Monday, March 28, 2011

College Students, Entitlement, and Irrationality

Elayne Clift, in The Chronicle of Higher Education ( "From Students, A Misplaced Sense of Entitlement" ),  writes that:

"Every college teacher I know is bemoaning the same kind of thing. Whether it's rude behavior, lack of intellectual rigor, or both, we are all struggling with the same frightening decline in student performance and academic standards at institutions of higher learning. A sense of entitlement now pervades the academy, excellence be damned.

Increasingly, students seem not to realize what a college degree, especially a graduate degree, tells the world about one's abilities and competence. They have no clue what is expected of them at the higher levels of academic discourse and what will be expected of them in the workplace. Having passed through a deeply flawed education system in which no one is paying attention to critical thinking and writing skills, they just want to know what they have to do to make their teachers tick the box that says "pass." After all, that's what all their other teachers have done. (Let the next guy worry about it.)

When teachers refuse to lower standards, those students seem to resort to a new code of conduct that includes acted-out rage, lack of respect, and blame."

I've had little rudeness in my 11 years of college teaching. I find most students polite. If, however, a professor does not sufficiently "profess" then one should expect student anger to rise.

I do see:
  • Occasional complaints that my courses are too demanding, accompanied by that sense of entitlement which expresses shock that college should be so hard.
  • A great lack of preparedness to think critically. This concerns me. A tsunami of irrationality is now upon us. I don't see an end in sight to the waves of unreason.
  • Every student should now be required to take a course or two in logic and critical thinking.
  • This applies across the board, to atheists, theists, "Christians," etc. Precious few post-high-schoolers are able to evaluate anything. (I now think of our local newspaper's online "Philosophy & Religion" chat room where critical thinking has for the most part gone on vacation.)