school system has tried to make itself "child-centred", focused on "feelings", values, and understanding everybody's "point of view". At the end, they want equality of result. But real education is centred around facts and the disciplines which teach those facts. Knowledge, accuracy, academic ethics (like not copying other people's work unattributed etc.). It should leave the child to make up their own mind about their opinions, informed by the objective and discernable facts, and the scholarly opinions.

    I can't help but feel that the failings on the education system - failings so big that just throwing more money (public or private, though I prefer the latter) at the system without actually trying to work out how to reform the system will not do anything - could actually change how kids are. The societal expectations of schools have become the societal burdens on parents to raise their kids in a certain manner - one which I think people don't question enough.

    If I ever have kids, I would never send them to a school run by the government. They have a precious brain and it should not be wasted in one of these awful places.

  6. I don't know -- I did pretty bad in high school (a fairly small [~350 kids] American public school) and I still came out okay. At that age, I just didn't care. It was only after spending some time outside of a school that I realized I really did want to get edumacated, and so I went to a state college and busted my ass getting good grades. And despite how crappy I did in high school, I didn't end up a bum, or in prison, I have a pretty good job (software development).

    I think parents, teachers, and the government should do the best job they can, but it's not for us spectators with web presences to point the finger and say "it's your fault that kids these days just don't measure up". There's a lot of problems with the American education system, and it's not a simple "it's the teachers/government" argument. If we're just looking for scapegoats to deride, blame capitalism. After all, why should Americans be profiting off their kids' well-being and development? Yet look at the morally bankrupt textbook industry, or expensive independent consultants experimenting with new ideas for curricula.