Entitled Children


(Alternate title: Canada has Obots too)

Globe and Mail:

Inside the entitlement generation

Prof. Coates is a professor of history and former dean at the University of Waterloo. He’s also the co-author of Campus Confidential, a must-read for anyone interested in the lowdown on campus life. The book also is a guide to the mindset of the entitlement generation – the kids who’ve always been told they’re smart, and never pushed too hard.

But don’t take his word for it. Many students openly admit their goal is to succeed with the least amount of effort. And many universities make this easy for them. It isn’t hard to find courses where you can get good marks even if you don’t show up. Professors say it’s not uncommon for 30 per cent or 40 per cent of their students to skip any given class. And students strenuously object if they don’t get the marks they feel entitled to. “They got 80 per cent in high school and, when they get 62 per cent, they’re mad,” says Prof. Coates. “They bring assignments in late and think we’ll mark them without penalty.”

But why wouldn’t they think that? That’s the way it’s been all their lives. This week, Prof. Coates was on CBC Radio’s The Current, along with Emma Godmere, who works for the Canadian University Press. Here’s how she explained why students are so quick to protest their marks. “We’ve been taught to stand up for ourselves and to believe in what we think is right. Our generation has been taught that, if you don’t think something’s right, you speak out.”

Plenty of students believe their professors’ expectations are downright unreasonable. “They think their lecture is the only way to get their information. But there are so many new ways to learn,” one University of Alberta student told the CBC. They’re also unapologetic that study hours have shrunk to the vanishing point. “We’re doing so many other things. We’re doing all these clubs and extracurricular activities.”

What they aren’t doing is cluttering their minds with ideas. University students once devoured the works of Frantz Fanon, Karl Marx and Gloria Steinem. Today, they devour the works of Harry Potter. “Well, at least we’re reading something, right?” Ms. Godmere, the student spokesperson, said. Like many students, she believes course reading lists need to be more relevant. “These works that we are expected to read are from a different time. More people need to cater to the younger audience.” To which Prof. Coates responds, “If you want to tackle the most difficult, interesting, challenging thinkers in the world, you have to read very thick books with lots of words.”

Oldsters have been lamenting the laziness of youngsters since Plato was a pup. But never has the disconnect between young adults and the world that awaits them been so vast. Today’s economy is more challenging than it’s been in a generation – and things are likely to get worse before they get better. And the global challenges – from climate change to financial meltdowns – are enormous. But most kids just aren’t that interested.

The entitlement mindset didn’t come from nowhere. It came from us. It came from a generation of adults who believed that kids should never be allowed to fail, or told the truth about their abilities, or learn that getting what you want is sometimes hard. On top of that, we have the modern fallacy of higher education – much beloved of politicians, who believe the acquisition of a BA is a sort of alchemy that can transform intellectual dross into gold and ensure that everyone, no matter how inert, can succeed in the knowledge economy.

Not all students share this mindset. The best are as good as ever, maybe better. The top 15 per cent or 20 per cent – the same students who would have gone to university a generation ago – really do crave intellectual engagement. They really will land jobs at $53,000 a year, and up.

Ken Coates believes we should bring back streaming and make vocational education far more important than it is now. University should be for students who are interested in, and capable of, high-level work. Colleges and tech schools can offer more practical, job-oriented education for everyone else.

Once upon a time our high schools had three tracks; College Prep, Vocational and Home Economics. In theory, the smartest kids went to College Prep while the rest were trained for careers in blue collar jobs or as house wives.

In practice it tended to work a little different. White middle class and up boys and girls went into College Prep, minority and lower class boys went into Vocational, and minority and lower class girls went into Home Economics.

Then somewhere around the sixties people realized the three track system was both racist and sexist. Duh.

So schools did the simple thing and officially eliminated tracking (aka “streaming.”) This coincides with the massive growth of community colleges and the expansion of public colleges and universities.

Now everybody could go to college! Hooray!

The problem is not everyone has the ability nor inclination for higher education, and we need someone to do physical work. In the words of Judge Smails, “The world needs ditch diggers too.

About the same time that the first Baby Boomers were entering the world a guy named Spock was transforming child rearing. Dr. Benjamin Spock (not the Vulcan) wrote a book titled “The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care.

I don’t want to bash Dr. Spock because a lot of what he said makes sense, but he started a movement that de-emphasized (or eliminated) concepts like discipline, obedience and achievement in place of developing children’s self-esteem.

When I was a child my mom believed that the best way to stimulate a child’s brain into learning mode was with the application of kinetic energy to the child’s buttocks. I can personally attest to that method’s effectiveness as an attention-getter.

My family was old school – they believed that too much self-esteem was bad for a child. We didn’t get praised for “not getting in trouble” or for “doing chores.” Those things were expected of us. If you wanted praise you had to earn it.

We weren’t given gifts on a daily or weekly basis. Gifts were for Christmas and birthdays. If we wanted something in between those two days we had to save our meager allowance (I got $.50 a week) or we had to find a way to earn extra money. I mowed lawns and raked leaves, collected aluminum cans, sold Christmas cards door-to-door and washed cars.

Christmas and birthdays were not huge windfalls either. We didn’t get fifty or sixty gifts, we were lucky to get one good gift and a couple medium ones. So we had to research and figure out what we REALLY wanted because it was gonna have to last us a while.

