Thoughts on the “Entitlement Generation”

April 28, 2009

by Andria Woodell, Social Sciences

generation-me2 There has been a lot of buzz in the academic world about entitlement. Recently, there was an article by Professor Marshall Grossman published in the NY Times titled “Student Expectations Seen as Causing Grade Disputes.” In his article, Grossman discusses some of his experiences with entitled students and explanations behind this “new” trend. Like many other professors, I can identify with Grossman’s discussion. Some of us have encountered these situations more often than we would care to count. While I believe it is not new for students to focus on grades, it is surreal when a student is arguing they deserve an A despite scoring 70-80s on their assignments. It is also frustrating when they refuse to listen to why they have received those scores or suggestions to improve their grades. This becomes even more unsettling when a student turns hostile towards a professor because the professor stands firm. In the end, it is a no-win situation for both the student and professor. The student feels as if they were unfairly treated and the professor walks away a little more pessimistic about their students.

What is interesting is that when I hear people discussing entitlement today, it is directed toward the younger generation. Jean Twenge’s book , Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled—and More Miserable Than Ever Before, supports the assumption that people from their teens to their 20s are plagued with entitlement . However, if you read the article “The New Me Generation,” the entitlement generation consists of everyone born in 1970 and beyond. Doing the math here, this includes people who are 39 years or younger. The average age of retirement in the US is currently 63, so the majority of students and workers (including myself) are now part of this entitlement generation! Therefore, the description of entitlement as a generational shift is not entirely accurate. Instead, it appears to be more of a societal shift. The looming question is whether entitlement is always bad. In the “The Me New Generation,”  the author describes the entitlement generation as “smart, brash, even arrogant, and endowed with a commanding sense of entitlement.” They are the “co-workers who drive you nuts.” On the flip-side, he goes on to state these individuals are also free-thinkers who are willing to break the status quo and pursue their dreams. Their confidence is what allows them to accomplish great things and can keep companies progressing. So where is the problem?

From an academic standpoint, I see entitlement hurting work ethic. Others might disagree with me here, but there seems to be a pocket of individuals who equate effort with mastery. When we hear, “there is no A for effort”, this is true. I have yet to see a grading rubric with effort as one of the graded requirements. Bottom line, if you do not complete the main components of an assignment, you will lose points, no matter how much effort you put in. As one professor has described it, “If your doctor works very hard at removing your appendix and it turns out you only needed your tonsils out, you are not likely to say “Hey! It’s ok! You worked very hard!”.  The other problem is that individuals who have never been told no or have yet to overcome significant academic challenges seem to experience a high level of anxiety at even the thought of not being perfect. I have seen students work themselves into a frenzy over this, even when they were passing with strong B’s. This is problematic because according to the frustration-aggression hypothesis in social psychology—the more frustrated a person becomes the more likely they may become aggressive. It of course does not explain ALL aggression, but it can explain why a student may resort to rudeness, harassment, slander, or even indirect or direct violence towards an instructor because they were blocked from a goal and they are not sure how to resolve the issue constructively. 

So what is the solution? Apparently, that is the hot research question right now. Grossman mentions that at his school they are retraining students on the purpose of education. COCC sponsored a speaker to educate faculty on the qualities of the new incoming students and how to resolve problems. There are also new policies in place that protect both students and faculty from harassment. Others (myself included) have resorted to detailed syllabi explaining class policy and how to behave. However, I find it unfortunate that my syllabi grew from 3 pages to 8 over the years because I have to explain how not to be disruptive and why a person should not text message in class. I have no answers at the moment. I personally hope we end up in the middle, with professors who can teach freely without having to invest so much energy defending themselves from unreasonable demands and with students who can be free thinkers, push the envelope and earn their grades rather than simply expect them. I am an optimist, but we will have to wait and see how it all unfolds.


