Entitled College Students — Such a good article, and so awful at the same time

The article is “Student Expectations Seen as Causing Grade Disputes“(1) The subject of the article is just that — college students who feel completely entitled to good grades just for showing up. (Hat tip to slublog over at Ace of Spades.)

One of the examples cited in the article is Professor Marshall Grossman of the University of Maryland saying this about students in his English classes:

“I tell my classes that if they just do what they are supposed to do and meet the standard requirements, that they will earn a C,” he said. “That is the default grade. They see the default grade as an A.”

The very next paragraph states:

A recent study by researchers at the University of California, Irvine, found that a third of students surveyed said that they expected B’s just for attending lectures, and 40 percent said they deserved a B for completing the required reading.

Further down the article, there’s another student (who I won’t further encourage by repeating his name) whose whole gripe can be summed up as “if I do what I’m supposed to do and only get a C for being satisfactory and not an A for being exemplary, why should I try?”

Well, I guess that’s a question some of us have asked before. And most of us realize that sometimes you do the things you don’t like to do because that’s part of life — you’re not supposed to get a fanfare and congratulatory shower of confetti every time you wash your clothes, brush your teeth, pay your bills, or stop at red lights. But you do those things because if you don’t do them, then you don’t get to do some of the things that make life convenient — like a driver’s license — or livable, like friends and good health.

But the reactions of the professors and administrators at these various colleges was equally headache-inducing:

“I noticed an increased sense of entitlement in my students and wanted to discover what was causing it,” said Ellen Greenberger, the lead author of the study, called “Self-Entitled College Students: Contributions of Personality, Parenting, and Motivational Factors,” which appeared last year in The Journal of Youth and Adolescence.

Professor Greenberger said that the sense of entitlement could be related to increased parental pressure, competition among peers and family members and a heightened sense of achievement anxiety.

Aaron M. Brower, the vice provost for teaching and learning at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, offered another theory.

“I think that it stems from their K-12 experiences,” Professor Brower said. “They have become ultra-efficient in test preparation. And this hyper-efficiency has led them to look for a magic formula to get high scores.”

James Hogge, associate dean of the Peabody School of Education at Vanderbilt University, said: “Students often confuse the level of effort with the quality of work. There is a mentality in students that ‘if I work hard, I deserve a high grade.’ “

. . .

At Vanderbilt, there is an emphasis on what Dean Hogge calls “the locus of control.” The goal is to put the academic burden on the student.

“Instead of getting an A, they make an A,” he said. “Similarly, if they make a lesser grade, it is not the teacher’s fault. Attributing the outcome of a failure to someone else is a common problem.”

Additionally, Dean Hogge said, “professors often try to outline the ‘rules of the game’ in their syllabi,” in an effort to curb haggling over grades.

Professor Brower said professors at Wisconsin emphasized that students must “read for knowledge and write with the goal of exploring ideas.”

This informal mission statement, along with special seminars for freshmen, is intended to help “re-teach students about what education is.”

Are they joking? It’s all the fault of the parents caring too much about their kids’ grades, or the fault of the K-12 teachers for being too good at teaching?? Dean Hogge comes perilously close to the truth with his comment “Attributing the outcome of a failure to someone else is a common problem.”  but then talks about how it is up to the professors to make an extra effort to emphasize their grading criteria in their syllabus. Somehow it’s never the fault of whoever (parents, teachers, and popular culture could all be guilty here) taught these young idiots that nothing is their fault. And they’re not responsible for anything either, certainly not responsible for realizing that an A means you did more than was called for.

If it takes all you have to just meet the expectations for attendance and required reading, then maybe your professor is a maniac or maybe you’re in over your head. You might be in over your head because of time constraints or you might be in over your head because the material is getting to be more than you can readily grasp, but in neither case should the professor give you an A for doing only what’s expected.

And then at the end of the article was another head-slapper:

[Professor Brower] said that if students developed a genuine interest in their field, grades would take a back seat, and holistic and intrinsically motivated learning could take place.

Again, is he joking? If you take a genuine interest in a field and don’t care about grades, you get some instructional books/programs/CDs/DVDs or go find a local study group, you don’t pay thousands and thousands of dollars to spend hours of your life sitting in uncomfortable classrooms.

(1) Roosevelt, Max; “Student Expectation Seen as Causing Grade Disputes; New York Times; publish date February 17, 2009; accessed via internet February 19, 2009; http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/18/education/18college.html?_r=1&ref=todayspaper

5 thoughts on “Entitled College Students — Such a good article, and so awful at the same time

  1. Excellent site cgoodsthings.wordpress.com and I am really pleased to see you have what I am actually looking for here and this this post is exactly what I am interested in. It’s taken me literally 2 hours and 23 minutes of searching the web to find you (just kidding!) so I shall be pleased to become a regular visitor 🙂

  2. I don’t suppose the students’ sense of “entitlement” in any way stems from their having been coddled in their up-bringing with loads and loads of “you’re a winner” “you’re great” “everybody gets a ribbon” “there are no losers” without the accompanying of identifying REAL strengths in the youngster and encouraging pursuit in those areas. The “everybody gets a ribbon (or trophy or whatever)” experiences of youngsters leads to nothing but inflated expectations about the real world and distorted notions of the competition that awaits them in their later years. Where I live, it’s not uncommon to see mature as well as sapling trees growing strong on the prairies where they endure rain, cold, wind, storms, snow, ice, drought, and severe heat. Those trees have “learned” to suffer hardships and adapt and survive. Suggestion: stop providing over-protective child rearing and let the kids experience some hardships and some “agony of defeat” as they grow. Stop lying to the kids about how GREAT they are at everything. There’s a good chance that then they will grow up stronger and with more courage in their character.

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