The epidemic of laziness

lazy student
(Unmotivated students. Photo: Raw Pixel)

5 Reasons for the epidemic of a young generation struggling with laziness

The “epidemic of laziness” is on a tailspin. Years of poor academic outcomes are now a serious threat to the already struggling socio-economic trends in the U.S.

In 2020, Gallup revealed that 54% of Americans read below a sixth-grade level. Recent data in 2023 indicate that the country continues to grapple with consistently low SAT scores and poor college readiness.

The NAEP also shows a continuous decline in educational outcomes while a growing number of adults are poor readers and spellers. People are not getting dumber but lazier.

1. The lack of motivation

In the 1970s, chronic procrastination affected only 5% of adults, but the current rate is 15–20%, with 70-95% of individuals in Eurasia and North America wanting to postpone class work.

Procrastination is equated to laziness because it involves delaying tasks or responsibilities, even when one has the ability and resources to complete them.

Procrastination also implies a lack of motivation or willingness to exert effort. While it can stem from other factors, such as perfectionism or poor time management, the outcome in public high schools is all the same: Students are failing academic requirements.

The common framework

The rise in procrastination coincided with the introduction of the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI) in the early 2000s.

While CCSSI aimed to enhance education by emphasizing critical thinking and college and career readiness, it faced critical issues, including leadership by non-educators, criticism for a “one-size-fits-all” approach, limited teacher autonomy, and a lack of parental input.

Asian classrooms, focusing on discipline and authority, contrast with the U.S.’s student-centered approach emphasizing individuality, which, despite good intentions, may be part of a flawed framework. [Yale News] [Emerson YRBS]

NCLB and ESSA: “Ticking bomb”

The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) in 2001 aimed to enhance academic achievement through standardized testing. But critics say it was a ticking time bomb that would produce a dumb generation, “The worst Federal education law ever passed,” said an author. 1

The policy allowed schools to implement graduation retention policies, which meant failing students could still graduate high school.

Graduation retention

In 2015, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) replaced NCLB, allowing states more control over school policies. Consequently, States may limit school funding if they have low graduation turnouts.

As a direct result, curriculum standards were lowered, teachers had to be more lenient and were forced to pass students—even if undeserved.

Students realized they didn’t need hard work to pass, inspiring a generation of procrastinators and “lazy students.”

Henceforth, there is little motivation to do well in school, except for “mostly immigrant” Asians, who were exposed to a conservative and more disciplined culture.

2. “School is stressful and boring”

In 2021, 80% of students at an Illinois high school felt stressed, with only 9% consistently meeting mid-semester requirements. This trend persisted nationally, exacerbated by iPads in U.S. high schools.

A 2019 Yale survey indicated nearly 75% of U.S. high school students had negative feelings about school. By 2023, persistent despair and a significant increase in the “transgender craze” were observed.

Special education classrooms, allowing cellphone use and lenient work completion, raised concerns about student lethargy.

Chronic absenteeism affected nearly 10% of K-12 students in 2023, impacting learning, while a 2022 survey revealed 1 in 4 Gen Z individuals aspired to be social media influencers, questioning the importance of formal education for financial security. [Higher Visibility]

iPad: The end did not justify the means

We should embrace technology, but its overuse has also produced “lazy students” who got used to getting information on-demand, alongside distraction.

In 2011, the American public school launched its first iPad-based program on a trial basis. Since then, it has replaced books, notebooks, and the daunting task of doing simple research in the library.

The death of the library

In lieu of getting information from an iPad, doing research in the library helps develop patience and perseverance—and libraries have a calming effect.

It’s not rocket science to know that the traditional and disciplined way of doing research, such as scouring through books in a library, develops valuable learning skills.

The opposite is true when we get used to “on-demand information” and “minimum effort to do research.” Video games can easily make us bored, impatient, and lazier.

3. ADHD: Justifying laziness

The perceived increase in student laziness, anger, or depression is often linked to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), with its symptom of a lack of motivation potentially becoming an excuse for laziness.

The issue of motivation is directly linked with graduation retention policies under NCLB, which both Republicans and Democrats passed in 2015.

Normalizing depression and misdiagnosed ADHD

While some students genuinely face neurological challenges like ADHD, concerns arise over the possible misdiagnosis of around 1 million U.S. children, using ADHD as a justification. 2

Another claim was that 1 in 4 adults who claim to have ADHD may be faking it. At the same time, depression has become the blanket reason to be excused from class or academic responsibilities. 3

In other words, mental issues, such as depression and anxiety, are normalized, cuddled, and even celebrated, turning it into a pity party.

Understandably, it is difficult to distinguish these conditions, knowing that suicide rates are up.

