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"...another reason I'm intrigued with the hanged of Salem, especially the women, is that a number of them aroused suspicion in the first place because they were financially independent, or sharp-tongued, or kept to themselves. In other words, they were killed off for the same sort of life I live right now but with longer skirts and fewer cable channels." Sarah Vowell, The partly cloudy patriot.


I'm way more specialer than you - plus, I deserve an A++ for existing.

Limon posted about issues related to whether or not grade inflation exists, and whether or not it is a problem. I was going to post a comment - but I was basically in exceptionally strong disagreement with her and all her commenters, so I decided to take my oppositionalness and post it over here.

I think grade inflation is a huge issue at, at least, the two campuses where I taught most recently. Students have come to expect that they will get high grades despite little to no effort. Students (at one school) also expect that they can plagiarize and that profs will just be so damned happy their papers are actually readable that they won't get in trouble.

At almostivy, students have always done well. They expect, therefore, that they should continue to be able to do so. If they don't do well, they assume it is the professor's fault, and not their own. Obviously a B is resultant from a poor teacher with unclear expectations, unreasonable demands, and general incompetence. On the other hand, students at the other school are from the city's public schools, which just suck. They have always done well enough and thus expect that they will continue to stand out just because they have the ability to string together a vaguely comprehensible sentence or thought. However, for the most part the writing and reading skills of these students is abysmal. And, I'm sorry, I am not here to teach those skills - I expect that those are givens. These students see attendance, reading, and papers as all optional - and that irrespective of their actual performance, they should get A's for something they call "effort."

A NYT article recently (friday) noted that although grades are going up and up in schools, reading levels are decreasing. This is exactly what I am seeing; low skills still get As. Professors just don't care - they don't want the hassle of holding students accountable - they are too worried about threats, lawsuits, complaints, and poor evals. They are too overwhelmed by the poor skills to feel like they can actually affect change in the skill levels. They are too demoralized by their students' apathy, grouchiness, and entitlement to do much of anything.

Students are also apparently taking harder and harder classes at the same time that grades are going up, and reading scores are going down. This, I'm sure, increases the grade entitlement even further; I got an A in my high school AP class, so why aren't you giving me an A in your crappy 100 level class?

At my (ex) school, we are giving college diplomas to students who cannot write a 3-page paper that makes any sense. These are students who do not know the rules of grammar, who think they deserve full credit for papers turned in weeks late, students who cannot spell (even with a spellcheck) and who cannot write at all. Yet, I would bet you anything they likely have damned good GPAs. And as a result, they think they are ready for grad school, medical school, law school, or ready to become a CEO or an educator.

I think the article from the LA times below validates some of this.

From the Los Angeles Times

Gen Y's ego trip takes a nasty turn

A new report suggests that an overdose of self-esteem in college students could mean a rough road ahead.

By Larry Gordon and Louis Sahagun
Times Staff Writers

February 27, 2007

No wonder YouTube is so popular.

All the effort to boost children's self-esteem may have backfired and produced a generation of college students who are more narcissistic than their Gen X predecessors, according to a new study led by a San Diego State University psychologist.

And the Internet, with all its MySpace and YouTube braggadocio, is letting that self-regard blossom even more, said the analysis, titled "Egos Inflating Over Time."

In the study being released today, researchers warn that a rising ego rush could cause personal and social problems for the Millennial Generation, also called Gen Y. People with an inflated sense of self tend to have less interest in emotionally intimate bonds and can lash out when rejected or insulted.

"That makes me very, very worried," said Jean Twenge, a San Diego State associate professor and lead author of the report. "I'm concerned we are heading to a society where people are going to treat each other badly, either on the street or in relationships."

She and four other researchers from the University of Michigan, University of Georgia and University of South Alabama looked at the results of psychological surveys taken by more than 16,000 college students across the country over more than 25 years.

The Narcissistic Personality Inventory asks students to react to such statements as: "If I ruled the world, it would be a better place," "I think I am a special person" and "I like to be the center of attention."

The study found that almost two-thirds of recent college students had narcissism scores that were above the average 1982 score. Thirty percent more college students showed elevated narcissism in 2006 than in 1982.

Twenge said she and her coauthors are not suggesting that more students today have a pathological narcissistic personality disorder that needs psychiatric treatment. Still, traits of narcissism have increased by moderate but significant amounts, said Twenge, who last year published a book titled "Generation Me: Why Today's Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled — and More Miserable Than Ever Before."

The narcissism report is under review for publication in a scholarly journal, which would give it the stamp of academic recognition it now lacks.

It was released, Twenge said, in connection with the upcoming paperback edition of her book and with a student affairs workshop today at the University of San Diego at which she and another speaker will discuss how today's college students approach education.

Some of the increase in narcissistic attitudes was probably caused by the self-esteem programs that many elementary schools adopted 20 years ago, the study suggests. It notes that nursery schools began to have children sing songs that proclaim: "I am special, I am special. Look at me."

