People Still Want Something For Nothing

Several theories of student self-entitlement are offered in Student Expectations Seen as Causing Grade Disputes –  But entitlement, as a notion of human behavior, has existed much longer than the lifetimes of today’s students.   No doubt today’s students exhibit a strong belief about what they deserve.  They have had success defined by measured accomplishments-test scores and grades-during their lifetime.  Thus, entitlement is not driven by family pressure, or a test taking preparation gone awry, but it is the traditional custom of confusing the acquisition of the observable with possession of talent, intellect or ability.

In my childhood, we were warned against keeping up with the Joneses.  The hypothetical household down the street that had the latest gadgets, jobs, cars, or any other desirable thing.  In religious terms, this human fault is worshipping a false god.

While mass marketing brings valuable information to consumers, unfortunately, it also brings false praise, because human beings have proven predictable when presented an endorsement, a ranking, an accolade or testimonial-we buy stuff.  People want to believe in themselves and they want to be like the Jones family.   In our minds, we say, “they are successful and they do it.  So why not me.”

In statistics classes, some students learn that correlation is not cause and effect.  Just because two things appear together, does not mean one caused the other.  Yet with the Jones family in our sights, we always assume the appearance of the latest trend is evidence of hard earn success-a quality to be emulated.   Consequentially, students don’t want to prove knowledge and skill to earn an “A,” they want credit for effort.   Athletes want the big paycheck, or the national notoriety of an ESPN highlight and resultantly, taking performance enhancers is not cheating, its preparation with the latest in medical science.  The investors want the guaranteed 10% returns and since the Joneses invest with so-and-so, it must be a good investment, therefore I will follow.

Throughout life’s many phases, examples of copying and emulating exist; an endless supply, unfortunately.  The common theme, an unwillingness to be judged and rewarded for our individual skill in the face of someone else demonstrating, at least temporarily, superior outcomes.   Using professor Carol Dweck’s term–fixed mindset-fits this environment well.  Too many people would, rather than face failure, seek ways to avoid new skill discovery.   In Mindset, professor Dweck argued the natural response was to avoid exposure to failure.  I suggest the natural response is to get the gain, regardless the method.   It’s a deterioration of values.   I wish it were otherwise.

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