I relate this to my continued contention that education is not worse now than in the Good Old Days, but that opinion is extremely unpopular with conservatives. (The studies cited here do not test that belief about education. Whatever support they provide for my opinion on the subject is indirect.)
I did get something wrong about the explanation. I thought that adults who worry about such things are more likely to think that the rising generation is a sinking generation, because they are remembering a non-representative sample of their own friends from childhood. That is, advanced-placement students remembering their childhood friends are going to remember a disproportionate number of other AP students and falsely compare them to the general average today. In the words of the study,
People may be accurately remembering the attributes of children in their past but the sample on which this judgment is based is biased toward a sample of peers who were similar to themselves.So, I wasn't the only one who had entertained this notion. According to their data however, this is not true. I much prefer it when research bears out the theories I have cooked up, so I'm hoping for more support on this next time. Until then, what seems to be so is that we compare today's children against our own better qualities. The well-read think children are less well-read, the intelligent think the children are less intelligent, etc.