Walking With My Feet 10 Feet Off the Beale

April 21, 2009

by Tom Barry, Social Sciences

In his 1991recording Walking In Memphis, Marc Cohn reflects on the history of the blues.  The references to the general history of this music form are straightforward but arranged in such a way to draw upon the ghosts of the past.  Cohn’s blue suede shoes pays respect to the Carl Perkins 1955 song titled the same that marks, for many, the transition to rockabilly and rock and roll.  The Delta Blues is the home of the blues.  The delta blues is the epicenter of the blues.  The Chicago blues, St. Louis blues,  and the songs coming out of other cities following the Great Migration out of the South call back to the delta.  And then there is W.C. Handy.  With his 1914 St. Louis Blues, W.C. Handy would start a lengthy career that would eventually earn him such titles as the Father of the blues and “the  Beethoven of Beale Street.”

wchandy1

I recently read an article titled  “Make My Getaway”:  The Blues Lives of Black Minstrels in W.C. Handy’s Father of the Blues” (Gussow, 2001).  Much of the article is devoted to understanding the ways in which Handy navigated a culture of racial oppression.  Whether on the stage performing minstrels or singing the blues in clubs, Handy neither shied from giving voice to the struggles of black men and women nor did he make this art a platform for being an activist for civil rights.  His approach is contrasted with other artists, such as the literary giants Ralph Ellison and Richard Wright who wrote more to inform and promote a move to justice.  It is for this reason that 100,000 copies of Handy’s autobiography Father of the Blues were sent to overseas military personnel and Wright’s Native Son remained on the shelves or libraries and people’s homes back in the States.  While Handy’s approach was more palatable to the racial majority, and the power structure of the segregated military that supported troops reading his autobiography, Gussow argues, and I agree, that it would be shortsighted to identify Handy as either complacent or submissive. In his work and his life, he voiced opposition to racial divisions.  He stood for racial justice.  And based on his personal experiences such as nearly being lynched, he realized when and how to be speak of the struggle and when to accommodate in order to survive another day.   

Excerpt from Marc Cohn’s Walking in Memphis

Put on my blue suede shoes
And I boarded the plane
Touched down in the land of the Delta Blues
In the middle of the pouring rain
W.C. Handy — won’t you look down over me
Yeah I got a first class ticket
But I’m as blue as a boy can be 

Then I’m walking in Memphis
Walking with my feet ten feet off of Beale
Walking in Memphis
But do I really feel the way  I feel

 

To watch Marc Cohn play his song , see the YouTube clip below:

 


Books That Cook! My First Food Fiction Course

April 14, 2009

by Stacey Donohue, Humanities Department

chocolate_chip_cookiesOne of the many food blogs I read posts recipes, and one of the best is the recipe for delicious pumpkin chocolate chip cookies.   Another blogger I follow (an academic who shall remain anonymous, but let’s call her Sybil) noted in her recent re-posting of the pumpkin cookie recipe that she should just start a food blog, and the cheers of support in the comments section poured in.   That idea (a food blog, for those who cook, for those who eat, or for those who like to read about food) got me reflecting on the food fiction course I taught in fall 2008 for the first time.

Last spring I read an article in College English (70.4) titled “Books That Cook: Teaching Food and Food Literature in the English Classroom” by Jennifer Cognard-Black and Melissa A. Goldthwaite (the entire March 2008 issue is on food).   Since I was teaching a generically titled Eng 260: Introduction to Women Writers course, I decided to try out some of their ideas by focusing on “food fiction” by women writers.  I ended up (after much anguish—I struggle with this choice whenever I teach a literature course) with the following reading list:

like-water3

Laura Esquivel’s Like Water For Chocolate 

dinneratthe-homesick3

Anne Tyler’s Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant   

crescentcover

Diana Abu Jaber’s Crescent

&

babettes-feast

Isak Dinesen’s Babette’s Feast

Other books I considered but couldn’t fit into our quarter system included the following (note that for all of these texts below, the books are significantly better than the film versions):

Joanne Harris’ Chocolat 
Fannie Flagg’s Fried Green Tomatoes At the Whistle Stop Café
Chitra Divakaruni’s Mistress of Spices

As it turns out, the novels worked well together, sharing many of the same themes (including elements of magical realism; fairy tale allusions; and, naturally, all used food as a central metaphor).   And because we focused on contemporary women’s fiction–fiction that is not “canonical”–there were engaging discussions of some issues I’ve explored when analyzing Oprah’s Book Club (high vs. “middlebrow” literature and reader response criticism, for example).

