We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
"...when we see that most jobs today go to folks with a college degree, it means the employer is, probably knowingly, hiring someone with the ability—and performance prospects—of yesterday’s high-school grad."
I don't just see it, I live it. I am a college professor at a Texas community college. Because the state has so dumbed down our grade school curriculum, we get students in our classes today who aren't capable of the most basic reading, writing or math skills. Then we are expected to somehow hold them to the same standards that were in place when I was in college in the 80s. Good luck with that. The failure rate would be 75% if we held those standards. So there is pressure on us from the accreditation board and state legislature to retain students, ie keeping them in college and on track to graduate instead of dropping out in shock that they aren't prepared (or motivated) to learn. We have a myriad of help programs and dedicated learning and writing centers as well as remedial courses.
I don't know how much of the blame for poor students is on the K-12 system and how much is on the student. I do know that we get more than our share. I would say that some of the blame should be on the parents, too. Not only did my own parents set high standards in our family, but they held us to them. I have complained to my school board about the poor teaching in our public schools and the problem is bigger than any of us.
So yes, lower standards are inevitable. The thought to cheer you: the person who someday changes your bedpan is going to be flunking out of school right about now. The sobering thought: your brain surgeon and pilots likely had an inferior education compared to the ones in previous generations, too.
People keep saying these things from their impressions, but supporting data seems to be lacking. If a greater percentage of a generation goes to college, the average level of intelligence or skill will necessarily be worse. If college used to take the top 10%, then the top 20%, then the top 50% of students, of course they won't be as bright or prepared.
Beyond that, students are taught less of the Western Canon with each passing decade, so to those of us for whom education = canon, they will seem less knowledgeable, when they are in fact differently knowledgeable. Much of that is of course crap, but technical knowledge and current events count for something.
I have been hearing how stupid kids are these days since I was a teenager myself, and I am now 63. SAT scores are stable when apples-to-apples comparisons are made; see also IQ scores.
Why people are determined to always leave genetics and prenatal influences out of these discussions continues to astound me, seeing that those two drive nearly all the variance.
Assistant Village Idiot
I would add other variants too, such as a scholarly bent in the personality. Learning hard things takes discipline and interest.
I know some very bright people who have little curiousity.
Not that long ago in the Dominion of Canada (well, I suppose it would have been up to the late 1970s - early 1980s, so effectively many eons ago in the modern mindset), a young person who graduated with an academic (i.e., Gr 12/Gr 13)high school diploma could go directly on to a job in a bank, train to be a nurse, train to become a military officer, go to normal school (teachers' college), become a management trainee, etc., etc. all without any need to obtain a university degree. A high school diploma meant something.
But no more. I often get into trouble at get-togethers with relatives and acquaintances who are teachers because I'll say, "If a kid goes through 12 long years of schooling and yet still can't enter the workforce at the baseline level without further university or technical college training, then the education system has utterly failed.
I suspect having two parents who are married to each other, with at least one having a decent job is probably the biggest single determining factor is a student's success.
It's interesting to see the kids with two parents not only excel academically, but also gravitate to each other socially - irrespective of religion or race. My kids go to a very diverse school with a buttload of single mom kids. They are friends almost exclusively with other kids with two parents who do well in school including Bosnian Muslims, AA Muslims, mixed race, central Americans and a couple other Typical White People, but always with two parents with jobs. These are the kids who will do well in life, but there are fewer and fewer of them every year.