At least once a week, I am nearly brought to tears. The apathy is disheartening, my students don't know (can't comprehend) the severity of their situation. This is my 12th and probably my final year in education. I may attempt to teach abroad, but I'm pretty sure I won't make it another year in the states.
Sadly they are either getting dumber or lazier or both. I work in a small college teaching freshmen as well as working with student employees. It is sad how uninterested they are and how unwilling they are to critically think on their own. College used to be a privilege not an extension to high school. It feels like they need a lot more hand holding. The student workers need everything explicitly explained to them, whether its something amazingly simple like using a paper cutter or something more complicated like using creativity to make a display. I don't know if it's just an age thing but I am truly not much older than them and am really at a loss for what is going on.
Plain and simple. Ask them questions about geography, history or science and most of them can't answer correctly or can't answer at all. Most of them don't even have common sense. And I don't really believe that they're stupid, I believe they aren't taught properly and the younger generation of teachers don't seem to know much more. They will tell you that more people today attend college than ever before. Big deal. When I was a student you needed high grades to get in, now anyone can attend. We are behind most of the world in education, pretty sad.
I love my students dearly, but after spending time with them in the classroom setting (I am a counselor) I feel like I am trying to teach a topic to a room full of zombies. They struggle to pay attention (usually because they are on their cell phones or fighting sleep), their memories are zilch, and they don't have any interest in ANYTHING of substance. Their frustration levels are really high-most of them have a serious aversion to doing anything that requires more than a minimal amount of effort. Many of them can't think critically--I'm serious--their problem-solving skills are next to nothing. I work in an academy where the students are taking advanced curriculum. We have "standards based grading" which is really just a way to make the average students look good and the remaining students be able to pass. I think our education system is in a shambles. Most kids want to do well--they really do. But they just struggle. They are either unmotivated or motivated but don't have the stamina to work hard. So they give up and retreat to some mindless activity they can access on their cell phone...
There are many culprits: Technology is great but it is misused. It creates neural pathways that are wired for instant gratification, and to seek answers outside of oneself rather than figuring things out on your own. Also, there is growing concern and research that suggests that electromagnetic radiation from cell phones and Wi-Fi negatively affect brain activity. My "smart" school district gives every 6-12 grade student their own personal brain-death machine oops, I mean I-Pad. Almost every kid and student has a cell phone, and now we have 2,000 I-Pads in one building. Our staff and students are spending 8 hours a day in a giant microwave.
Also, parenting. Many poor families are too stressed and/or are lacking skills and knowledge to properly guide their child's education. Middle class and upper middle class parents are too focused on work, and come home tired and drained, and let the TV and I-Pad babysit their kids so they can get some rest. Rich parents are off galavanting and conquering and leave their children's educational and social development to nannies. These are stereotypes and obviously don't apply to all people in these categories, I'm just showing that our nation is more focused on earning money than raising healthy well-rounded children and stable family life. Our children are being raised by teachers, school counselor/social workers and the T.V. set.
Generally TV shows and media pander to the lowest common denominator and people who are intellectual, spiritual, and wellness-oriented struggle to find anything of substance on TV.
We really need to examine what our culture has become in this country. Its the degradation of society as a whole that has caused problems in our schools.
The reason that children are getting lazier/ less intelligent is because of Parental lack of engagement with their children. Its also due largely in part to the educational budget getting slashed, while the federal state and city governments dump billions of dollars to fight "sexual predators". Not only has this practice been shown not to work, but it is stealing federal and local funding that could be going to upgrading schools, enhancing education and providing relief for burnt out teachers.
Write your local politicians and tell them to stop fighting an illusion and put the money where it needs to be put, to help our children.
I am a high school science teacher (Chemistry and Earth Science). When introducing the concept that a handful of common elements (20 or so abundant elements, or the entire periodic table of 118 elements) creates all the matter around us, I relate it to the alphabet with 26 letters being used to create millions of different words. I always ask my students how many letters there are in the alphabet and I usually get a range of answers from 20 to about 32. The first time this happened was a very enlightening experience. Students have little capacity to memorize anything. This is not helped by curriculum developers who suggest that the answer is to give them more projects (create posters, brochures, presentations, design and conduct an experiment from scratch, etc.) and let them look everything up. The idea in education seems to be give them a large project to do and they will get the basics along the way. The problem is, without the basics most students have no clue how to begin such a projects and then miss all the basic information, or look up and use the wrong basic information.
I also teach a lot of dimensional analysis and most of my high school juniors and seniors cannot multiply fractions. I don't even ask them to do it without a calculator, but then I see many students who (after days or weeks of practice) cannot input the numbers into the calculator correctly. Many students simply look for the easiest way out. They treat most school assignments like they are simply filling out forms, and if they can look online and find information to put in those forms, they do.
