Free Markets, Free People


Entitlement, Pain Avoidance, Parenting And College (update)

It seems that college students have entirely different expectations than do college professors.  Or at least some college professors.  Apparently the students see it like this:

“I think putting in a lot of effort should merit a high grade,” Mr. Greenwood said. “What else is there really than the effort that you put in?”

“If you put in all the effort you have and get a C, what is the point?” he added. “If someone goes to every class and reads every chapter in the book and does everything the teacher asks of them and more, then they should be getting an A like their effort deserves. If your maximum effort can only be average in a teacher’s mind, then something is wrong.”

Sarah Kinn, a junior English major at the University of Vermont, agreed, saying, “I feel that if I do all of the readings and attend class regularly that I should be able to achieve a grade of at least a B.”

Essentially the argument is, show up, do the minimum (i.e. all you are asked to do) and you should get an “A”, or at least a “B”.

Merit? Above and beyond the “average” or the “expected”? They don’t seem to enter into their thinking at all.

Yes, as the professors properly identified the problem, it is a false sense of entitlement.

So, now that the problem has been identified, can you pinpoint the source? Well the profs have various views about that.

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.

Uh, no, but nice try, professor.

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.”

Wrong again.

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.’ “

Oh, oh, oh … so damn close. Where do they get that screwy idea that “level of effort equals quality work”, Dean Hogge? I mean it has to come from somewhere, and apparently it is widespread enough that it is a fairly pervasive phenomenon? Any guesses?

Well, in a nut shell, false entitlement often flows from false self-esteem. Yes, friends, I’m back on that. When little Johnny gets a trophy and a party for being on a 12th place Pee-Wee Baseball team – the very same reward the first place team gets – why in the world wouldn’t he correlate “effort” with “result”? In his case his effort landed him the same rewards as the first place team. So 12th is just as much an “A” as 1st to him, isn’t it? And he gave his all to end up in 12th, so that just has to be good enough, right?  Multiply that over a 18 year life time and it isn’t difficult to understand where this sense of entitlement comes from, is it?

When you’re rewarded at the same level as the real achievers throughout life – so you won’t feel like the loser you are and learn from that – two things happen: One, you don’t try to do better because there’s no incentive to do so and two, you feel entitled to the same results as those who actually did achieve something. So it certainly isn’t far fetched for someone to then believe that effort equals achievement and thus entitlement to the best rewards.

Heh … then you finally leave “soft America” and meet “hard America” as Michael Barone calls it. Suddenly reality slaps you in the face, calls you a loser and gives you the “C” you deserve for just doing the expected. The “average”.  The same thing you’ve always done and been rewarded with more.  

Your world is shattered. You either figure out how big a disservice those who cheered your stunningly average performance up till then have done you and do something positive about it or you wail and whine about how “unfair” you’re being treated and eventually drop out.

In reality, just like our economic remedy, it’s just another example of pain avoidance – something it seems the American public is addicted too these days. The pain avoidance that characterizes the building of false self-esteem can be crippling to a child because the child is given the wrong signals about their abilities and what reality and life expect of them throughout their early formative years. It’s a loser’s way of avoiding reality, except it isn’t the kid doing it to themselves – it’s usually the parents and other enablers who too are in the pain avoidance business.

But the one inescapable truth in this whole process , however, is the fact that reality always finds a way to get through the puny defenses that have been erected and eventually has its way. It’s a pity that many students first discover that in college and many don’t survive the discovery.  Had their parents just done their job as parents instead of trying to manage and avoid pain, the kids might be prepared to confront the reality of “hard America” and give it their best instead of being blindsided by it and crushed.

But of course, that smacks of common sense and as our experts are constantly telling us they know much more how our children should be raised than we do.  And trust me, given the results, that claim has little to do with common sense.  

UPDATE: If you don’t believe this translates into a real world problem all you have to do is listen to Bill Press – or not, as, apparently, most people choose.  Here he is in an interview describing why he wants government to ensure his reward via the Fairness Doctrine:

‘I know why I’m interested in it because I get up every morning at 3:45, I do three hours of talk radio every day from six to nine, that’s my life, it’s my business, I want to make money at it, and I want to be heard.


