In the past year, my experience have given me a better perspective on my nephew's comment. During that time, I've taught first graders in an after school program and tutored high school students for the ACT/SAT tests. I confirmed my belief that the curriculum is not any harder. However, more students are willing to put in the extra effort to do well in school, making it much more competitive and harder to do well.
For example, I remember learning how to read in kindergarten. Today, it seems a significant number of kindergartners already have some reading skills, due to pre-school or parental guidance. In high school, I was one of a few students who studied seriously. Now, it seems that rigorous studying is the norm for the high schools in my area.
I find the same situation exists for sports. When I played football for a state championship team, only a couple players did weight training or conditioning during the off season. My nephew trains year round for his football team, even though he hasn't been a starter yet. On his team, all the starters do year round conditioning and may even participate in independent football camps to sharpen their skills.
Needless to say, careers and work are also more competitive. Just about everybody is working extra hours or long days as part of their job. When I started, working long days or extra hours was a way to advance one's career, since only a few people did it.
So while I agree with my nephew that I did well school, sports and work with less effort, it's not because the content or problems were easier. It's primarily because of higher competitiveness, i.e. there are now more people putting in extra effort necessary to do well, which was also probably true between my parent's generation and my generation.
For more on Crossing Generations, check back every Thursday for a new segment.
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