Critiques on social and education issues
University has typically been referred to as a privilege. This is true, especially in the age where a girl can get shot for wanting to receive an education. The Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP) of UCLA surveyed thousands of “college freshmen” (for those who are not American, “college” refers to both university and college students) on their perception of their own abilities.
Many described themselves as exceptional.
A 2006 study from CIRP showed that modern college students are more ambitious, leading to an “ambition inflation”. This is a more eloquent way of saying “the bigger something is, the harder they’ll fall”. A quick example can be drawn from some American Idol contestants and the shock registered when a judge says that the contestant isn’t their cup of tea.
To be fair, going to post-secondary education (PSE) does require ambition. When I applied to university, I was ambitious to embark on a journey studying a discipline I would enjoy (and I do), and I wanted to use the knowledge I will gain to change the world for the better. However, when is it too much? When does the fire burn too hot?
The media tends to portray lifestyles that cannot exist for the average person, despite starring average people. Today’s youth are much more exposed to reality shows. They learn that acting stupidly can earn more money than studying for 10 years to become a neurosurgeon.
That’s valid thinking. Whenever money is involved, of course we need to measure the expenses and revenue. If I can earn a lot more for working less, why not?
Because this is a pipe dream for most people.
The cult of individualism, especially in North America, is part of the blame as well. Social agents constantly feed the young with sugar-coated phrases. You may have heard them before; they appear on posters sold in stores that target teachers. “You are special”, “The world is your oyster”, “You are unique”, etc. Everyone is being told they are special. Everyone is unique.
Due to this mindset, it is too easy to adopt a sense of entitlement. I have noticed this in my schools as well, and particularly on social media sites such as tumblr, where people genuinely get upset over the fact that their parents bought them an iPhone 4 instead of an iPhone 5.
Youth today have a stronger sense of entitlement, and unfortunately, we can’t really blame them for it. Society, parents, teachers, and other caregivers have fed them pretty phrases rather than saying, “You have a special ability, and you should work with others to create a better future”. It is unfortunate that some youth feel they can take on the world by storm, and end up being too competitive to work with their peers. Too much competition spoils any progress they make, or can potentially make, and ruins relationships.
Another problem with feeding pretty phrases to youth is that it is too much. Along with the sense of entitlement, youth today are believing that they are innately special, that they’re born with it. Some think they have this innate talent or gift that makes them stand out from the others (and most do), and they think that they don’t need to work so hard because they are entitled to benefits anyway.
It is a vicious cycle.
As educators, we need to change how we speak to students. Do not just say “You are special” or “You are unique”. Rather, comment on the ability that they have, or their behaviours, instead of targeting the person. For example, “I like that you show all your steps; it shows me clearly how you are thinking” is better than “You’re smart at math”.
The method of targeting behaviour rather than the person also works exceptionally well when trying to critique someone. When you target a behaviour instead of a person, you still get your message across, the receiver is able to distance themselves (and thus take in the criticism effectively) while being able to save face. It’s a win-win situation.
Bringing kids back to reality doesn’t mandate a burning crash through Earth’s atmosphere. It doesn’t need to be painful. Educators (we are all educators, regardless if you are a teacher) need to talk in a different manner with their students. Sugar-coating under sparkly words like “you are unique” will only set them up for failure. Target the behaviour, not the person.
Education prepares students for the real world while equipping them with the tools for change. Having ambitious youth who refuse to do work will only cause society to spiral downward at a faster rate.