In contrast to Asian countries, ADHD rates were significantly lower compared to the USA in 2021.[NCBI]. Critics argue it’s because many Asians are not correctly diagnosed. However, it can also be attributed to discipline, where laziness isn’t tolerated as much.

  • For every 100 children with ADHD, there are 83 Black and 77 Hispanic children with ADHD in the USA.
  • For every 100 children with ADHD, there are only 48 Asian children with ADHD in the USA.
  • ADHD is more commonly diagnosed in Black, non-Hispanic children (12%) than white children (10%), Hispanic children (8%) and non-Hispanic children (3%). [Forbes]

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

In the mid-70s, IDEA (The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) and Section 504 mandated schools to provide support and accommodations, such as Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), for students with mental disabilities, including ADHD.

These laws prioritized personalized education instead of pushing discipline and perseverance.

Apparently, traditional disciplinary approaches have not worked. However, traditional discipline remains the power tool in many Asian schools, and it continues to work, as reflected in recent reading, math, and science data.

The bottom line is that special accommodations for ADHD students have relaxed environments and lenient practices, which may unintentionally reinforce such behavior, prompting questions about whether ADHD is being utilized as a justification for academic struggles rather than a genuine neurological challenge.

In addition, the use of ADHD drugs may inadvertently contribute to modifying behavior.

Dyslexia or laziness?

Many individuals in special classes, either diagnosed with ADHD, mild autism, or dyslexia, face challenges in processing written language or understanding the lesson. Likewise, there are those who silently suffer from it.

Tim Odegard, a prominent figure in dyslexic studies, was dismissed as having low intelligence instead of having dyslexia. His experience reflects the widespread issue across the U.S., where many individuals suffer needlessly due to a flawed approach to identifying dyslexia. 4

However, these conditions, particularly dyslexia, may have become an excuse not to try harder in the classroom, in the same way that ADHD has.

Laziness has nothing to do with dyslexia

Although dyslexic or ADHD people are not necessarily being lazy, a growing number of high school students (allegedly with these conditions) are simply NOT trying hard enough in class.

Either an individual may exhibit laziness alongside dyslexia, or they can demonstrate diligence despite grappling with dyslexia.

We could also justify lazy behavior with the lack of motivation, poverty, family issues, or genetics, but dyslexia should never be associated with laziness. But why are we seeing more poor readers and lazy students?

Undermining phonics

Although increased phonics instruction will not help a child with dyslexia, undermining phonics lessons since the 1980s have clearly affected the ability of young students to properly learn how to read—the reasons a huge population of Americans are “poor readers.” So let’s not blame dyslexia or ADHD.

Data indicates a correlation between dyslexia reduced academic performance and increased dropout rates. However, current accommodations appear ineffective. 5

More problematic is an increasing number of students who exploit these conditions to access the following:

  • Lower curriculum standards to pass high school.
  • Privilege of taking tests with open notes.
  • Exceeding truancy limits but still passing.
  • “Inflated A grades” for simply completing shabby work.

Researcher at the Frontiers in Psychology at the University of Cambridge, UK, argue that “dyslexia shouldn’t be framed as a disorder.” They found that these people have “enhanced abilities” in certain areas including discovery, invention and creativity.

We urgently need to start nurturing this way of thinking to allow humanity to continue to adapt and solve key challenges,” said lead author, Taylor. [WEF]

Successful individuals with dyslexia or ADHD demonstrate that it can also be viewed as a unique gift. G. Washington, A. Einstein, W. Disney, S. Spielberg, Anderson Cooper, Mozart, T. Edison, and Leonardo Da Vinci are some of the most accomplished people who had one or a combination of these conditions.

The bottom line is that laziness is also a learned behavior. Increasing accommodations because of these conditions that excuses a student from completing proper class requirements will only exacerbate this behavior.

4. Emotional Disability: A convenient excuse for laziness

Understanding mental disorders is complex, and the increasing classifications are making it more difficult to understand and find a cure.

One recently prominent term is “Emotional Disability,” specifically used to describe individuals facing anxiety attacks warranting special attention, breaks, or accommodations in school.

In the late 1990s, public schools shifted from punitive measures towards a more nuanced and holistic disciplinary approach, recognizing the need for a supportive and restorative framework.

In contrast, the “Boomer and Gen X” generation with high anxiety levels were forced to “suck it up.” There was no “sensory room” or free talk theraphy.

Fear of offending kids

Today, anxiety and emotional disability are well-acknowledged conditions. It’s an essential part of a student’s well-being.

However, stringent forms of discipline and standards have taken the back seat (if not kept in the trunk) in lieu of a tolerant culture that prioritizes feelings and ideologies.

In other words, everyone should be friendly to each other to encourage emotional trust and be extremely careful not to offend anyone, even kids.

A “culture of niceness” where teachers should not find offense when students sleep during class or refuse to stand for the pledge of allegiance because it triggers them.

