Have American Students Gone Soft? 18th Century: 10 hours of School and Study Per Day


John Quincy Adams

John Quincy Adams


By Bill Korach www.thereportcard.org

Last year we reported on a Kaiser Family Foundation study that students were spending 7 hours per day on media like games, Facebook, TV etc.

  “Over the past five years, there has been a huge increase in media use among young people. Five years ago, we reported that young people spent an average of nearly 61/2 hours (6:21) a day with media—and managed to pack more than 81/2 hours (8:33) worth of media content into that time by multitasking. At that point it seemed that young people’s lives were filled to the bursting point with media. Today, however, those levels of use have been shattered. Over the past five years, young people have increased the amount of time they spend consuming media by an hour and seventeen minutes daily, from 6:21 to 7:38—almost the amount of time most adults spend at work each day, except that young people use media seven days a week instead of five. [53 hours a week]”


If our students spend that much time, in addition to sports, being with friends, and other activities, like sleep, when do they do their academic work?

Indiana University’ High School Survey of Student Engagement found most recently that:

“Among (U.S.) Public High School students:

82.7% spend 2-5 hours a week on homework.

42.5% spend an hour or less each week on their homework.”


This may help to explain how they manage to free up 53 hours a week to play with electronic entertainment media, but is there any effect of such low academic expectations on our students’ engagement with the educational enterprise we provide for them?

Compare the amount of time students spend on their schoolwork today with John Adams expected of his son John Quincy Adams at the age of 11.

 “So in February 1778, the new commissioner [John Adams] and his son [11-year-old John Quincy Adams] boarded the frigate Boston and headed into a stormy ocean. Despite a harrowing crossing, they arrived safely in Bordeaux on April 1. Seven days later they reached Paris, where Benjamin Franklin, already in residence, invited them to stay at his home in Passy, a suburb near the Bois de Boulogne. Johnny entered a private boarding school at Passy run by Monsieur Le Coeur, where he studied French, Latin, and mathematics, along with fencing, dancing, and drawing. Several other American boys attended the school, including William Templeton Franklin and Benjamin Franklin Bache, the grandsons of Benjamin Franklin. Classes began at 6 in the morning and continued for two hours, after which they were given a sixty-minute respite for breakfast and play. Then there were classes from 9 to noon, 2 to 4:30P.M., and 5 to 7:30. In between times the students were allowed recreation and meals. They retired at 9P.M….”

Robert V. Remini, John Quincy Adams

New York: Times Books, 2002, p. 6

Maybe we need less theorizing about educational theory by government bureaucrats and ask more of our students things might improve a bit? John Quincy Adams benefited from the work. He became President just like his Dad.


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