Possible reasons for the epidemic of a generation struggling with laziness
The “epidemic of laziness” is on a tailspin whose years of poor academic outcomes are now a serious threat to the already struggling socio-economic trends in the U.S.
Psychologists blame the phenomenon on ADHD, whose common symptom is the lack of motivation, which in turn is blamed on neurological impairment.
While some students have neurological issues, such as ADHD, about 1 million U.S. children may be misdiagnosed with ADHD. [MSU]
In contrast to Asian countries, where discipline and submission to authority help prevent lazy students, Asian children only account for 6% ADHD compared to whites, blacks, and Hispanic ethnicities in the USA, with an average of 15% learning disability.
1. The common framework is not working
In the 1970s, only 5% of adults were considered chronic procrastinators, but today, it’s about 15–20%. The rate of people wanting to postpone class work is 70-95% in Eurasia and North America. [Wiley 2019; E3S Conference]
Common Core State Standards Initiative
The slow rise of lazier students began in the early 2000s and spiked after 2010. It was then the Common Core State Standards Initiative was introduced.
CCSSI aimed to improve the quality of education using a common framework emphasizing critical thinking, problem-solving, and college and career readiness.
Clearly, there is a problem with the standardized learning framework.
- Common Core was led by non-educators (politicians and corporate executives).
- Criticized for “one-size-fits-all” learning, overemphasizing skills over content.
- Limits teacher autonomy with non-existent inputs from parents.
- Few experienced teachers were consulted.
- Imposes political and ideological influence on teacher-student interaction.
- Lacks parental input, leading to alienation for ideological and religious reasons.
Traditional teaching framework appears to be more effective
Asian classrooms lean towards a more teacher-centered approach focusing on discipline, memorization, and submission to authority.
Whereas in the USA, it’s student-centered with an emphasis on individuality and rights that’s supposed to encourage critical thinking, which seems a better approach but is not.
The flaw is evident: Individuality, rather than collective discipline, leads to students choosing the easier path. After all, why study harder if you can graduate with little effort?
2. High School Students: “School is stressful and boring”
At an Illinois high school where I was a teacher assistant in 2021, 80% of students reported feeling stressed and bored despite robust academic support.
Moreover, only 9% of students fulfilled requirements mid-semester, and this pattern has persisted over time despite accommodations.
The same sentiment is felt across American high schools, particularly following the introduction of iPads.
In 2019, a survey of 21,678 U.S. high school students conducted by the Yale Center found that nearly 75% of the students’ self-reported feelings related to school were negative. [Yale News]
Chronic Absenteeism: “School is unnecessary”
In 2023, nearly 10% of K-12 students were frequently absent, and around 25% were classified as chronically absent, a significant increase compared to pre-COVID levels that impact learning.
In 2022, a survey showed that 1 in 4 Gen Z want to become a social media influencer because it is the quickest way to success, adding to the disillusionment that proper education is critical to financial security. [Higher Visibility]
3. Evident Factor: “More kids are entitled today”
Poverty as an inspiration
Data shows a correlation between poor performance and poverty. Still, it is wrong to assume that poor academic outcomes result from poverty.
It is just not true, depending on one’s perspective.
For many immigrants from less developed nations, poverty is a motivator to graduate with flying colors so they can get better jobs, buy a house, and live a comfortable life.
Research suggests that Asian-American educational advantage “over whites” is mainly due to more significant academic effort—influenced by cultural beliefs and immigration status. [PNAS]
A comfortable life is a deal breaker in America
“In 2021, child poverty reached a historic low of 5.2%, starkly contrasting to 30% in the 1960s. This means more children today enjoy comfortable lives, potentially motivating them to strive harder to keep up. [U.S. Census; Child Trends]
However, a different scenario unravels as more people become “dependent on big government,” something socialist politicians have been pushing.
While other factors, such as student debt loans, climate change fears, and gender ideology, contribute to a growing number of “discouraged kids,” the USA remains a leading economy with substantial academic support—a luxury not found in many nations.
