Excellent post, #8. Schools, especially high schools, are definitely out of touch with the realities and changes that have taken place in college, and life in general. Teens definitely need way more freedom and voice in choosing which classes to take. High school really should be set up like a community college system.
We have been fortunate to live in one of the most prosperous eras in American history (indeed, world history) -- at least until recently. In the 1980s and 1990s, I think many Americans took for granted the idea that the economy would continue to grow, that jobs would always be fairly plentiful, and that real study wasn't as important as it may have seemed earlier, or as it still seems in some less fortunate countries. It will be interesting to see how, if at all, the tough economic times of the last four years or so affect attitudes toward the need to study.
I have noticed one reason for a decline in interest levels. Students are often no longer offered a choice. They have to take a specified number of electives but their schools do not have enough elective teachers. They are crammed into classes like art or journalism when they have no interest in being there. When I was in school, we were allowed a certain amount of choice in our courses. Obviously, we had to take the basics, but we were allowed to select what we wanted within reason. For example, Calculus or Trigonometry? In science, Biology II or Anatomy? We could also choose between PE or Dance after freshmen year and we were able to select our own electives. Many students today are not given this type of opportunity because of budget cuts at schools. Students are stuck in classes they don't care about and they don't want to take. They have no desire to participate because they don't feel like they have any say so in the course their education takes.
I have noticed a big change in students' sense of entitlement which I connect to an apathy among students today. Even ten years ago, students knew that to do well they had to work hard. Today, students think that just doing the work should earn them the A. I have seen first hand the grade inflation that has come with teacher's not fighting this battle and lowering their standards in regards to what it takes to earn a superior grade in a class.
I primarily blame today's parents who refuse to enforce strict educational standards upon their children. Far too many of my most recent parent-student-teacher meetings are filled with excuses from the parents and children about why grades are low, why assignments can't be turned in on time, and for misbehavior. When I was a student (in the 1960s and 1970s), my parents always sided with the teachers, and my parents were quick to closely scrutinize my study habits, homework and class assignments. Not so with most of today's parents.
I have actually seen a huge decline in school interest in the last decade. While there is no one reason for this, I think a couple of big factors are:the entertainment-style learning students expect, the learned helplessness of many of this generation due to coddling from parents and teachers, and the lack of consequences for not doing work (both from the school and at home).
Students are so used to the face-paced video-game style of learning, that any kind of direct instruction is boring to them in the first 30 seconds. To get students motivated these days, I find I have to make every lesson "fun." This involves money to buy props/accesories, and a lot of energy and isn't always possible.
Next, parents (and many teachers due to district-mandated no fail policies) have run so much interference for their kids that they haven't learned to do anything themselves. If they turn in something late, they complain to mom and dad who complain to the district who complains to the teacher and the student gets an extension...so there is no need to be diligent and meet deadlines.
Sorry to sound to negative, and I am absolutely not saying this applies to all students...but it is a definate trend that is scary to say the least.
Well, I have been teaching for more than 25 years and I have not seen that big a change over the years in this regard - teenagers have a lot of hormonal and emotional things going on, and they tend to view the world in terms of the here and now, with little regard for the future. This naturally means that studying is not their first priority. Of course, the world continues to offer ever more enticing distractions and ways to waste time. Commercial enterprises have discovered that today's students have money to spend, and they pander to adolescent self-interest to sell things to teens, with no regard to educational consequences.
The change I have seen which I find disturbing is the shifting attitude of parents and adults in general, who feel that today's students are smart enough to make good choices on their own. I think this is unfortunate, and is leading many students to be more outspoken and obnoxious about their disinterest in learning.