Translation: I make the effort and thus I should have the same rewards (listenership, influence and monetary) as Rush Limbaugh.

~McQ

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27 Responses to Entitlement, Pain Avoidance, Parenting And College (update)

  • Maybe Mr Press could host that dialog on race relations for Attorney General Holder.  Since no one is listening anyway, it couldn’t hurt.

    Mr Press, nobody wants to hear what you have to say.  You’re boring.  You spout conventional wisdom.   I work hard at basketball, too.  But nobody wants to see an old guy who can’t run, jump, or shoot.  It’s so unfair…

  • I agree to an extent that your not entitled to a grade just because you tried, but personally i correlate my grade with my effort. If i get a C i would say i obviously DIDN’T put in ENOUGH effort. If i did i would have done better. So i guess i do believe effort mirrors outcome, i just don’t tell myself its some born in trait of failure that i can’t control. The failure is mine, not some outside influence which holds me back.

    People need to learn that failure is a good thing, its inevitable and it drives us to excel, to feel pain for failure makes the success all that much better. Which leads to a tempering of the feelings of success and ultimately the lack of a drive to succeed.

  • sort of seems like “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.”

  • I wonder if the entitlement attitude correlates with field of study. I suspect it does.

    • I know several of my engineering professors would have laughed me out of the classroom if I tried to pull any of this crap.

    • I recall there were those few students in our problem set sessions who would always bug the TAs for a few extra points here and there to enable an “inflated” grade.  These pleas were always accompanied by some assertion of having understood the basic concept but implementing it improperly or somesuch nonsense.

      This phenomenon is not limited to the “artsy” majors by any stretch.

  • Liberals are a curious lot. They demand certainty of outcome (subprime, union pensions, academic grades) regardless of input, yet they advance “professionals” who are only certain to never provide those outcomes. Think about pilot Sullenberger — do you think someone who showed up for class, did the homework and had a good attitude but otherwise didn’t understand the material because it was simply beyond their mental ability would have landed that plane like he did?

    It really comes down to the whole liberal myth of fairness and equality. The only equality we all get is the same number of hours in a day while we’re alive. All other bets are off.

  • Idiots.

    What do you call someone who graduated college with a “C” average?

    A college graduate.

    That’s the point of putting in that effort you f**kwit. Because if you don’t put in that effort and fail (or drop out) you don’t get whatever benefits you get with a college diploma.

    There’s NEVER any downside to putting in effort, even if you get a C or finish 12th

  • But where’s my “A” for effort!   Conversely, a C is ‘average’ and average is…well…..look it up….normal, not smart, not stupid, normal. Clearly the expectation established is that “A” indicates average, that’s what these pukes are used to.  Let’s ask Erb what his opinion is, I mean, after all, he doesn’t judge.  I’ve often wondered how that was reflected in the grades he gives.  Finally a topic he actually knows something about and he probably won’t say diddly.

  • when these guys take about equality they usually mean of outcomes, not opportunity

  • At the core, this problem demonstrates the difference between libs and conservatives:

    “I feel” vs. “I think”.

    “Feeling” is subjective.  It doesn’t rely on factual evidence or external standards.  It is not rational.

    “Thinking” is objective.  It deals with evidence and measurement against reality.  It is logical and rational.

    Students like Greenwood and Kinn (who should be embarrassed for what they said) feel that they work hard and put in the “maximum effort”.  What objective standard is at work here?  Answer: none.  I doubt that they ever stop to consider that the students who do better are somehow putting in MORE effort: more hours in the library, more time hitting the books, more time in tutoring or study sessions, more effort to be organized, etc.  O’ course, some people simply have higher aptitudes for certain areas of study than others or are simply smarter, but attitude and effort can carry one quite far.  At risk of engaging in “racial profiling”, I think this is why many Oriental / Indian students excel in hard subjects like physical sciences and engineering: they are raised and expected to put in the necessary effort, not the effort that they feel is appropriate.