Western comforts and struggles of Asia
After World War II, Japan, China, and Germany successfully rebuilt themselves and emerged as technology leaders with high standards of living and education levels.
The same is true for war-torn South Korea, Vietnam, and the fetid slums of Singapore, which managed rapid GDP growth despite minimal land resources.
The point is that overcoming poverty and limited resources are natural motivators.
However, school benefits such as free food, bus rides, free iPads, abundant support, and rights and privileges can create a culture of entitlement.
Empowerment that leads to insubordination
Since 2015, the culture of entitlement has become widespread. A recent survey shows more students don’t find it necessary to submit to authority or respect teachers.
Also, some schools alienate parents to “protect kids” from “interfering parents” who push religious or conservative values.
The result is “empowered kids” who grow up thinking they can have a say in everything or make life-changing decisions without their parent’s consent. [Saga of Sage]
4. The lack of discipline, not just ADHD
This epidemic of laziness is commonly associated with ADHD and certain mental conditions.
Billions of funds were poured into special and regular classes to accommodate struggling students but with minimal effect evident in national test scores.
Given these data, does it mean close to half of Americans have ADHD, are racially oppressed, or are in poverty? Certainly not.
Nearly one million students are misdiagnosed with ADHD, suggesting alternative factors contributing to the lack of student motivation.
Also, the new racial narrative is a political tool that’s turning into “reverse racism,” while poverty can never be an excuse for laziness.
ADHD blanket encourages leniency and discourages discipline
Discipline through consequences (not punishment) is necessary to create a safe and structured environment.
Although these measures are in place in American schools, I’ve seen more teachers unable to impose disciplinary actions. Others ignore entirely disrespectful behavior.
Clearly, the lack of classroom discipline is central to the epidemic of laziness.
5. Unrealistic accommodation
It’s common practice in high school to accommodate late work, which leads to more procrastination.
More teachers cannot enforce proper consequences because teachers avoid failing students as a directive.
For example, teachers are forced to settle for poorly written essays and give a passing grade, even if it deserves a failed mark. No wonder more high school students are ill-equipped to go to college. [Poor college readiness]
Accommodations have become the norm, which is hurting academic standards.
California employs affirmative action for Black and Hispanic students to get Ivy League scholarships, even if they do not deserve it—yet discriminates against Asians because they do better academically.
7. Lowering standards sets up failure
Lowering standards often leads to diminished quality, reduced motivation, missed opportunities, and long-term losses that increase the likelihood of failure.
On the other hand, high standards set high expectations that improve the quality of work. [Harrison Barnes]
Lowering test scores
SAT has set the standard for college admissions for more than five decades. But scores are getting lower. In response, the College Board changed the SAT format in 2016, shortening the questions and making the essay optional.
In succeeding SAT, more students pass, but not according to respectable standards. In short, downgrading the SAT did not improve college readiness; it just made it easier to pass.
- The ACT composite score national average in 2022 hit 19.8, the lowest in 30+ years, with the last sub-20 average in 1991, marking a fifth consecutive year of declines. [ACT 2022]
- The average SAT score in 2022 was 1050, down from 1060 in 2021, marking the lowest since the SAT redesign in 2014.
|SAT (2005-2016)||Downgraded SAT (2016-present)|
|Length of Test||3 hours 45 minutes||3 hours (No essay, optional)|
3 hours 50 minutes (With essay)
|Number of Questions||171||154|
|Sections||Critical ‘Reading and Writing,’ Math||Evidence-Based ‘Reading and Writing,’ Math, optional Essay.|
|Guessing Penalty||Minus 1/4 point per incorrect answer||No penalty|
|Good (75th %ile)||1720||1190-1200|
|Average (50th %ile)||1480||1050-1060|
|Poor (25th %ile)||1260||910-920|
Downgrading Physical Education
In the 1950s, President Kennedy promoted physical fitness, focusing on calisthenics and team sports as part of the school’s multi-disciplinary standard.
