Monday, July 23, 2007

Why so entitled?

About two weeks ago I posted about the Wall Street Journal's new passionate foray into Education regarding students with special needs. It was an interesting perspective on a problem that is usually not addressed by the business community.

However, the question of entitlement with young adults has come up more and more among the leaders in business. Managers are struggling with workers coming up after working for two months and asking for paid vacation time, less hours, and perks that rival executives. Now the Wall Street Journal has had a couple of articles on the entitlement problem with young adults. The results are interesting.

Mr. Rogers spent years telling little creeps that he liked them just
the way they were. He should have been telling them that there was a lot of room
for improvement. Nice as he was, and as good as his intentions may have been, he
did a disservice.

Yep, Mr. Rogers is to blame for the entitlement problem. Ok, maybe not totally, but Jeffrey Zaslow writes that the idea that every kid is special has created a generation of kids that expect everything, from grades to a better paycheck. Instead of a culture of hard work, it created a culture of enabling.
Zaslow then pointed out that parents are too accepting of behaviors and don't teach kids to address elders with respect. "They're just children" is one of the most commonly used phrases by parents trying to excuse a child's behavior. It shouldn't be. Their is a line for acceptable and unacceptable behavior, and parents need to teach their kids where that line is. On a personal editorial, I've heard this about teenagers as well. Parents that can't get ahold of teenage behavior say "they're just being teenagers" as a reason to justify the bad behaviors. The author also discusses the problem of parents not actually talking to each other, and focusing too much of their life on their kids. With more and more parents, life is about the kid. Taking the kid from here to there to there, and back to here, and really never having a relationship on parent terms. All in all, the number one reason of entitlement is that parents are allowing the kids to dictate the terms of the child growing up. Kids are now asked about choices that many of us just dealt with; what would you like for dinner, what do you want to watch tonight, where do you want to go on vacation. Adults and children are not equal, but children think that they are. Students, especially Seniors, will often get this idea that an 18 year old student and a teacher of any age hold the same weight in class. Then parents come in and say that the teacher needs to be more flexible in how they do things because Johnny is an adult now. Ok, Johnny is an adult now. You're fired. How's that for the adult world?

Jeffrey Zaslow goes into other aspects of the entitlement culture that are pretty familiar to us teachers. The idea of the "Consumer Culture" and the acquisition of material goods creating some sort of social status. He uses the example of the MTV show My Super Sweet Sixteen, where the advertisement of a lavish, spoiled lifestyle seems to equal a more acceptable place in one's existence. Add to the mix a new generation that needs everything now, now, now. Shipping needs to be now, communication needs to be now, everything must be now. So you have a spoiled group of "rebellious" teenagers that play directly into the pockets of the corporation, who madly advertise on the MTV's of the world.

Finally this issue of self-esteem, which relates to the beginning of the post. 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." I don't quite understand the meaning of the word then, because I am literally open at all times with students. 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". That means that when I say that I'm going to drop you from the class after five cuts, I'm going to drop you. That means that "no late work" means "no late work". And for all those parents that think that I'm unfair, let me ask you something.

-If you hand in a project for your manager and it is completely wrong, what will happen?
-If you constantly show up late for work, or call in sick often, what will happen?
-If you show up for the presentation four hours late, what will happen?

And yes, I've thrown out assignments that I don't think I explained well enough. And yes, I allow two free tardies per semester. And yes, I do accept late work with an excused absence. And yes parents, you take advantage of it!

To add on to this self-esteem craze is the MySpaces of the world, in which a kid can glorify themselves to the world in complete independence. On the Internet they can show off, lie about their accomplishments, and get praise from complete strangers that know nothing about them, or worse, are looking to prey on someone just like them.

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.
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