« Meditate on This | Main | Video Games: The New Textbooks »

A Sense of Entitlement


Coach Brown of A Passion for Teaching and Opinions is fed up with the sense of entitlement kids possess today, especially in the classroom. He believes early schooling is part of the problem:

Apparently in 1986, California actually created a task force that focused on getting better self-esteem training for kids in schools. So began the "everyone's a winner" situation that we all dread. Kids would do awful in certain situations and constantly be told that they were doing fine. I find this constantly at the high school level, and it isn't all the parents fault.
How can kids get all the way to me (Senior year) and still not understand that doing the work isn't enough? "What do you mean I got an 'F'? I did all the work!" Yeah, but you did it wrong. Then I get the call from the parents talking about flexibility, a call that I had more this year than any other. One parent told me "You have a reputation of being inflexible." ... What I find is that parents don't like that I don't accept the same crap they accept, and I feel that self-esteem is built when a student actually accomplishes something. That means that an "A" student needs to do excellent work, or it isn't an "A". ...
Like it or not, this generation is the most entitled ever in the United States. Kids have more independence, more money, and more control over their environment than ever. They are also more intelligent than ever, which we often confuse with wisdom. They have the brain to make great choices, we are just giving them too many outs when it comes time to use it.

Why would a student take the time to do the work, but do it wrong? Wouldn’t they get the same result with less effort by not doing it at all? Maybe they don’t know what you want.

Keep in mind that no student wants a bad grade. When given a fair shake, clear expectations, competent instruction, and inspiration to learn more about the subject, they engage and do the work. There are countless examples of this in every high school in the nation.

Have you inspired your students? Have you conveyed an enthusiasm for your subject? Do you have written grading rubrics? Do you follow those rubrics? Are your grading policies clear? Do you have examples of “A” work and go over those examples with the students? Do you love coming to work everyday? Do you cherish the opportunity to give young people the tools and knowledge they need to become contributing adults in our society? If you, your students, and their parents can unequivocally answer “yes” to all of these questions, we ARE in big trouble. If not, you get an “F” in teaching, and don’t be so fast to blame the kids.

Im with Amanda on this idea of privilige in the classroom that starts in the home. Too often, the same parents who question a "C," on the report card are the same ones that allow their students to go on Spring Break to Cancun their junior year. Kids are not being told what is right or wrong, they are being told that if they work hard they will be rewarded. Too often, the student says "man, I worked so hard on that," and they measure that with time values. The question should be if they worked hard or worked smart. Kids need to delineate the difference.

And by the way, jjetson, it shouldnt be about the grade....rubrics? Cmon, it's about learning and quite honestly, you can motivate to the hilt but ultimately schools, guidance, parents and the community put so much pressure on kids going to college that they want good grades rather than the learning experience. Most kids figure that they will learn later.

It's frustrating. But it is the joy of teaching. And I love my job!

Amanda - I too feel that parents (and some teachers) enable their kids because parents (teachers)believe they are helping their kids. The problem? I think it begins with wanting their kids to do well, but helping too much. I will have parents emailing me or voicemailing me instead of having their hs student talk with me. The responsibility is on the parents and me and not on the student. This is a major problem. The parents want to "help" their kids so much that they are "hurting" the kids growing into responsible people. Another problem is my students as 9th graders have a hard time accepting that an F means taking the class over. They can fail every class in our district or get inflated grades (which is another problem) up until 9th grade, and it really does not matter. When they reach the 9th grade, they need to know the information or retake the class. The problem with this is two fold. The kids have been passed on from 4th grade even if they did not do the work or learn the information because of self esteem issues, but by 9th grade, they have self-retarded themselves in the subjects they never did the work in. Even if they wanted to do well, they are way behind the kids who actually did the work and learned. The other problem is teachers within the district "helping" students succeed. My 5th grade daughter had students in her class who did not do any homework. The kids still received passing grades because the teacher adjusted her grading so that homework is not a real factor in her grading. This seems very nice of that teacher, but what did these students learn? They learned they did not have to do what was expected of them, and they still succeeded. By the time they reach 9th grade, this may be a habit, and the amount of learning they miss will add up. As a 9th and 12th grade teacher, I do not pass the kids when they do not do the work or learn the material. In the last few years since NCLB was implemented, I feel our district's standards have decreased. The numbers can be manipulated to show growth, but as far as what we expect compared to 8 years ago, we expect far less, and the kids expect to do far less. If the going gets rough, they just have Mom or Dad call to try to make it easier.

Jjetson - I also have a comment concerning kids taking the time to do it but do it wrong. This seems like a cop out I would have tried as a teen. "I didn't get it." With today's technology and teens' circles of friends, kids have support systems they can get help from. I think that if a teacher believes the kid did not "get" the assignment, then the teacher is very naive. In our school, we have before school help for kids who do not understand, and I also give my kids my email, so they may email me with questions. As a good teacher, I check it one-two times per night, and the kids know that if they have emailed me with a question or have come in for help, I will work with them. The kids who do not take the initiative to help themselves are again left behind by the choices they made. I instill the theme "choices" in my classroom to try to teach them to take responsibility for their actions or inactions. Giving kids a good grade because of effort only hurts them in the end.

Kudos to LoriL for providing an email conduit and checking/responding. Beyond that, I see lots of assumptions in your comments--particularly about the motivations of parents, teachers and students. The teachers in earlier grades gave "unearned" grades to boost self-esteem, current teachers don't include homework in the grade to "help students succeed." Parents contact the teacher directly because of a misguided desire to "help." Students putting time into doing assignments wrong to "cop out."