One last note. Where I teach it is nearly impossible for a student to fail. We have at least four 2nd chance recovery options. There's an afterschool recovery program for each subject; a Saturday school program; summer school; and a recovery class where they can repeat a course online. I have students every year that swear those options are easier and fail on purpose. In other words, nothing too severe happens if a student fails, so why put in the extra work?
Last, but certainly not least. I have been shocked by the severe lack of computer knowledge in my students. Sure, they can Tweet, and text, send pictures on social media, and find anything you want on Youtube or Netflix, but if I ask them to scan a document and email it too me I may as well be speaking in a foreign language. Better yet, try to get students to remember a username and password combination for a site. Good luck with that one.
My nieces are 14 and 16 and have been A-students throughout their education. I was very proud of this...Until I realized just how poorly an education they have been receiving all these years. While playing a family game of Trivial Pursuit, they were unable to answer even the most BASIC literature, math, history or geography questions, but did slightly better with general science and, of course, pop culture/entertainment. When I questioned my eldest niece as to why she still had trouble understanding the difference between a verb and adjective, or why she could not name even ONE capital of ANY European nation (she could barely name 2 countries in Europe), or how she didn't know a darn thing about any of the American presidents, World Wars, Ancient Egypt, etc., I was informed that, "My teachers never cared much about that stuff..." They've never had to do a book report; they've never had to conduct a science experiment; they've never had a geography test, except US state capitals, but that info evidently didn't stick either, because they weren't able to name 95% of them. Yet, they are A students. But, boy, can they navigate a web page and multi-task: able to watch a YouTube video while simultaneously texting a friend on their iPod and playing bowling on Wii. Amazing. And think how useful that will be in their futures...
I am also an American teacher. I teach science to HS students. I see sophomores who do not know how to manipulate a one-variable equation. This is very troubling, especially when those students are in an "honors" class. Interpreting graphs, knowing which variable goes on which axis, memorizing a constant that they've had to look up repeatedly--all of these are difficult. I once gave a quiz where everything had been discussed on the board and left there during the quiz--one student got fewer than half the questions correct.
I agree with another contributor that this perceived lowering of intelligence is actually created by the divestment of memory onto technology. No student is allowed to be less than perfect, either, which pushes parents to seek diagnoses for their children, as other people have said in this thread. In order to reverse this trend, we must hold students to an unwavering standard, and not change the standard to meet each student. Shifting curricular boundaries result in a knowledge base that has no value.
I think that there are several reasons for this: technology, lazy parenting, teachers unable to maintain rigor in classes. Students today have not developed the mental pathways to be able to remember things. In the worst cases their minds are like a blank slate EVERY DAY. Google and technology have done this. They don't have to remember anything and so the brain does not develop neural connections to do so. You cannot learn anything knew without basing if off previous connections and material. So they have problems learning new things because of it. I have been teaching since the 1980s and today's college students are like 5th and 6th graders from the 1980s.
Because sadly, the expectations from the teachers now are very low, and all the students in my class don't even listen to lectures. I'm considered a smart student, but in reality, I'm average. Teachers better start teaching us more difficult things. The girls in my class go on instagram during class time, talk about having sex, the guys do ridiculous things to achieve attention. I think everyone in my class is growing up too fast. Thirteen isn't the age for sex, or kicking other's asses during lunch. With the right knowledge, anyone can kick their asses. Slice their femoral artery. Sadly, the kids are too dumb to realize even this. On a scale of one to ten, ten being average classroom where everyone listens, all the classes in my school are at a two.
People aren't getting dumber, they are getting lazier. Everyone has access to tons of information on the internet, and in libraries among other places. Its not that people are too dumb to seek information, its that they are too lazy and do not see the point. We can change that
The first point where the educational system is failing us is that we are not gearing our classrooms for the kind of learning that these kids need to be doing. We are teaching to the tests and giving them the impression that all that really matters is that they pass those tests, leading to a situation where they are only learning to pass the tests instead of learning for a successful life.
Another thing that we're really failing on is that what we do is force our kids in their last two or three years of high school to learn a bunch of junk that the vast majority of them will never use. It used to be that you had to have a science course or two, Algebra and another math or two, and a social studies course or two. Now we're practically forcing our kids to go through trigonometry in math, take three to five science courses, and a bunch of social studies courses. We're shoving so much junk that they don't need into their heads that the simple stuff they do need is going through atrophy.
People keep arguing about how we have to do this to compete with other countries. What they miss is that most other countries that we're competing with aren't including everybody. A lot of European countries, for example, don't force everybody to go to school until they're eighteen. Only the smartest or most ambitious stay in school after about sixteen in a lot of these countries.