Here are two examples of why our educational system is imploding: Two days ago, as I was going to lunch, I overheard three or four students discussing why they were ditching class that day. From their conversation, I surmised that they were skipping a composition class, and while I don’t claim that I never skipped a class, it was their reason that disturbed me. “We’re not doing anything, today,” one girl said. “She’s just talking about writing drafts and stuff.” That’s the mentality in a nutshell–listening and taking notes is “not doing anything” to this generation. There’s simply no thirst for knowledge, no passion for learning new concepts. Everything must be entertainment. Those of you who have never taught, I dare you to stand in front of 30 of these slack-jawed, glassy-eyed, mentally regressed oafs, try to discuss with them something about which you are passionate, and NOT feel the urge to shake the crap out of them.
The second example is equally disturbing to me. In my developmental writing course, I gave back papers yesterday, and one of the students, who has been the most vocal that he doesn’t need the course, earned a D because he had five or six comma splices in a 250 word paragraph. His strong content is all that kept him from an F, but as soon as he saw his grade, he came rushing up to me. “This is unacceptable,” he said. “What can I do for extra credit?” Then, later in class, he explained to me that he couldn’t understand how he could be considered such a weak writer in college when he was an honors English student all through high school. First off, I don’t give extra credit. I still stick to my guns that extra credit should only be doing it right the first time. But the “honors” student is what really disturbs me because it gets straight to the heart of what’s wrong with education today.
For a couple of decades now, the movement in education has been about making students feel good about themselves. Don’t criticize them too harshly because you might irreparably wound their tender egos. As a result of this coddling, the students never develop a sense of accountability. Then, when they are faced with the cold, harsh reality that they aren’t precious little snowflakes and that the world doesn’t give a damn about their excuses or their emotions or their self-imposed limitations, they crumble into little balls of wounded feelings. And here’s where I’ll sound like my father and grandfather, but in my day, being an honors student really meant something. If I had written ONE comma splice for Mrs. LeFever, she not only would’ve flunked me on that paper, she would’ve kicked me out of the honors class. We actually had to be able to perform at an honors level to remain in those classes. Today, it’s an empty title based on an empty attempt to educate without standards.
I wanted to tell him that he should go back to his high school and berate them for giving him a false sense of ability when they should have been preparing him for collegiate writing. Instead, however, I told him to work harder on the next paper, but I doubt that he will learn the lesson. For too many years, he’s heard how special he is, how unique, how capable. Now that he’s actually being held to account for his actual ability, it’s my fault for being too harsh and for not recognizing his brilliance. This, my friends, is why I want out.