Free Markets, Free People

self esteem


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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