Is College or School Harder Now Than It Was In The 80s?

High school is a crucial phase for every teenager, a time often filled with a mix of academic challenges and social milestones.

This article delves into a question that frequently finds its way onto forums: was high school in the ’80s much harder than it is for kids today?

If you’re intrigued by the generational differences in education or simply want a nostalgic trip down memory lane, read on!

The 80s and Kids Today

The ’80s were a time of significant change in various spheres, including education. A frequent point of discussion in online forums is the perceived notion that school was different and perhaps much harder during this decade.

To validate or refute this idea, we’ll explore several angles such as courses, curriculum, and even the impact of historical events like WWII on the education system.

Back-to-School: 1980s vs. 2020s

During the ’80s, back-to-school shopping didn’t include laptops or the latest smartphone. In fact, the concept of a phone in a teenager’s pocket didn’t exist.

The focus was more on essentials like notebooks, and perhaps you’d find a stylish pair of jeans to impress in the hallway. Today, back-to-school shopping often includes a high-tech list, emphasizing how times have changed.

What Courses Were Like in the ’80s?

Courses in high schools during the ’80s were often less rigorous than they are today. While calculus and advanced biology classes existed, not many students took these courses.

The level of difficulty was generally lower, and vocational courses were more prevalent. Today, high schoolers often have a heavier workload, including more demanding STEM courses.

The Homework Load Then and Now

The homework load for teens in the ’80s was generally lighter. According to some forum posters, students back then did fewer assignments per week than today’s kids.

It is also worth noting that much of the homework was done manually, without the help of the internet or software programs that can solve complex math problems automatically.

Gen to Gen: How Has the Curriculum Changed?

Comparing the ’80s to now, the curriculum has become much more diversified and specialized.

Earlier, the focus was on a more generalized education, but today’s curriculum often includes niche subjects and more comprehensive preparation for college.

What Role Did WWII and Historical Events Play?

One might wonder why WWII would be relevant in an ’80s high school context. Well, the post-WWII era influenced educational policy and curricula significantly.

It had a lasting impact that was still felt in the ’80s, especially in courses focused on history and politics. These were simpler times, and the connection to WWII was more direct in school lessons.

School Days in the ’80s vs. School Days Nowadays

In the ’80s, school days were different; there were fewer ads about cyber bullying and online privacy policy wasn’t a concern.

It was a time when everyone knew everyone in the whole school, which had its own pros and cons. The sense of community was stronger, although that doesn’t mean bullying and other bad stuff didn’t happen.

Technology’s Impact on Education: 1983 vs. 2021

The technological advancements have been one of the most significant changes. In 1983, the concept of writing a 20-page research paper using a laptop was unheard of.

Today, technological tools are integrated into nearly every aspect of education, making tasks that were really hard for ’80s kids considerably easier for today’s students.

From Ivy League to Community College: Where Did People Go After High School in the ’80s?

In the ’80s, fewer high school graduates went onto four-year universities compared to today. Many opted for community colleges or jumped straight into the workforce.

This is in stark contrast to today’s highly competitive college admissions scene, where even a 3.9 GPA sometimes doesn’t guarantee a spot in an Ivy League university.

Final Thoughts: Can We Make a Direct Comparison Between Then and Now?

The short answer is no, we can’t make a direct comparison. While school was different in the ’80s, whether it was harder or easier is subjective and depends on various factors like technological aids, societal norms, and educational policies.

What we can confirm is that each era had its own unique challenges and opportunities.

Summary of Key Points

  • High school in the ’80s was indeed different but not necessarily much harder.
  • Back-to-school in the ’80s was a simpler affair with fewer technological gadgets.
  • Courses in the ’80s were less rigorous, and the homework load was generally lighter.
  • The curriculum has evolved, becoming more diversified and specialized.
  • Technological advancements have made some tasks easier for kids today.

So, was high school in the ’80s much harder? It’s a complex question, but hopefully, this article provides some insight into the intricacies of this ongoing debate.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


1. Was high school in the ’80s actually much harder than it is now?

The term “harder” is subjective and can depend on various factors like technology, societal norms, and educational policies.

While courses and curricula may have been less specialized and rigorous in the ’80s, the absence of technological aids like the internet and software tools could have made tasks more laborious.

2. What technological differences existed between high schools in the ’80s and today?

In the ’80s, technology in schools was limited. Computers were rare, and students did not have access to the internet for research or assignment purposes.

Today, technology is integrated into almost every aspect of education, from laptops and projectors in classrooms to educational software that aids in learning.

3. How were the courses different in high schools in the ’80s?

Courses in the ’80s were generally less specialized and rigorous compared to today. While advanced courses like calculus and biology existed, fewer students took them. Vocational courses were more prevalent, and the overall workload was lighter.

4. How has the curriculum evolved over the years?

The curriculum has become more diversified and specialized over the years. Today’s students often have access to a wide array of niche subjects and more rigorous courses aimed at better preparation for college or university. In contrast, the focus in the ’80s was more on a generalized education.

5. Were there any notable historical influences on the education system in the ’80s?

The post-WWII era significantly influenced educational policy and curricula, effects of which were still apparent in the ’80s.

This had an impact especially on courses focused on history, politics, and even sciences to some extent.

6. Did more students go to college or university after graduating high school in the ’80s?

Fewer high school graduates in the ’80s went onto four-year universities compared to today. Many opted for community colleges or went straight into the workforce.

The college admissions scene today is highly competitive, making it tougher for students even with high GPAs to secure spots in Ivy League universities.

7. What role did community and social aspects play in schools during the ’80s?

The sense of community was generally stronger in the ’80s. Schools and High schools in the 80s were less crowded, and there was a greater sense of familiarity among students.

While this had its pros, it also meant that issues like bullying were more localized and less likely to gain broader attention as they do today through social media.

8. How much homework did students typically have in the ’80s compared to now?

The homework load was generally lighter in the ’80s. Tasks were also completed manually, without the aid of the internet or specialized software, which could make the process more time-consuming but also perhaps less stressful in some ways.

9. Can we make a direct comparison between high school in the ’80s and today?

It’s difficult to make a direct comparison because various factors contribute to the experience of high school in different eras.

While school in the ’80s was different in many ways, like grades etc , each era had its own unique challenges and opportunities.




This post is written and edited by Sandy who is a clinical pharmacist with over 20 years of experience specializing in pre-natal and post-natal care.