Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Uphill both ways in a snowstorm

Yesterday, I read yet another article on "The Entitlement Generation" published in the Globe and Mail.  It was a scathing account of the younger generation of today, written by some writer who cited a few disenfranchised university professors and all-knowing adults as experts for her piece.

A few quotes...

"Many students openly admit their goal is to succeed with the least amount of effort."

"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.”

"Ms. Godmere, the student spokesperson... 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.”

"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."

“There is no easy route to great success,” says Prof. Coates. “A generation has lost touch with that.”

Let's pretend that all of these things are true (they are not).  My question with these sorts of posts or articles is this: what good are they doing?  Do the authors feel that they are actually helping anything by railing against the 'entitlement generation'?  Do they believe that somehow, our high school and university students are going to read these articles and have some sort of life-altering epiphany?  That they will run to classes?  Be 'less lazy'?  Feel 'less entitled'?  Read 'thick books with lots of words'?  Or my favorite, 'try to succeed with more effort' (as opposed to less)?

This morning on the way to work, I made a call in my car (Bluetooth--obeying the law) to my wife to see what time an appointment was for my daughter. I went through a drive through ATM to get some cash, and then rerouted my car through another drive through to get a Starbucks coffee.  While I was waiting in line for the staff at Starbucks to prepare my coffee, I sent a text message to a friend about an upcoming golf tournament.  I came to school to find a report on my desk that one of my outstanding staff members had prepared for me, and then got on to Tweetdeck looking to 'steal' some ideas from people on integrating Personal Learning Devices into classrooms at our school.  I found three articles on #mlearning and a blog by Chris Kennedy in the span of a few minutes, and will modify parts of them and use them at our school over the next few days.

According to the first hour of my day, I am easily distracted and focused on technology (phone call in the car), I am lazy (going through a couple of drive-thrus), entitled (grabbed a coffee at Starbucks), have lost my communication skills (sent a text rather than speaking to my pal about golf in person), am expectant (had someone provide me with some information in a report), and plagiarize the work of others (with my brief scan on Twitter).  Apparently, I am a poster boy for the 'entitlement generation'.

In my opinion our students of today are as intelligent and motivated as students at this age have ever been.  I would also say that students are much more well-rounded than I ever was--they are more socially responsible, more globally aware, and more tolerant than any generation before them.  When graduates cross our stage at commencements, I absolutely marvel at how involved they are in their academics, the arts, athletics, the school, and community issues.  I wish I went through high school with the same verve and alacrity that our students do and have done.

But regardless of my opinions, the so-called 'entitlement generation' is THE generation that is going to lead us over the next several decades in technology, innovation, research, and global issues.  So the question that we must ask authors and those who continue to deride the generations younger than their own is this:  when you malign the 'entitlement generation' with condescending comments and cliches such as 'there are no easy roads to success', are you really helping anything?  I don't believe so.  Quite the contrary for me, I am cheering for them.

In conclusion, enough already.  The 'uphill both ways in a snowstorm' analogy got old a long time ago.


  1. Hear Hear!! An excellent post.

  2. Great post Cale!

    Just the other day I had an adult in the community come into my office to tell me how 'bad' our students are as she drove up talking on her cell phone, parked in a no parking zone and then butted out a cigarette on the stairs going into the school. Can you say hypocrite!

  3. "I would also say that students are much more well-rounded than I ever was--they are more socially responsible, more globally aware, and more tolerant than any generation before them." Exactly! I am so impressed with young people today. Thanks for writing this.


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