Human beings are naturally curious about the world around them, learn through experience, and preferentially consume those experiences that most gratify their curiosity, in a virtuous feedback loop.
The more pleasure a pupil gets from learning new things, the more he or she will be inclined to seek out similar experiences, and to learn more. The less gratification the learning experience generates, the more the pupil will tend to avoid it in the future.
Anyone who has children of school age notices that most of them are generally uninterested, uninvolved, often bored. It is not that in the past, school was made up of legions of pupils anxious to go to class, to be tested or to do their homework, far from it.
But today there is a feeling that the level of detachment goes beyond a simple dichotomy between the absolute freedom experienced at pre-school age, and the system of rules and assessments that progressively limits this freedom during the course of schooling, replacing it with an adult structure of thought and action.
A generic response to the lack of interest on the part of pupils can cite as causes the progressive cultural impoverishment of society, as well as the progressive devaluation of culture as a means of emancipation and social advancement.
But alongside this, questions of a different kind probably need to be asked.
Does our school system, especially middle and higher education, have a range of programs that serve to form citizens of the modern world? Do we really still need to study subjects that most pupils will forget the day after they leave the school building, and that will be of no use to them in life? Are the subjects that really serve the formation of a ruling class and a modern civil community still those identified by school reforms that are the expression of a world of a century ago?