The culture is also more competitive. These days, teenagers seem more interested in getting into Harvard than in flunking out of Pencey Prep. Young people, with their compulsive text-messaging and hyperactive pop culture metabolism, are more enchanted by wide-eyed, quidditch-playing Harry Potter of Hogwarts than by the smirking manager of Pencey’s fencing team (who was lame enough to lose the team’s equipment on the subway, after all). Today’s pop culture heroes, it seems, are the nerds who conquer the world — like Harry — not the beautiful losers who reject it.
It is hard to put your finger on how much of the gap between the current crop of young school reformers and their predecessors is due to the change described above, but it feels like a lot to me. I mean, I've even got a copy of Beautiful Losers. Ultimately, a world where all 12 year olds are told that the most important thing in their lives is to get a bachelor's degree in exactly nine years is not the one I want to live in.