Those youngsters are now adolescents obsessed with websites, such as MySpace and YouTube, that "permit self-promotion far beyond that allowed by traditional media," the report says.

Other trends in American culture, including permissive parenting, increased materialism and the fascination with celebrities and reality TV shows, may also heighten self-regard, said study coauthor W. Keith Campbell, psychology professor at the University of Georgia. "It's part of a whole cultural system," he said.

The researchers seek to counter theories that current college students are more civic-minded and involved in volunteer activities than their predecessors. Because many high schools require community work, increases in volunteering "may not indicate a return to civic orientation but may instead be the means toward the more self-focused goal of educational attainment," the report says.

An annual survey of U.S. college freshmen by the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA has found growing interest in public service and social responsibility, presumably in response to Hurricane Katrina and other disasters around the world.

But that survey also showed that current freshmen are much more interested in financial success and less in "a meaningful philosophy of life" than students were in the 1970s.

At Cal State Long Beach on Monday, an informal survey produced divided opinions about Gen Y personality traits.

Students and teachers said they often see examples of inflated egos on campus: students who converse in the computer center while others are trying to concentrate, preen in front of the reflecting windows of the economics building or expect good grades simply for showing up at class.

Laura Rantala, 26, a sociology major, said the phenomenon got in the way of a survey she conducted last semester on the attitudes of men and women about jury duty.

"It took about three minutes to complete the survey," she recalled. "But many students were so self-absorbed they didn't want to participate.

"I think it's because we all have our own cellphone and iPod with which we're doing our own thing in our own little world," she mused.

Some students seeking degrees in finance and management said, however, that they had good reason to stress confidence and esteem.

James Coari, a lecturer in the College of Business Administration, agreed, to a point. In an interview in his office, Coari said, people looking for jobs "have to be concerned about image because competition is fierce."

Marc Flacks, an assistant professor of sociology, said that he believed that narcissism was too harsh a description for current students and that it was more important to discuss why "we have a society in which narcissistic behavior is a good quality to have."

"This is a bottom-line society, so students are smart to seek the most direct route to the bottom line," he added. "If you don't have a me-first attitude, you won't succeed."

Flacks summed up the attitudes he often encounters in students, who expect a tangible payoff from their education:

"The old model was a collegial one in which students and professors alike sought knowledge for knowledge's sake. The new model is 'I paid my money, give me my grade and degree.' It makes me want to ask [students], 'Want fries with that order?' "




Copyright © 2007, The Los Angeles Times


At 11:17 PM, Anonymous sheepish said...

I saw a similar article on that study, and there were a few things that stood out to me.

If I ruled the world, it would be a better place

This one seems like it should be a product of our times. Pretty much anyone who can fog a mirror (and I dare say a good many who can't) would be better at running things than Shrub.

And the bit about people being more worried about being well-off financially also seems like it may be tied to the current state. There are fewer safety nets now than there were two or three decades ago. Salaries have shrunk compared to the cost of living. Pensions are disappearing, and social security payouts will drop. Of course people are worried.

Laura Rantala, 26, a sociology major, said the phenomenon got in the way of a survey she conducted last semester on the attitudes of men and women about jury duty.

"It took about three minutes to complete the survey," she recalled. "But many students were so self-absorbed they didn't want to participate.

It's interesting that she was able to tell that they didn't want to participate because they were self-absorbed. Was that a question they were asked? Could it not be that people are besieged with calls, junk mail, and advertisements mocked up as actual surveys? The conclusion is anything but clear to me.

I'm not saying I dispute the study, but to conclude that these are all statements of narcissists seems way off base.

At 12:04 AM, Blogger shrinkykitten said...

I wouldn't dismiss a study based on how it is reported in the popular media. Psych studies are notorious for being badly reported by the media. Twenge is a good researcher, and I'm certain she used good instruments. Thus, I'm sure she chose a good measure of narcissism and thus that there is some validity to her findings.

In terms of the student's assertions about her subjects - that is completely unrelated to Twenge's study and ought be adjudicated separately. That said, undergrads have become really quite horrible research subjects when they are not well-socialized to the study and to the need for them to be good little subjects. You can tell when they aren't giving you good responses (when we studied high school students, we would look for particular response patterns that indicated that they were not taking it seriously and would then discard their surveys).

At 1:22 AM, Anonymous sheepish said...

Yeah, me reaction was more to the article than the study. I guess we all have probably seen crap popular press articles in our own fields enough to know it signifies very little.

It must be very hard to do research involving people. I much prefer the (usually) less ambiguous world of poking things and quantitatively measuring their response.

At 1:22 AM, Anonymous sheepish said...

Err, "my reaction". It's always "me this", "me that".

At 7:28 PM, Blogger Limon de Campo said...

I agree with you on all the issues you raise. My real beef is with the argument that high grades necessarily mean the teacher is just giving away grades. That's not always the case.


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