I share that experience, Tom!
Some years ago our Humanist group gave a $1000 award in an essay competition.
I served as a judge, along with a few others, but the only teacher.
When I came across an essay that I would have given a B or above before retirement, I waited for the others' responses.
"This can't have been written by a high school student."
"Actually, I've read that quality and better by students, created in my classroom under my watchful eyes."
"But students today ... "
I'm glad I wasn't expected to tackle set theory, whatever that may be, while in high school.
I concur and have also witnessed and experienced it.
It can vary enormously. One factor is that in in an upscale community, you have a somewhat self selected group.... you generally live in an upscale community because your parents were sufficiently successful (often a combination of intelligence and industriousness) to be able to afford to live there. Intelligence is substantially genetic.
Meanwhile New York State is eliminating its Basic Literacy Test and Basic Math test because TOO MANY TEACHERS failed the tests.
The tests were carefully designed to avoid cultural referenced (though one would expect that teachers, being presumably highly educated and suited to teach the next generation should have expanded their horizons).
In any case the literacy test consisted of a paragraph (such as from a JFK speech) and simple multiple choice questions about the meaning. Either you understand the paragraph or you don't. If you cannot understand a written paragraph.... you cannot be considered literate, and you can't possibly pass literacy onto others.
A literate person should be able to answer simple questions (especially when multiple choice) about a paragraph in front of them, regardless of political or religious persuasion. The standard should be especially high for teachers. If you are not capable of comprehending a paragraph from JFK, Mark Twain, Shakespeare or Plato, how the hell are you qualified to teach literacy?
[When you get a question like "In which excerpt from the passage do Kennedy's word choices most clearly establish a tone of resolve?" and the answer is multiple choice, I don't care what your politics are... it's reading comprehension]
High school students of course can be expected suffer from insufficient home exposure to knowledge, but after 6 years of college there is no longer any excuse. Especially when you are the person whose job it is to provide this understanding to students.
I'm lost in todays world. Recently I saw a post that supposedly answered something and it had words like "15 something and 2 if this is true." It wasn't just a rhyme but I didn't get it.
Word usage is against me also. I don't know why we "totally, totally" say or mean something. Also in the political world I'm hearing more on "vetting" and "extreme vetting." Where was that when George Bush was President?
Some of my bewilderment as the younger come into their own is seen in the fact that I'm a movie buff but I cannot watch all the movies any longer. They don't make sense to me. That's OK because the Three Stooges don't make sense to todays youth. They don't even laugh at them.
I can assure you that modern high school teens are intelligent and many can write an essay that you would deem way beyond their years, so maybe there is hope for the future after all.
I've read many places where teachers feel they have no support from parents. If the children fail to apply themselves or act out badly, if the teacher reports it to the parents, it's often the teacher who comes under attack.
The other day I picked up my wife's daughter from work and one of her co workers was with her. This girl is a senior in the high school I graduated from 50 years ago and we discussed the school. She said that a lot of big changes were being made, mostly for security....
That kind of hit me. The town is not much visually different from my time there, the school looks pretty much the same except for some more rooms added. But security was NEVER an issue back then. Occasional skirmish between a couple of students, but quickly broken up by teachers. The doors were not locked. No security guards, ID badges, A lot of students (myself included) carried pocket knives, wasn't an issue. The ONLY time I would ever see a cop there was the yearly visits to give us safe driving lectures.
I look at our lock-down school systems of today and wonder what the hell happened to our society?