“The real problem is students who won’t study,” wrote a Penn State professor.
A retired professor from S. Connecticut State said: “I found my students progressively more ignorant, inattentive, inarticulate.”
“Unprecedented numbers of students rarely come to class,” said a Virginia Tech teacher. “They have not read the material and have scant interest in learning it.”
Another professor said that many students only come to class when they have nothing better to do. At one of his classes, no students at all showed up.
So far the best depiction of these attitudes is in the new book “Generation X Goes to College,” by “Peter Sacks,” the pseudonym for a California journalist who taught writing courses to mostly white, mostly middle-class groups at an unnamed community college.
“Sacks” produces a devastating portrait of bored and unmotivated students unwilling to read or study but feeling entitled to high grades, partly because they saw themselves as consumers “buying” an education from teachers, whose job it was to deliver the product whether the students worked for it or not.
“Disengaged rudeness” was the common attitude. Students would sometimes chat loudly, sleep,
talk on cell phones and even watch TV during class, paying attention only when something
amusing or entertaining occurred. The decline of the work ethic was institutionalized in grade
inflation, “hand-holding” (the assumption that teachers would help solve students’ personal
problems) and watering down of standards “to accommodate a generation of students who had
become increasingly disengaged from anything resembling intellectual life.”
But the book goes well beyond conventional arguments about slackers, entitlement and dumbing down. Students, he says, now have a postmodern sensibility – distrustful of reason, authority, facts, objectivity, all values not generated by the self. “As children of postmodernity, they seem implicitly to distrust anything that purports to be a source of knowledge and authority.”