Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Should I Not Be Seeing A Connection Here?

First this: It's all about me, so praise me, why doncha?

"Younger workers crave praise around the office."

While tech-savvy, independent and well-educated, these young workers revel in, even crave, constant praise. ...

"You used to think that no news was good news," said Kent Crossland, director of information technology for PING, the Phoenix-based golf club maker. "Today, I guess no news is bad news. They need attention and feedback." ...

[The Y generation was] raised in an age of "active parenting" and are overindulged, overprotected and oversupervised.

That's why some Generation Y members crave constant feedback into adulthood.

"One of the ways that this generation got narcissistic is that their parents praised them all the time," said Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University.

We are reaping the fruits of the self-esteem movement that began a generation ago. Low self esteem was blamed for all manner of disfunctions, from failing grades to juvenile criminality. If the kids just had a higher opinion of themselves, so we were told, then they'd be happier, better adjusted, as less likely to get into trouble.

It was all baloney, of course, but millions of moms and dads and educators bought into it. They heaped praise on children for the most trivial reasons: "Hey, Andrea, you're doing a great job breathing!" Okay, I exaggerate (but only slightly).
The result:

For decades schools have embraced the idea that ... unless the classroom was cozy and thick with "warm fuzzies"--an educational watchword--students wouldn't even try. That led to avariety of policies aimed at protecting children's feelings. It also led to grade inflation, an emphasis on groupwork rather than individual effort, the elimination of valedictorians and even the dearth of spelling bees, critics say.

And then this: Poll: Liberals Are Gaining Among Young People (and here as well.)

So liberals may not be ruling talk radio.

But a new poll suggests they are making big inroads among another important force: young people.

And the poll shows that at least some of this is a backlash against the presidency of President George Bush:

Young Americans are more likely than the general public to favor a government-run universal health care insurance system, an open-door policy on immigration and the legalization of gay marriage, according to a New York Times/CBS News/MTV poll. The poll also found that they are more likely to say the war in Iraq is heading to a successful conclusion.

In a snapshot of a group whose energy and idealism have always been as alluring to politicians as its scattered focus and shifting interests have been frustrating, the poll found that substantially more Americans between the ages of 17 and 29 than four years ago are paying attention to the presidential race. But they appeared to be really familiar with only two of the candidates, Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton, both Democrats.

They have continued a long-term drift away from the Republican Party, and although they are just as worried as the general population about the outlook for the country and think their generation is likely to be worse off than that of their parents, they retain a belief that their votes can make a difference, the poll found.

I don't know about anyone else, but these "findings" go together hand in glove. There has always been a political dimension of the "self-esteem" approach to educations. The entire premise of it has been that you have a right to success based upon your mere existence. That one might have to work and compete in order to attain what you desire was seen an anathema, since the kids were not "equal." "Why should little Timmy not win an award for his spelling just because he doesn't know how to? Why it would crush his little feelings! And who told little Jenny to be such a know-it-all anyway?!"

You tell me: Is such a view more compatible with a conservative or "progressive" view of the world?

Of course, that is a trick question as it isn't just "compatible" with the progressive vision, it is identical with it.


entropy said...

Another argument for making this mandatory reading:

The Iconic Midwesterner said...

I've always wondered if Vonnegut felt ashamed for having written that.

entropy said...

I remember when I read that for the first time. I think it was seventh grade(I've read constantly and widely most of my life) I consider it to be the primary "tipping point" in my political/philosophical life. Suddenly everything my Father had said made sense.

Anonymous said...

Are hasty generalizations a requirement for a political blog?

The self-esteem movement as an approach to raising children knows no political bias. Believe me--plenty of folks who would call themselves conservative worry endlessly about Johnny's self-esteem, and contribute to his sense of privilege by complaining endlessly if he receives a B on a paper--when such a thing is clearly not possible, and is obviously due to grossly unfair treatment. (Do you get the sense that I've seen this first hand).

A sense of privilege is also not the exclusive property of left-leaning or right-leaning students. I've known plenty of examples from both sides. So, I'm simply puzzled by your leap to the conclusion that these two things fit together like chocolate and peanut butter.

You're right about the view within some parts of academia that all students have the right to succeed, and that this results in things like grade inflation. (It is not as widespread, in my experience, as your material is suggesting--but it is there).

However, just as pervasive is grade inflation caused by viewing the student as a "customer." We must keep the customer happy because:

1. (Faculty): At anytime, our class evaluations can be used against us by an unreasonable manager, even if there are only a small percentage of negative reviews. And, that aint worth me risking my tenure/job/shot at tenure/etc.

2. (Administration) Because the student is a customer, and the customer is always right, we must please the customer (and--perhaps more importantly--mom and dad who are writing the checks--and often expect the UNIVERSITY and not the student to be responsible for making sure that the investment is returned in the form of academic success.

Now, I wonder, would you say viewing the student as a customer (and a university education is an investment) is more compatible with the "conservative" or progressive view of the world?

The Iconic Midwesterner said...

Are hasty generalizations a requirement for a political blog?

Sorry I didn't have time to write ya a dissertation.

You have to remember that schools of education are over whelmingly democratic/liberal leaning. (Some education schools will not graduate teachers unless they show a committment to "social justice". Yeah. That's a neutral position!) So to the degree kids are getting this in school, yes I do think there is a connection.

You are correct that it has infected the culture at large as well...but I think it clearly started as an "educational philosophy" that got incorporated into lots of "parenting" books (and Oprah).

As for your "customer" hypothesis I have a few thoughts:

1) It sure is a nice excuse to explain away faculty cowardice.

2) I know of some institutions that worry about student "retention" so much that they pressure faculty to let students slide. I'm sure there was a bit of that pressure at places like Antioch College, in Yellow Springs, Ohio which will be shutting its doors next year because of enrollment issues. And certainly outfirts like the University of Pheonix are operating on a business model approach. But I've never seen evidence of such an attitude at the large state universities I've been around. It isn't as if the University of Illinois is going anywhere.

3. What is wrong with calling a spade a spade? Student attend university by choice (as opposed to high school students), and spend a shit load of money to do so, putting themselves into decades worth of debt sometimes. They deserve SOMETHING just from the benefit of paying. Granted, they do not deserve a particular grade, but there are other aspects to the college experience. It wouldn't be a bad idea for professors to remember that they owe a certain amount of professionalism to their students because they are paying their salary. Many profs don't like it because they dont enjoy being held to any standards. True, the customer thing can be oversold, but we still shouldn't think of them as if they were high schoolers.

4. So when I go into Left Bank books and buy the latest academic treatise on Derrida, I should deride the staff as Republican/capitalist thugs for treating me as a customer?

I'll remember that!