Saw an interesting story in the New York Times last week that gave me pause: College kids expect to be rewarded with high grades for basically doing what they're supposed to do in the first place. According to a recent study by University of California-Irvine researchers, "a third of students surveyed said that they expected B’s just for attending lectures, and 40 percent said they deserved a B for completing the required reading." Adds James Hogge, associate dean at Vanderbilt University: “Students often confuse the level of effort with the quality of work. There is a mentality in students that ‘if I work hard, I deserve a high grade.’ “
For each statement, students were asked whether they strongly agreed, agreed, slightly agreed, slightly disagreed, disagreed, or strongly disagreed. The study’s authors aggregated all of the “strongly agree, agree, and slightly agree” responses into a percentage, and that’s the percentage the Times used as the basis for the passage quoted above. Let’s set aside for the moment whether the phrase “If I have attended most classes for a course, I deserve at least a grade of B” means the same thing as “I expect B’s just for attending lectures.” I’m not certain that it is, but I’ll let it go for right now. The more important point is that the Times reporter, following the lead of the study’s authors, interpreted even slight agreement with the first statement as identical to the second.
I'm no statistician so I can't comment on the data-gathering, but the findings nevertheless got me thinking about how we raise our kids. It's one thing to instill in them a sense that goal-setting is important, but quite another to teach them that they deserve kudos for simply doing what's expected. Last time I checked, kids go to college to learn. It may seem like a great place to expand your wings socially and come into your own as adults, but you better keep up with the readings and get to class, too. And no, you don't get a B simply for doing that. If your papers are lousy and your tests substandard, then a C or a D or whatever is all you get. (I know the pain; in undergrad, I got a C—my only C—in one damn logic class despite near-perfect attendance and assignments, all because when it came time for midterms and finals, I'd crash-and-burn and get, yes, Cs.)
BurbMom wonders if this may have something to do with the everybody-gets-a-trophy trend, where kids are rewarded for non-exceptionalism. Are we coddling them so much that they expect to be gratified just for trying?