I decided to focus on fiction, but I know there are many, many food memoirs out there, too.  And, of course, I limited the selection to women writers, but someday I can see a separate food memoir course where I could include my favorites such as Ruth Reichl’s Tender at the Bone and Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast.  

Please share any other titles you have for fiction, non-fiction or memoir:  my Food Fiction course was a joy to prepare and teach, and I’m looking forward to teaching it again next year. 

This spring, Amy Harper is offering Anthropology 299: Food and Culture, an elective course that has over 30 students enrolled.  As COCC looks forward to an expanded Culinary program, I imagine other faculty members will respond with food-related courses within their discipline, and who knows: is there a Food Studies program next?


A new mission for our ConXn blog!

April 7, 2009

unity We are super excited to announce a change in direction for our current ConXn blog!  Although ConXn was initiated as a means for the library to connect with the rest of the campus, it is now aspiring to become something bigger than that,  a campus community space where all COCC staff, faculty, and students have an opportunity to share their interests and expertise for the benefit, enjoyment, and enlightenment of the rest of us! 

So, read our new mission statement and guidelines and get back to us soon with your questions and/or blog submissions!

Mission Statement:

This blog is a place to showcase the talent and interests of COCC faculty, staff, and students. It is an interactive space where the COCC community will share its collective wisdom, expertise, research, or personal interests and accomplishments to connect and intellectually stimulate us all.

Postings will include a discussion of ideas, thoughts and solutions that arise from our own musings, teaching experiences, subject matter, or from responses to questions posed by others. Whether you are interested in hearing insider perspectives on the latest scientific discoveries, book readings, technology trends, provocative issues in psychology, sociology, criminal justice and in health care fields—or perhaps looking for career, educational, or other advice from our expert COCC staff: this college Blog, ConXn, is your blogging community.

Postings in this blog will remain educational in nature and will reflect the respect our community shares for well- informed as well as diverse sets of view points.

This COCC blog is an initiative launched by the following COCC people: Tom BarryMichele DeSilva;Stacey Donohue; Lynne Hart; Tina Hovekamp; Andria Woodell; and Zelda Ziegler. If you are one of our COCC faculty, staff, or students and you are interested in becoming a contributing blogger, let us know. We need you! You can contribute one blog post or one hundred, whatever you want! Also, you may let us know what you love to do or what you would love to learn about, and we can make that the subject of one of our next posts! Either way, just email Stacey Donohue or any other of the people who manage this blog (see names above) to get more information or talk about an idea for a posting.

Guidelines for submission

The COCC blog is a formal, public presentation of information with an educational content representing the richness of our campus community knowledge and experience. Postings follow the guidelines below:

1. are one to two single spaced pages. Submissions can be short and concise.
2. may involve descriptions of faculty research projects
3. may involve a “theme” to which different faculty or staff contribute based on their knowledge and expertise
4. are descriptions or reflections on classroom successes
5. are discussions based on staff expertise with a purpose to educate
6. provide an overview of collaborative projects both within and between departments
7. are thoughtful, educational, objective reflections connected to COCC’s educational mission.
8. and most importantly, are fun and interesting to engage a wide spectrum of audiences!

Because of the public nature of this blog, postings such as political advocacy commentaries, opinion pieces, general or other internal-related announcements will be directed to the COCC Staff Commlines or Water Cooler folder. Please feel free to submit your ideas for a post to sdonohue@cocc.edu.