  • This is one of the reasons why I quit teaching college.  I spent the first half of the semester trying to convince my students that yes, it was possible for them to fail no matter how warm their chairs were.  Then I spent the second half of the semester listening to them b*tch and moan about how now they were really putting in the effort, but it was unfair that not having learned the first half of the material was still dragging their grades down.

    Ten years earlier I would see the same attitude in selected students (arrogance is not new), but nowadays it’s the entire damn class.

  • Brower is on to something — right now thanks to No Child Left Behind students are given rubrics and teachers teach to the test.  They expect to be given a formula, hoops to jump through, with a clear sense of what they need to do to get an “A.”   That isn’t education, that’s hoop jumping.  The false sense of entitlement is there, though I think its a result of consumerism.  They consider themselves consumers paying a large price for this education, and therefore they should be served.  The idea that they are not to be satisfied and entertained but must actually fulfill professors’ expectations is contrary to our ‘the consumer is king’ mentality.  That said, if a professor really breaks through and excites their curiosity, they quickly overcome that ‘entitlement’ mentality.  Students for the most part see through that sort of “trophy for everyone” approach and it has made them cynical.  They aren’t dumb.  They know that giving honors to people who suck at something is stupid.  Those who finished in 12th place and got the trophy may not get it, but those who were at the top know that they outperformed the others. 

    • Scott ErbBrower is on to something — right now thanks to No Child Left Behind students are given rubrics and teachers teach to the test.  They expect to be given a formula, hoops to jump through, with a clear sense of what they need to do to get an “A.”   That isn’t education, that’s hoop jumping.

      Allow me to be contrarian: what is the problem with “teaching to the test”?  We all rail about it, but why?  Don’t all (good) teachers “teach to the test?”  From grammar school to graduate school, all instructors set out some body of knowledge that they expect the student to learn, often with explicit warnings that “this will be on the test”.  As I see it, the problem with NCLB is that it imposes a uniform standard on the whole country, and nobody is going to be terribly happy with that: not the teachers who feel their creativity and independence stifled; not the parents who bridle at their children being treated as identical parts in the education machine; not the smart students who are bored to tears by a ciriculum that is designed for their slower peers; not the slow kids who can’t keep up; not the tax payers who wonder why the hell they have to pay for a school system that produces such mediocre results.  NCLB came about because there were no good standards; kids were coming out of high school unable to read even though they had decent GPA’s.  Is the cure worse than the disease?  I think not.

      Scott ErbThe false sense of entitlement is there, though I think its a result of consumerism.  They consider themselves consumers paying a large price for this education, and therefore they should be served.  The idea that they are not to be satisfied and entertained but must actually fulfill professors’ expectations is contrary to our ‘the consumer is king’ mentality.

      In my own experience, the only time students complained like consumers was when they felt cheated by a lazy instructor or were forced to attend classes for which they could see no good purpose (“I’m an engineering major; WTF am I doing in a friggin’ poetry appreciation class???”).  I don’t recall any of my classmates in undergrad or grad school taking the attitude that they’d “bought” a good grade or even entertainment.  I will say that it was common in my experience for students to wonder how old Professor So-and-so got tenure when he couldn’t teach a squirrel to gather nuts.

      Scott Erb… if a professor really breaks through and excites their curiosity, they quickly overcome that ‘entitlement’ mentality.  Students for the most part see through that sort of “trophy for everyone” approach and it has made them cynical.  They aren’t dumb.  They know that giving honors to people who suck at something is stupid.  Those who finished in 12th place and got the trophy may not get it, but those who were at the top know that they outperformed the others.

      What a surprisingly unorthodox attitude!  What about the little darlings’ self esteem?  And what about their feelings if they are some sort of minority and don’t get a reward just like the other kids?  Isn’t that racist?

      / sarc

      I quite agree, though.  The goofy (and, predictably, liberal) ideas that kids deserve rewards for “effort” (even if it isn’t really there) and that their precious egoes cannot survive the bruising caused by failure is laughably stupid.  When people bother to ask kids, they find that it is exactly as you say: they don’t like the present system very much, either.  O’ course, if the clowns cited in the article are any indication, this may be changing.

      We’re breeding a nation of spoiled, whiny losers.

