Reality Check

It’s time for a reality check.

According to journalist and author Tom Brokaw, Americans who grew up during the Great Depression and then fought and won WWII were the greatest generation.

Forty years of survey results from the American Freshman Survey indicate he might be wrong.

Since 1966, roughly 9 million US college freshman have completed the survey.

Researchers Jean Twenge, W. Keith Campbell and Brittany Gentile have reanalyzed the data and generated some interesting findings.

One finding in particular is attracting attention: An ever-increasing percentage of American college freshmen rate their abilities as above average in key areas such as drive to achieve, intellectual self-confidence, leadership ability, social self-confidence and writing ability.


Between 1966 and 2009, all five indicators went up:
                                          
Drive to Achieve: Increased by 15 points (+/-)
Intellectual Self-Confidence: Increased by 20 points (+/-)
Leadership Ability: Increased by 20 points (+/-)
Social Self-Confidence: Increased by more than 20 points (+/-)
Writing Ability: Increased by 15 points (+/-)
                                    
Since writing is the only one that can be measured in some concrete way, it's a useful metric.

Today's students are more likely to label themselves as gifted in writing ability, Twenge told the BBC. Objective test scores, however, indicate writing ability has declined since the 1960s.

What do you think: Are today's students and recent grads more driven to achieve? Intellectually self-confident? Better leaders? Socially self-confident? Better writers?

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Related
Do Writing Skills Still Matter?
What Does That Mean?

Reference & Chart
Does Confidence Really Breed Success? (BBC)

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Are there any measurables for the other characteristics or indicators? I realize this would be difficult, but it would be interesting to see if the same gap occurs. And, more importantly, what is the solution to closing this gap?

Barbara Spencer Hawk said...

Yes, it's difficult to measure soft skills like Leadership Ability.

An updated report is due out soon, which may offer more insights into the measurements and their implications.

Meanwhile, what do you think would help close the gap? Suggestions?

BSM said...

I do not usually comment, but have a couple of questions. Is it just me, or does it seem like some of these survey responses appear like they're written by brain dead individuals?

Looking forward to your next post.

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