The fact is that young people were more respectful, less rebellious, and more diligent back in the days when discipline and religious faith took the front seat. But then, the progressives are turning America into a godless nation, which is another undeniable fact.

Conflating mental illness and rude behavior

Alongside the epidemic of laziness is the growing and out-of-control bad behavior of teenagers. Recent events show that more teens today are involved in robbery, assault, and extremely rude behavior. [Spike]

The spike in disrespectful students is undeniable, but many “experts” conflate this behavior with mental conditions, such as ADHD, when the “fear of offending kids” is one major reason.

In the last few years, policies towards teen crimes have been lenient. In school, rude behavior is met with talk therapy or “sensory rooms.”

Disrespectful behavior can result from bad or absentee parenting, trauma, or genes, all conditions present in third-world countries. Yet, the disparity of bad behavior is miles apart.

The lack of fear of authority

When kids no longer fear authority, the effect could be anything from being disrespectful to being lazy and ignoring simple instructions, such as staying quiet or inside the classroom before the bell rings.

Unfortunately, the “fear of offending people, including kids,” has taken over a culture of no-nonsense discipline. Sometimes, the teacher has to take the blame for losing their wits over students’ misbehavior.

5. Evident Factor: “Entitlement”

Black entitlement

In 2020, the Black Lives Matter group protested the injustice their ancestor suffered, along with other Black individuals who allegedly suffered from poverty as a direct result of discrimination.

They destroyed property, looted, burned establishments, and threatened white individuals for not joining their cause.

In short, they were “entitled” to “reparation,” be it in the form of looting, violence, or monetary value.

Entitlement is when people believe they deserve preferential treatment because of factors associated with their cause or situation, such as poverty.

The same pattern is prevalent in schools today, where young people think they have inalienable rights. Anything from disrespecting the American flag to having free food is their individual right.

Poverty as an excuse

In school, young people’s sense of entitlement is not always rooted in ethnicity but instead in the belief that certain students deserve specific accommodations because they have a mental illness or come from poverty.

While data suggests a correlation between poor academic performance and poverty, it’s incorrect to assume a direct causation. For many immigrants from less developed nations, poverty serves as motivation to excel academically, leading to better opportunities.

In 2021, child poverty in America marked a historic low of 5.2%, a stark contrast to the 30% recorded in the 1960s. This significant reduction in child poverty has potentially led to a shift in mindset among today’s children, who now enjoy more comfortable lives. [Census]

This shift is occurring alongside a concerning trend of growing dependence on the big government, where the younger generation demands more benefits and entitlements.

Wealth distribution

The “Tax the rich” advocacy gained prominence with Democrats Elizabeth Warren and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The idea is simple: Rich people shouldn’t be that rich, which is basically socialism or “state capitalism” in China.

The average income tax rate was 13% in 2020, but the top 1% of earners (incomes over $682,577) paid nearly 46% of all income taxes. 6 7

Hence, the advocacy aims to get rich people to give them more money to fund welfare, such as free housing, food, and health care. In short, they want wealth distribution for something they didn’t work for.

No wonder these left-progressive ideologies have inspired social media rants from young people complaining about how difficult life is. For example, a 40-hour job that pays a minimum is unfair, and “the “big government” should provide free housing for everyone.

Democratic socialism

Socialism’s reliance on big government can breed laziness by discouraging individual initiative, contrasting with capitalism’s emphasis on self-reliance and innovation. 8

A 2019 study by Pew Research showed that 42% of Americans like socialism, 65% had a positive opinion of capitalism. 9

In 2023, the left-liberal media, the New York Times, refuted the narrative that socialism creates lazy people by coming out with an article saying, “No, Socialism Isn’t Making Americans Lazy.”

Equality of outcome vs opportunity

The admiration for “Democratic Socialism,” an oxymoron, stems from a new generation where hard work is no longer the norm but entitlement in the guise of equality or “equality of outcome.”

While it sounds good on paper, “equality of outcome” overlooks individual differences, stifles innovation, discourages hard work, and requires excessive government intervention, according to Jordan Peterson.

Instead, lawmakers and educators should push for “equality of opportunity” based on merit and effort rather than free meals and accommodations.

However, the once revered values of “hard work” are being overtaken by a growing number of “lazy people,” who expect the government and rich people to provide for them.


  1. Diane Ravitch, Huffpost (2018). ↩︎
  2. MSU (2010) ↩︎
  3. NBC News (2011) ↩︎
  4. Scientific American (2023) ↩︎
  5. Study: People Are Getting Dumber (2018) ↩︎
  6. Tax Foundation Org ↩︎
  7. National Taxpayers Union Foundation. ↩︎
  8. The False Appeal Of Socialism. ↩︎
  9. Pew Research 2019. ↩︎

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