The Decline Of Studying, Ctd

by Patrick Appel

Philip Babcock e-mails:

The blogger at Games With Words has misinterpreted our study, which is perhaps understandable given the level of detail in the papers. There is no sleight of hand here and it’s worth clearing things up: It is unequivocal in the data that students at selective colleges study less they used to. We compare selective schools in 1961 with *the same set* of highly selective schools in 2003. All comparisons are made across identical sets of colleges and all declines are large and highly statistically significant.

Several Dish readers argued that technology makes Babcock's finding irrelevant. A typical e-mail:

I take issue with the implication that studying fewer hours means less education is happening. I recently completed my undergraduate in a fairly technical field (chemical engineering) and, like all sciences, comparing the pre-computer 60's to today is beyond absurd on its face. In those 10 hours of studying, as a junior undergraduate, I can complete months or even years worth of calculations in the 60's. 

Babcock addressed this point in his original post:

Of course, new technologies could have made students more effective at studying than they used to be. But most of the decline in study times predates these technologies.