Thursday, July 22, 2010

It Keeps Getting More Competitive

At a family gathering, my nephew complained that school is much harder today than it was in my generation's time. I've been thinking about his comment since it didn't seem the content of his subjects in school were any more difficult than mine.

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.

This is not financial advice. Please consult a professional advisor.

Copyright © 2010 Achievement Catalyst, LLC


Anonymous said...

You are right about others working harder. But I am a teacher, and the curriculum is definitely harder. More kids go to preschool, which is often academic-based. Kids are learning to read in kindergarten. In my second grade class, we did multiplication and division. I am 32 and I know that the standards and testing have gotten much more rigorous since I was in school.

Brad Castro said...

If that really is the case, then I think that's great news.

A little competition and higher standards is a good thing. And the thing about the younger kids is that you really don't have to spend hours a day drilling skills into them - they're built for learning and absorbing.

My son could read by his 4th birthday (although obviously not very well). It was definitely a goal for him to learn to read before kindergarten, and I really only worked with him a little bit each day (and with the miniscule attention span of 3 and 4 year olds, that daily window of opportunity isn't much to begin with).

Interesting topic . . . and like I said, I hope your nephew is right.

Super Saver said...

@ Anonymous and Brad,

I agree the lower grades are more advanced, but I believe it's prmarily due parents working with their children to give them an "advantage." In our case, we've taught our daughter to read, tell time, and do simple math before kindergarten. To me, that's competitiveness, but I can also agree the course work is harder.

However, I don't believe there has been same type of "advancement" of course work in HS. For example, I took calculus as a senior in HS over 30 years ago. Today, I think calculus is still a senior year AP course. It hasn't become a sophomore level course, nor has it become a required course to graduate from HS. For example, my nephew won't be taking calculus in HS. I also believe writing skills have dropped significantly since I went to HS. Finally, as a ACT/SAT tutor, I know the test questions are similar in difficulty those used when I attended HS.

So, based on this discussion, I agree the curriculum is harder in K-4. However, I still think the HS curriculum is equivalent to curriculum I had in HS.