Study: Students Pretty Much Expect B's For Breathing

Today in the NYT's American-youth-are-spineless-pampered-losers — uh, we mean Education — section, we find that many college students expect good grades just for showing up.

Times writer Max Roosevelt reports on a recent UC Irvine study, which shows that a third of the students think they deserve a B just for going to class, while 40% think they should get one for doing the reading. Vanderbilt University dean James Hogge says, "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.'" University of Maryland senior Jason Greenwood basically says exactly that:

"I think putting in a lot of effort should merit a high grade," Mr. Greenwood said. "What else is there really than the effort that you put in?"

"If you put in all the effort you have and get a C, what is the point?" he added. "If someone goes to every class and reads every chapter in the book and does everything the teacher asks of them and more, then they should be getting an A like their effort deserves. If your maximum effort can only be average in a teacher's mind, then something is wrong."

It's hard not to yell, "um, what about learning??" at this kid, which is pretty much what Michelle Cottle of The New Republic does in her blog post on the Times piece. "Not to state the obvious," she says, "but I don't want a brain surgeon who graduated at the top of his class because he had perfect attendance. I want one who is an artist with a scalpel."

Us too! But are kids' unrealistic expectations solely the result of what Cottle calls "all those well-intentioned self-esteem-boosting messages that anxious parents, educators, and coaches feel compelled to spout in this era of making every child feel like a winner all the time"? Or are we being too hard on kids as well as too soft on them? Sure, too much self-esteem boosting can make someone overconfident and lazy, but too much emphasis on grades can make them — well, obsessed with grades. The UCI study author gestures toward this conclusion, pointing out "a heightened sense of achievement anxiety" among today's students. Maybe if getting a C wasn't so unacceptable (and if you had or knew competitive parents in high school, you've heard the "how will you get into a good college now?" rant), kids wouldn't demand a B just for showing up. Maybe if we taught them that grades were a reflection of learning, rather than just a means to an end, they'd concentrate on their scalpel technique instead of the letters on their transcripts.

Student Expectations Seen as Causing Grade Disputes[NYT]
An A for Effort? Talk About a Lousy Idea [The New Republic]