The entitled generation?

The “Entitled Generation” is just the newest term to describe students, says professor Russ Hunt. (Tom Bateman/AQ)

You are lazy, cheap, afraid of failure and destined never to succeed because of it. But don’t worry, you’re not alone, we are in this together. Welcome to the “Entitled Generation” and yes, we all suck.

At least, that’s what a new book by two Canadian professors Kenneth S. Coates and Bill Morrison called Campus Confidential declares. The book made quite the stir in the media this week. Of course Margaret Wente picked right up on it calling it a “must read” in her Sept. 17 column for the Globe and Mail.

“University students once devoured the works of Frantz Fanon, Karl Marx and Gloria Steinem. Today, they devour the works of Harry Potter,” wrote Wente. Really Margaret? Really?

Just for the record, Margaret Wente, I read Henry Thoreau’s Walden last week for my American lit. class, which I probably wouldn’t be taking had I not read Harry Potter.

Gary Mason, bless his soul, defended us in his own column in the Globe and Mail on Thursday.

“Personally, I don’t recognize the pampered losers we hear about.” Mason wrote. “Of course, there are kids in every generation who are easy to criticize and caricature when ascribing attributes to an entire cohort. But they aren’t representative of everyone.”

Thanks Gar.

We’ve been called it all before, spoiled, superficial, in constant communication. But what is so striking about this book is it goes straight for our education. Right to the heart of our higher learning, and Coates didn’t single out a few students, or even a group, he called us all inadequate.

“There is no easy route to great success, a generation has lost touch with that,” he is quoted as saying.

Ouch.

Sure, there are some us who’ve lost touch. Ryan Owens, a third-year poli-sci major said he’s heard the well-I-pay-his-salary-so-he-should-give-me-a-good-mark

argument made by students who’ve gotten upset by bad grades.

And Owens agrees to an extent with Coates and Morrison.

“We’re awfully entitled. We are,” he said. “In sociology there’s a theory, the tide of rising expectations, so it’s like once you have one thing you want another thing.”

“We are more entitled than the Baby Boomers, but we are a product of the Baby Boomers entitlement. They built this entitled society and now we’re just living in it, who taught us?”

Touché Owens. Yes, we are entitled to a degree; anyone who said we weren’t would be crazy. We all have the chance at university, some of us waste it, some of us weren’t meant for it, and some of us thrive in it. But the few who squander the opportunity are being called the whole.

“Yeah, some teenagers come to university, especially in the first year they don’t even know if they want to be there, they haven’t decided what to do after school so they come and have a good time and they usually go home by Christmas,” said sociology professor Sylvia Hale. “To say that the large majority are like that is simply false.”

English professor Russ Hunt said the argument is as old as education.

“I’m not exactly sure what Socrates said but he’s always quoted as having complained about his students, that they were entitled, that they didn’t want to work, they didn’t care about ideas, that they were slackers and so forth.

The reason I said that is that I’ve been teaching for 48 years and I don’t think there’s been a fall when someone hasn’t said, ‘you know, students aren’t as good as they used to be.’”

Political science professor Tom Bateman, who’s taught at five universities and attended three across Canada, said he doesn’t notice any particular feeling of entitlement in STU students.

“But it’s possible a sense of entitlement is part of these parenting and teaching philosophies – it might correct itself in the end.”

So we’re not perfect, and none of us suggest we are, but neither was any other generation.

“I’m sure they partied too when they were young,” second-year psychology major Natasha Glover said. “We were born into the system that they created.

“We are bombarded with images every day that do suggest that we don’t need to work as hard for everything and I suppose now university is very much attainable, it’s no longer a middle class objective.”

Kenneth Coates, the writer of Campus Confidential, is the dean of students at Waterloo University; surely, in his position he would be correcting such a problem.

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