    • 1) You are using consumerism incorrectly. Look it up.
      2) Students should have a clear idea of what is expected of them to make an  A or a C  in class. Any teacher who cannot  explain what the course is about shouldn’t be in the classroom.
      3) No Child Left Behind has nothing to do with this, but I guess it gives you an excuse to criticize Bush.

      • Well, timactual, you clearly don’t understand education but that’s OK — it’s not your profession (thank goodness!).   One certainly should not give students a check list of ‘things to do’ in order to get an A.  It requires creativity, hard work, and analysis.  Those things aren’t tasks that can be checked off.  Of course students are told they need to do all of that, but the inane “no child left behind” (talk to education professors about how idiotic that law is) leads schools to make it a formula.  “I jumped through the hoops, I deserve an A”.   And in high school that works.  In college we demand that they do more than do the basics of the assignment, but that they show creativity, analysis and reflection.   It’s not a formula.  If you think they deserve a formula for a grade, then we’ll make sure to keep you out of the classroom!

        Teaching to the test is a kind of totalitarianism.  We determine what you should know, and you need to regurgitate it correctly to get the proper result.  It denies creativity and the development of knowledge.   It is a big government attempt to control student knowledge, libertarians should be on the front lines of resisting this.

        But reading these comments all I can think is I’m glad some of you guys aren’t tasked with helping shape and form the minds of the next generation.  You don’t understand education!

        • Making an A requires creativity? Balderdash. Perhaps in your classes one needs to create answers, but in most others the answers have been previously provided by the instructor. In the course of my career as a professional student I have had occasion to take courses in a number of fields. None of them required ‘creativity ‘ to make an A. They did require memorization, analysis, and synthesis. Mostly memorization.

          In addition to my own rather extensive exposure to the education system as a student, I have associated and learned from teachers all of my adult life. My father, wife, father in law, sister, and various friends have been teachers. Teachers, not ‘educators’.  In addition I am currently working in the classroom. All of them seem to know more than you about what works in the classroom, and none of it includes the BS generated by ‘educators’ at education schools.  I am old enough to remember such brilliant educational reforms as ‘New Math”, open classrooms, etc. , brought to us by professional ‘educators’.

          “Teaching to the test is a kind of totalitarianism. We determine what you should know, and you need to regurgitate it correctly…”
          First, it is not totalitarianism, once again you need to learn to use a dictionary.  It is, however, a fair if somewhat slanted description of what education is. Who, if not the teacher, determines what is to be learned?  How do you determine if it has been learned if the student does not ‘regurgitate’ the information?

          I do agree with you, however, that if I wish to know about inanity I should talk to education professors.

          I have had a professor or two who has the same idiotic attitudes and opinions that you do, although only in fields like sociology, poly sci., English, etc. In fields that require a bit more rigor such as engineering, math., real sciences, there is no time to waste on the BS you and your kind espuse. Courses like yours, however, are always good for an easy A to get the old GPA up after getting a C in a real class.

          :You really are a glutton for punishment. Now you have shown there is another area in which you are incompetent.

  • I remember my old days of elementary and high school.  We got standardized tests on a regular basis.  I don’t believe we were never “taught to the test.”

    When SAT time arrived, we had lessons about the types of questions that would be on the test, and had practice tests we took.  But again, that was just learning the framework of what was expected, not the actual knowledge being gained.

    So, where and when did education get to the state it’s currently in.  It’s certainly not a money problem, as some of the worst systems have the most spending per student.

  • Shockingly enough, Erb regurgitates the knee jerk, liberal aversion to standardized tests.  He has it exactly backwards.  In this day and age it seems that very few children are exposed to the concept of meeting a standard.  One of the best things I ever learned from a teacher was that I should rise to meet the world’s standard and not expect the world to lower its standard to me.  

