Students, Goddamn stupid kids, etc.

Nathan Newman nathan.newman at
Fri Feb 12 06:07:42 PST 1999

-----Original Message----- From: Alex LoCascio <alexlocascio at> To: lbo-talk at <lbo-talk at>

>The only thing I can add to the student thread is a weak defense: C'mon,
>were most young people *really* that smart in previous generations?

Let me add a stronger defense. Those making it to college a generation or two ago were overwhelmingly from elite groups. The "dumbing of America" is largely a statistical artifact, since SAT comparisons and measures of college students' knowledge between now and the past usually are comparing much larger percentages of the population taking the SAT or being in college to those in the past when few went to college.

Many conservatives complain about broader access to higher education, since that means that, inevitably, we have less prepared people in college.

As well, there has been a textbook war that has drained most K-12 history books in the US of any controversy (and thus any interest), so I am not surprised that people can't remember anything from them.

Add in the number of young folks working during college and it is unsurprising that many are unprepared for class. I am always amazed how many hours per week undergrads are now working-- it seems worse from when I was in college just ten years ago. With tuition skyrocketing and financial aid coming mostly in the form of loans, worry about which day Pearl Harbor was bombed just seems less important than worrying about loan default.

Mike has his frustrations as a teacher and I appreciate it, but whenever I hear babyboomers whining about the "young folks", it really pisses me off. The irony is of course harsh, but given the free tuition available at most state schools and the high-paying part-time and summer work available, babyboomers just don't understand the financial pressure today's undergrads are under.

--Nathan Newman

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