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Finding It Hard to Focus? Maybe It’s Not Your Fault

At Columbia University, where every student is required to pass a core curriculum with an average of 200 to 300 pages of reading each week, professors have been discussing how to deal with the conspicuous change in students’ ability to get through their assignments. The curriculum has more or less stayed in place, but “we’re constantly thinking about how we’re teaching when attention spans have changed since 50 years ago,” said Lisa Hollibaugh, a dean of academic planning at Columbia. In the 1990s, 3 to 5 percent of American school-aged children were thought to have what is now called attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. By 2013, that number…

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