There are certainly alternate motivations/explanations for all of these behaviors. Class grading systems are an incredible mish-mosh of theories, systems and beliefs. Some teachers lean more heavily towards "effort" (you have to EARN a grade). Some want grades to reflect what students actually know (and may choose to view homework as practice or explorations towards that goal--rather than a way to earn a grade). Some may consider individual improvement. Some may allow "extra credit," to boost a screw up, others not. This is what our system allows and encourages. Every teacher I have ever listened to believes in their own way of grading. Very few advocate standardizing what goes into a grade. As a result, grades are one of the least reliable measures of what students know.

Personally, as a parent, I contact teachers because I believe it is my responsibility to know what is going on, to hear a teacher's version of a story, to advocate for my child when required. As my children have advanced into middle and particularly high school, I find increasing numbers of teachers responding as Lori does, that everything is the students responsibility (and even some inferences that if I am calling, it is because I am not sufficiently responsible as a parent to keep up with my child). Teachers and administrators frequently seem unaware that information given to teenagers (orally or in written form) is passed on to parents only haphazardly. At times, some teachers take advantage of this--suggesting that a student drop a class--based on the teacher's opinion that s/he probably wouldn't pass anyway. I cannot tell you how many times I stumbled onto information too late to do anything about it (a term paper that was 4 weeks behind schedule and the student had given up; a student who was in school cutting a class for an extended period of time and getting hopelessly behind). Teachers seem to assume that students ability to take on responsibility increases in proportion to their physical stature. Not in keeping with how teens mature.

I would have far less problem with students retaking failed courses if the teacher who failed them were the one who was responsible for teaching the summer school class--or having them in class for a second year. They might make a little more effort to intervene (or allow parents to intervene) in small situations before they become big one.

The entitlement epidemic is alive and well on the east coast, at least in Westchester County. When I meet teachers at conferences and in courses, it is a major topic of conversation. After thirty four years of teaching in high school, I can honestly say that students' sense of entitlement without a sense of responsibility has turned into a disaster of major proportions. There is not a single teacher in my high school, which is a good one, who would disagree.
If lack of responsibility has no negative consequences in schools, the result will continue to be too many irresponsible people in society.

I am recently retired after 25 years of service.I feel that the sense of entitlement felt by students and the sense of frustration felt by teachers has many causes. The causes and the corresponding blame could go on forever, but I would like to add my thoughts to the mixture. Anything of value requires two things...time and effort. These are the two things that students are unwilling to give. They are stingy, if you will, about their time and their effort. I have had students come in the last week of school, begging and crying for another chance, stating emphatically that they would do anything to pass, yet, when offered the opportunity to make up work, simply don't have the time and unwilling to put forth the effort needed for success. "Oh, well, I can't come in early...Oh,well, I can't come in during lunch...Oh,well, I can't come in after school." The students have learned the game well, because we have taught them well. We have taught them that if they look pitiful enough, flounder around enough,and simply wait...in other words, if they simply fiddle fart around long enough, eventually, someone will come along and do the job for them. Too many students absolutely, positively, refuse to do what it takes... until it's too late. Then they whine, pout, complain, threaten, and when all else fails...CRY!!! Too many teachers fall for this. My suggestion??? Never, ever, ever give students something for nothing. The worst thing in the world you can do for someone, is do something for them they could have done for themselves.

A former student, knowing this was a grave concern of mine particularly last semester, sent me an article that eventually led me here. There is more to the problem then a sense of entitlement by students. More and more I find that students either don't read, don't read thoroughly, don't follow through on the more simple assignments of viewing or listening to applicable broadcast programs or simply don't know why they should care. When given context so they might see why they should care, they find it too difficult to stay focused and eventually lose sight of the issue after having to delve more than two steps deeper into an issue. As a result, they tune out and remain "clueless". There are so many possibilities why this is happening and I'm certain no one possibility is the answer. However, part of the problem could be the new generation of parents not the new generation of kids. They have hovered over their kids, telling them what they need to do and when they need to do it. "You need to be home by [time] so I can get you to your [event] and then I'll pick you up at [time] so you can finish your homework by [time] and don't forget that tomorrow you have a [fun event e.g. birthday party] to attend so you'll need to think about a gift you want to bring because I'll only have an hour to go buy that for you. Oh, and one more thing: the application for [school/job/club,etc.] is due. Make sure you've completed that because we have to have that postmarked by [date].

Of course all this is moot because the child lost you at "...finish your homework". And the parents know that they'll be the ones to make everything happen anyway. Simply put, we have a new generation who can't follow directions beyond two steps because they can rely on someone else, usually parents, to direct them throughout the process.

In the end, it is this basis to critical thinking that is absent and no matter how hard a student works, no matter how much time and effort they've put into their work, it actually only seems hard because they were asked to think a little more abstractly or deeper but unfortunately not hard enough to garner the A they thought they'd get because of their (limited) struggle.

I can go on and on because this touches just the tip of the iceberg. All this, by the way, comes from a teacher who prides himself on being approachable (all students have my personal cell phone in case they have a question or they need me for any reason) and who receives unprecedented high scores on student opinion reports. I expect that every semester students will blast me for asking too much of them. Instead they appreciate my approach but still don't turn in work that goes beyond the basic requirement needed to pass the class with more than a C.

Comments are now closed for this post.


Recent Comments

  • Raymond Kalas: A former student, knowing this was a grave concern of read more
  • DeWayne Lee Shepard: I am recently retired after 25 years of service.I feel read more
  • Kathy: The entitlement epidemic is alive and well on the east read more
  • Margo/Mom: Kudos to LoriL for providing an email conduit and checking/responding. read more
  • LoriL: Amanda - I too feel that parents (and some teachers) read more




Technorati search

» Blogs that link here