    “Standardized tests” obviously constitute a “standard”.  They force people to prepare, take the test and receive an evaulation of how they performed.  Academia rails against these tests because they supposedly don’t foster actual learning but that’s nonsense.  I had to take a standardized test in order to practice law.  An accountant must take the CPA exam.  A doctor must take oral and written medical board exams.  There are all kinds of certification tests for other professions as well.  My wife is in sales and she was required to pass a series of tests to assess her knowledge of the products she sells.  If she didn’t pass the tests whe would have been fired.  Stock brokers must pass the Series 7 and other tests.  Real estate agents must pass a licensing test.  Even hairdressers are required to take a test to become licensed for God’s sake.  It isn’t realistic to avoid standardized tests.  The real world is full of them and they assess someone’s knowledge on any given subject. 

    Academics don’t like to be held to a standard so they hide behind the pretextual criticism that preparation for standardized testing doesn’t involve learning.  That wasn’t my experience.  When I prepared for the California Bar Exam I was forced to study the black letter law in areas that I never intended to practice in.  I knew that I had to have command of subjects like wills, trusts, community property, criminal law/procedure and constitutional law despite the fact that those areas have only tangential relevance to my practice.  I was tested on all of those and, in the process of preparing for the test, I learned quite a bit.  

    Political corectness has metasticized to the point that everyone has an excuse for failing to meet standards.  Now many people want to avoid them altogether.  I always like to ask critics of standardized testing how we should assess someone’s knowledge.  Should we leave it up to the subjective determination of an academic like Erb.  Standardized tests may not be perfect but I’m not aware of a better alternative and they are used in the real world on a regular basis.  

    • jt007I had to take a standardized test in order to practice law.  An accountant must take the CPA exam.  A doctor must take oral and written medical board exams.  There are all kinds of certification tests for other professions as well…

      Excellent point!

  • The problem with teachers who always bemoan “teaching the test” (mainly I suspect because it allows their performance to be graded) is what is the alternative? Just hope the kids are learning something and the teacher is doing a good job?

    Also, I enjoy the teachers pointing out country’s like Finland who supposedly “don’t teach to the test” and their proof of this method’s successs? Finnish students score high in international standardized tests!

  • Brower is on to something — right now thanks to No Child Left Behind students are given rubrics and teachers teach to the test.  They expect to be given a formula, hoops to jump through, with a clear sense of what they need to do to get an “A.”   That isn’t education, that’s hoop jumping

    That’s not NCLB, Erb; That’s Teacher’s unions.

  • But reading these comments all I can think is I’m glad some of you guys aren’t tasked with helping shape and form the minds of the next generation.  You don’t understand education!

    I’ve been teaching for 15 years and have personally evaluated more than two thousand students. I’ll go out on a limb and say I have a little bit of an understanding about education.

    One certainly should not give students a check list of ‘things to do’ in order to get an A

    One certainly should, and every mainstream educational philosophy will confirm that. A simple rubric tells students what they need to do in order to earn a certain number of points and clearly informs them what the grader expects. I shudder to think what identifiable criteria Erb uses to evaluate his students.

    Furthermore, I especially loved this line of Erb Logic:

    Teaching to the test is a kind of totalitarianism

    followed by…

    we’ll make sure to keep you out of the classroom

    It’s a good thing Erb is so good at identifying totalitarianism!

    We determine what you should know, and you need to regurgitate it correctly to get the proper result.  It denies creativity and the development of knowledge.

    Yes, we wouldn’t want our future engineers to worry about getting proper results! And who cares if some government bureaucrat can accomplish his job correctly? As long as he shows creativity then we’re all happy!

    Seriously, I don’t think Erb has even looked at any state’s standardized test questions as mandated by NCLB. Do many of the questions require simple regurgitation of basic facts? Of course they do. No one can accomplish a complex task without first knowing some agreed upon basics. However, there are several parts to every test that don’t have one correct path to a right answer, and some that don’t even have one correct answer (instead requiring the student to demonstrate higher order thinking skills).

    But the argument that “teaching to the test is bad” is used by teachers who don’t have a clear plan to use in guiding their students. There are many ways to evaluate a student, and effective teachers use several. But all of them better have clear and predetermined expectations that can be consistently applied by multiple evaluators.

    People like Erb prefer to just keep all the classroom power to themselves by leaving their students somewhat unsure as to what will get them a certain grade. Then the little dictator can dole out his rewards as he sees fit without any predefined criteria.