Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Entitlement Attitudes

As I prepare to begin teaching college classes this fall, I have begun thinking about the apparent change that has occurred since the time I began teaching. I have noticed it in my classrooms in particular. When I began teaching "a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away" most of the students came to school to learn. Those who were not interested in learning, did not expect to get an A or didn't show up all together. In fact they were happy to merely pass the class. Grades were actually an indicator of performance.

Well, in recent years that has changed. Most students now come to class expecting to get an A in every class. And many of those expecting an A, believe they should receive an A without even doing any work. They believe that just attending the class somehow qualifies them to receive a top grade. When they are reminded of the "requirements" in the syllabus they act as though I am speaking a foreign language.

I have even had students miss classes and not turn in assignments, and at the end of the semester come to me and ask if they can do an "extra credit" project so as to receive an A in the class. I used to try to help them understand the error of their ways only to be frustrated (the foreign language response!) Last year a colleague told me what she says and now I say the same thing. When a student comes to me asking for extra credit after not doing required assignments I now say, "I am sorry, but I don't think that would be fair to you. You see, since you have not be able to handle the regular class assignments, it would unfair to have you do extra work at this time." And I believe that is exactly true.

I have a feeling that my experience with the "entitlement attitude" is merely a snapshot of what is happening throughout our society. I am not sure why it is happening, but I do not believe it is biologically caused. I think that people are learning it. I believe that they learn it in two ways: first, from the larger society; and, second from their own personal experience.

Dr. Larry Pfaff