Why is high school harder now than in the days of our parents?Why is high school harder now than in the days of our parents?

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The perception that things are more difficult in high school than in the past is, of course, a subjective since the course work is clearly not as rigorous as in the past.  One only needs to look at the reading level on which high school history texts are written compared to that of fifteen or twenty years ago.  The geometry books of today are not as concerned with theorems as in yesteryear, either, and are simplified.  For one thing, many schools do not require students to memorize formulas, theorems, etc.

However, science is certainly more complicated than in the past, and there are courses now that did not exist when parents were in high school such as those relating to technology, such as keyboarding, computer science classes, etc.  More courses are available, and different courses are required, too, than in the past.  In addition, students are involved in many other activities:  sports, community service, clubs, and so on.  Thus, while the course work is not as difficult, it is more extensive, and, as mentioned above, the stress-level for contemporary students is much higher than for those students of yesteryear. 

With approaches toward learning geared to meeting standardized test score demands, the apprehension of concepts has taken a back seat to fragmented teaching of skills so that students will do well on state examines.  As a consequence to this approach, students do not learn for the long term.  Then, when students reach high school, they really do not have the foundation in learning that they need to succeed.  When they have been allowed to use calculators and have not memorized multiplication tables, when they have not memorized formulas and theorems, students do not have a comprehension of how numbers work, so they cannot conceive how more advanced problems should be solved.

When they have read little and written even less and rarely discussed literature in their previous English classes because so much time has been spent drilling and conditioning them for the standardized tests in language, students are ill-equipped for the advanced skills needed in high school.  This lack of preparation--as well as not having to learn how to learn through struggling on one's own--for high school may be the single most contributing factor for the perception by students of high school being "harder" nowadays.

Even for good students, though, there are new challenges as many schools are mired in old, traditional methods that worked well with older generations. The students now of the Digital Age think differently from their parents; consequently, approaches to teaching must be altered. Students are grouped more heterogeneously nowadays than heretofore so that "no child is left behind," and such grouping presents new challenges, also. In short, there are so many varied factors that enter into the equation that high school may seem more difficult to the present day-students.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

First, I am not completely sure that it is.  Most of the subjects are still the same -- especially among the core subjects.

Second, though, I think that life in general is more pressure-filled (here in the United States) than it used to be.  In the old days, the place of the US in the world was more secure.  There were, it seemed, good jobs for everyone even if they did not go to college.  Nowadays, there is so much competition from foreign countries that American high school kids are put under more pressure.  You have to go to college to get a good job and there's not the same feeling that that job will be around for your whole life.

Finally, I think that more parents (maybe because they feel that pressure) put more pressure on their kids to do well than was true say 30 years ago.

coachingcorner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that maybe there is more testing now in high school than in the days that parents attended. Also, schools, headteachers and education organisations have to be much more accountable these days. There is more record-keeping and there are more school inspections. In one way, this is a good thing. Achievement is being measured and syllabus subjects are becoming more standardized. Some teachers would say that this has been overdone and that the new emphasis on testing hurts students because it puts them under too much presure in a 'one size fits all' kind of category. The pressure is hotting up, as the last post mentioned, because countries like China are catching up with us and their citizens are often prepared to produce goods and work long hours for less money.

besure77 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are more things out there now days to learn than there was in the past. This is going to continue to happen. Your children will probably think you had it easier too.

Keep in mind though that there is a lot of technology available to help you learn more material and quicker. I really do not think that it was necessarily easier though.

brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It's also harder to live and work in the modern day than it was for your parents.  There is more material to master, more technology to learn, and more credits/classes needed.  It isn't necessarily harder (in fact some aspects are notably easier), it's just different, and there's definitely more stuff you are expected to learn and know.

ako6777 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think it boils down to the wealth of knowledge we must now learn due to advancements in our society and technology.  Decades ago was a much simpler time.  They did not have cell phones or the internet.  Back then you did not need to go to college to obtain a job that was able to support a family.

crystaltu001 | Student

High school is harder now than before because back then they didn't have the technology or barely anything that we have now. Life was way easier back then because it didn't matter if you did not go to school you could get a job very easily. Now we have to go to school to get an education and work for it. 

giorgiana1976 | Student

Progress of society in terms of technical information led to the increase of the complexity and educational volume  that students need to master .

haeddleman | Student

I don't think it necessary is.  I do think, however, that children are taught things at a much younger age that what we were as children/teenagers.  For example, I am 28 and took Algebra in 10th grade.  A friend of mine's son is 9 and is already at a more advanced level that I was a graduation.  Because of the advancements of technology in our world, there are just more things students must learn this day in age, than their parents.

loripayne | Student

The biggest reason high school is more difficult now than in our parent's day is the requirements placed on schools and students by government.  Students can no longer just pass core courses and acquire a specific number of credits in order to graduate.  Students must now pass ISTEP/GQE or Core 40 or whatever other state-mandated test exists in addition to the school requirements.

School is also much more difficult now because of the pressure from other nations.  The media constantly examines the education of other nations, such as China. We hear stories about young children mastering complex mathematics or science; we see images of young students playing near master-level instruments. In turn, our society is also constantly reminded of how average our schools and students have become. We read about increased drop-out rates and poor graduation rates.  We also see where schools are closing because they hae lost government funding because of their "number".  There is immense pressure for students to demonstrate above-average academics, prove themselves in some sort of artistic/creative/athletic area.  Grades are no longer enough to get ahead; learning languages, volunteering, or somehow setting oneself apart from the rest is almost required to achieve today.

I think high school is very difficult today because it has to be.  Schools are driven by graduation rates and test scores, and because of this, students are being tested more today than ever before.  Students are driven by high GPAs and class rank, because without them, getting in to college is that much more difficult.  Our parents and grandparents did not have near the pressure that our current high school students face.  During their time, jobs were readily available; money was easier to obtain, and college was an option.  Today, jobs and money are few and far between, and college is a necessity.