Nowadays kids think they deserve rewards just for existing, and they want them RIGHT NOW!!!

This has a lot to do with the Obot phenomenon. Obots didn’t have any problem with Obama’s lack of experience and achievement, nor with shoving aside a more experienced and accomplished candidate to make way for him.

Why should they? They have been trained to expect rewards for doing nothing. Hard work is for other people.

We have raised a nation of spoiled brats, and Obama is their king.


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16 Responses to Entitled Children

  1. votermom says:

    We weren’t given gifts on a daily or weekly basis. Gifts were for Christmas and birthdays.

    Um, that’s how it is in our house. Oh dear, are my children deprived?

    Plus I let the kids stay up late if they have to finish their schoolwork, after they’ve gotten the lecture about how poor time mgt aka goofing off got them into this fix. They get the lecture again if they complain about feeling tired the next day. I call it aversion therapy.

    But they can earn rewards if they do extra well in school.

    • ROFL! Same with mine children- an excellent report card could win them a box of junk cereal (to be consumed on school vacation of course- preferably at their grandparent’s house) Trix and Cocoa Puffs were the favorites. And excellent meant excellent as in A’s.

      Distinctly remember the tracking in school. In our town we were divided up starting in 7th grade- division 71- 79 and then 81- 89. The smartest were in division 71 and 81. Those same students were enrolled in the college track in 9th grade. We had no choices of classes – except Chorus and Band. All girls took at least one year of Home-Ec and all boys took at least one year of “Shop” no matter what track you were in. Those of us in the college track got Latin, the business track got typing, shorthand, business machines etc.
      Yes indeed- the world still needs plumbers and electricians and the like. The smartest one in our family went on to become a master electrician. He always has work.

    • jjmtacoma says:

      Sounds like my house too.

      If begging at the store happens, I ask “Did you bring any money? Then I guess you are out of luck. Bummer.”

      My mom had the Dr. Spock, first edition book but only read the parts about letting them cry themselves to sleep and spanking. I don’t think the later editions suggested not feeding newborn babies to train them to sleep all night anymore or that parents should spank little kids either.

      Kids have access to more information than we did. Half of my time “studying” was looking for information. My kids can google it and it does make things faster.

    • Jadzia says:

      Sounds like I am not the only MEAN MOM on the planet. Unfortunately my ex-husband subscribes to the Self-Esteem Theory of Child Raising. The difference in attitude and work ethic between my oldest son and the ones who are actually under my jurisdiction full time is shocking, particularly given the large age difference between them.

      Although we did not really have the vocational/home ec “tracking” when I was in high school, we did still have vocational education AVAILABLE, which seems like a good thing in some ways. Look at the outrageous price tag of a college education these days–and a broken system that considers high-interest, nondischargeable-in-bankruptcy student loans to be “financial aid.” If my kid wanted to be a cosmetologist or an auto mechanic or one of the many other trades that we used to provide at least introductory training for in vo-tech, I would WAY rather s/he get that training for free in high school rather than have to sign their lives away to the student loan industrial complex.

      On a somewhat related note, these 2 issues–raising our children somewhat strictly (no kinetic energy to the tuchis, though), and wanting them to be able to get an education minus the lifetime mortgage-sized debt–are the primary reasons that we moved away. I hope we did the right thing.

      • jjmtacoma says:

        I admire your move.

        It seems like there were more vocational choices when I was in school but maybe some of it has to do with parents dreaming of kids going to college and wanting everyone in AP or college prep classes.

    • ralphb says:

      Hah. You can always count on the commentors at Salon to be the stupidest people on Earth or Obots, same thing.

    • LandOLincoln says:

      Not so strange, considering that Nader’s a Republican ratf**ker who deliberately threw the 2000 election to Dubya.

      Remember this?

      http://www.realchange.org/nader.htm

      That said, however, one has to wonder if he isn’t now trying to sandbag Palin on behalf of corporatist shill Obama. Deja vu all over again…

    • ralphb says:

      Anand of NYT tweets.

  2. Mary says:

    But …. but….. but….. Al Sharpton says college is a civil right, and it should be free for everybody!

    (snort)

    • Heard that in some countries it is, or was. For some values of ‘college’, anyway.

    • votermom says:

      I think that access to higher education should be available to everybody.
      Imo t’s a bad thing that price and connections make ivy league universities gatekeepers to success.It’s ridiculous that universities keep raising their prices far beyond the rate of inflation. A college degree has become mainly a status marker.
      Kids with potential and the willingness to work hard should be able to get higher education without pre-mortgaging their future. I think kids with no potential probably don’t belong in college no matter how rich their parents are.

  3. Awesome post. Agree with every word. My parents applied kinetic energy to the tuchis from time to time and I’ve never held it against them, it kept me in line. Tuchis kinetics was also available in our junior high school which I managed to avoid probably since I got my discipline at home. Don’t get me wrong, my parents are loving people, as good as they come. 🙂

  4. djmm says:

    Excellent post!! You can build self esteem by doing things to earn it – it has no value if it is gifted to you.

    “To which Prof. Coates responds, ‘If you want to tackle the most difficult, interesting, challenging thinkers in the world, you have to read very thick books with lots of words.'”

    I think I love him. Although I have to say that Harry Potter got many kids hooked on reading.

    djmm

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