Physical education was almost as demanding as army training, although it had provisions for less competitive students. The rate of ADHD were
- The focus on fitness improved mental understanding and a more disciplined mindset among students.
- Higher PE standards also provided an outlet for boys to release energy, helping to prevent the epidemic of ADHD that is now prevalent.
8. The problem with grouping low academic performers together
Public high schools in the United States group students with ADHD symptoms and low-performing students for support and inclusivity.
However, there’s also a negativity and stigma attached to it. Within these classes is a culture of low expectations.
Pygmalion effect: The power of positivity
In the 1960s, American psychologist Robert Rosenthal’s experiment on children’s intelligence, known as the Pygmalion effect, showed that a teacher’s “elevated expectations” of certain students resulted in improved academic performance.
In other words, the more teachers affirm student intelligence, the better the student performs academically.
A similar story was about a student who did so poorly in school his mother had to force him to take the SAT, knowing he’d flunk it. He did and got 1480, to the bewilderment of everyone.
Since then, he surrounded himself with intelligent people, worked hard, graduated, and became a successful magazine entrepreneur.
More than a decade later, he got a letter that said there was a mistake; he only got 740.
Grouping poor performers in one class may be a bad idea
The power of positivity poses a serious question if it’s really helping to group together low-performing students in a special class because it doesn’t seem to be working.
The Learning Accelerator emphasizes the benefits of mixed-ability student groups, leading to improved learning outcomes.
Students in mixed-ability settings had higher achievement scores, improved social skills, and better self-esteem compared to their peers in tracked classrooms.
Another study conducted by the University College London (UCL) Institute of Education found that schoolchildren placed in lower ability groups experience negative behavioral and emotional outcomes. [Guardian]
9. Government welfare may be incentivizing “lazy people”
Government welfare programs are beneficial, but they are ineffective in reducing poverty. Poverty reduction can only be achieved through wealth creation. [Libertarian Institute]
Debunking “Welfare does not make lazy people”
Welfare recipients desire jobs, but benefits can discourage work when they exceed potential earnings. It’s just human nature.
In 2021, at least 1.8 million people refused to return to work, not because they have (unmotivated) ADHD but because of generous welfare benefits, poll shows. [Axios]
A 2013 study by the Cato Institute found that in many states, it pays better to be on welfare than it does to work.
The bottom line is that the epidemic of laziness cannot be ignored. If the trend continues, America will continue to be a divided nation, blaming racial disparities.
7. It all boils down to simple obedience
My mother, who taught in CPS for two decades, has witnessed, in dismay, the evolution of a teaching style that no longer employs complete submission to authority.
Simple obedience like “keep quiet” or “keep reading” has transgressed to “stop playing video games while in class” and “stop arguing and do your work“
Four top issues facing teachers today:
- Disrupting classes.
- Acts of disrespect to teachers and staff.
- Disregarding phone or iPad rules during class.
- Increased tardiness and absenteeism.
All these seem to be about respect, but what it’s really about obedience, where submission to authority has become an option for a new breed of “entitled kids.”
Submission to authority
In 2018, a limited Milgram experiment revealed approximately 57% of high school students were inclined to disobey an authority figure.
Rates would be higher if similar experiments were held today, especially after 2021, when rights and privileges became ideological.
Teachers are losing their authority
In 2023, data indicate teachers are increasingly scared of losing their jobs or getting their districts fined if they say the wrong to their students. [EdW]
A study published by Ryerson University in Canada found teachers are often struck with fear while in front of the classroom.
A culture of respect
In the United States, a culture of “undisciplined and disrespectful students” has emerged in the last decade, with some teachers permitting students to address them by their first names.
They call it progressive and eliminate barriers that would otherwise impede learning.
In contrast, Asian cultures often employ specific honorific suffixes, such as “sir” or “ma’am,” when addressing authority.
This practice extends to the corporate world, exemplified by Jollibee, a Filipino global food chain, where management uses “sir” or “ma’am” to address each other, promoting a culture of respect.
Respect and discipline are closely intertwined and essential for a harmonious society.