High school is easy, but life is hard

High school is a bit easier than it used to be, but the rest of life is a lot harder, writes New York Times columnist David Brooks. He’s been reading UCLA’s latest survey of college freshmen.

In 1966, only about 19 percent of high school students graduated with an A or A- average. By 2013, 53 percent of students graduated with that average.

The grades are higher even though, for many, the workload is lighter. As late as 1987, nearly half of high school students reported doing at least six hours of homework a week. By 2006, less than a third of all students reported doing that much work.

By the first year in college, students are worried about college costs and payoffs. They’re much more likely than earlier generations to see college as job training, writes Brooks.

In 1966, only 42 percent of freshmen said that being well-off financially was an essential or very important life goal. By 2005, 75 percent of students said being well-off financially was essential or very important.

“Developing a meaningful philosophy of life” was a priority for 86 percent of first-year students in 1966. Now, less than half say that’s essential or very important, Brooks points out. “In the shadow of this more Darwinian job market, it is more acceptable to present yourself as utilitarian, streamlined and success-oriented.”

About Joanne


  1. Roger Sweeny says:

    In 1966, college freshmen didn’t even think about it. They knew (at least they thought they knew) that they would be well-off financially. So they didn’t answer a survey and say it was important. It’s like asking one of today’s freshmen whether having clean water is an important life goal. Of course, they’ll say no. But if they were living in parts of Africa or India or a hundred other places, they sure would say yes.

    Today’s freshmen say being well-off financially is an important life goal because they are afraid they won’t be.

  2. Well, in 1966, you could still get a classical liberal arts education. Then those freshmen became professors and couldn’t be bothered to teach anything of value. They preferred to expound on whatever the inequality of the week is.

    And it goes to reason that if you expand college to include those who don’t arrive with a pocket full of daddy’s money, more students will see financial success as a goal. Otherwise, why waste time and money for the low quality “meaningful” philosophy of life offered by colleges today. Cheaper to just zip over to Amazon, or the archive.org and start reading. Then read the blogs where those who go a decent liberal arts education discuss it.

  3. GoogleMaster says:

    I think college freshmen in 1966 were worrying more about keeping up the grades to be able to stay in school so they didn’t get sent on an all-expenses-paid trip halfway around the world.