Who Had It Worse? 20th versus 21st Century Education


Colby Abuhoff, MS Writer

A student comes home from a busy day of school only to come home and do a massive amount of homework. The student then finishes their homework around midnight and as they eat dinner, one of their parents come to them and scold them for eating dinner so late and that they should be in bed. As the student tries to explain themselves for the difficulty of their work, their parent then tries to nullify that claim by talking about the challenging work that they did at their child’s age. The parent finally tells their child to go to bed as the parent continues to go to bed. In this situation, who is right, the student or the parent?
There is no real answer to this question. This is because difficulty is a scale made and ranked by each human mind and people’s brains differ so there is no true scale to rank the difficulty of a scenario. However, many people may try to figure out a scale to rank difficulty with one major reason being which time period of school was the most difficult and is school increasing in difficulty as years go on or is the education system downgrading itself.
Some claims from the students’ perspective is that technology is both a curse and a benefit, also that standards are continuously raising themselves as time goes on. However, many parents may counter their reasoning because of the lack of technology when they were in school and the overall feel of school as they were kids. Both arguments have evidence behind them with a substantial amount of reasoning, but this age-old question may not truly be answered; is school more difficult in the past around the time of the 20th century or is school more difficult in the 21st century?

Technology – Both A Curse and A Benefit
Many people claim that school today is made much easier due to the rapid increase and development of technology. However, for some this ever-changing technology may just add more pressure to a student. While students today may just ask their smart devices a question that they may be stuck on or for help with a subject that confuses them, people before smart devices and the internet had to do many things to get around the difficulties of having a question on something. A way people got around this was to either go to the library and read about it, or ask their instructor on that subject to help their understanding of the subject. Following this, students before the increase in technology would not be able to type out assignments or have their writing auto-corrected upon making a mistake. This would presumably make school of a higher difficulty before the rise in technology. However, to counteract this claim, students today may argue that technology can pose as a distraction during assignments. With a smartphone within arms-reach for a student while working, some may be urged to go on their smartphone instead of continuing the current assignment they are working on. Also, people with disabilities that cause them to be distracted easier don’t help the distraction that may come with a smart-device.

As generations of students continue to pass by, people begin to make discoveries in certain subjects that then become a required part of future curriculum for students in school. These discoveries can either make school easier or add to the complexity of many subjects. In recent times, the average student has a more difficult time in school than previous generations due to heightened standards such as Common Core which is a common practice throughout most of the United States. “In 2009, 13% of students were taking a rigorous course schedule. But in 1990, only 5% of students were taking the same level of classes.” (https://www.businessinsider.com/high-school-harder-earlier-generation-2011-12).
With standards being risen, students are asked to do more and more in schools that may either cause confusion or for them to mix the processes of each task. Due to standards being at a lower level prior to the increase of technology, students back then may have also had a harder difficulty in school. This is due to the lack of options a student had to perform a task. If a student at this time may not have understood it, rather than learning the same thing several different ways but with a different process, a student may not be able to understand the current topic and may not be able to learn the topic.

Student Mental Capacity
Students in the past compared to the present have had a drastic change in conduct throughout the years. This change in conduct has also had a high change in school difficulty in a multitude of ways. For one, students today may distract each other at a higher rate than in generations prior. This may cause failure to understand the instruction given and overall a lower comprehension of the subject at hand. Also, student anxiety and stress levels today have risen at an extreme rate today compared to students at the time of the 1950’s. “The average high school kid today has the same level of anxiety as the average psychiatric patient in the early 1950’s.” (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/anxiety-files/200804/how-big-problem-is-anxiety). These heightened stress levels may cause an inability to focus in school or a feeling of being overwhelmed which can then lead to things such as depression, anxiety, and many other issues that affect the student mind. However, at times such as the 1950’s, more students then had to deal with discrimination such as racism or sexism compared to now due to comparison of tolerance from then to now. While those ways of discrimination may happen at both times, it was more prevalent then than it is now.
Education in schools can be difficult no matter what time period it is. Whether it is prior to or during the development of technology, school may be considered difficult or easy. This is due to there being no professional scale of difficulty to help decide what is truly more difficult since difficulty is based on preference.