Are we facing a truly exceptional generation of college students, one that far surpasses its predecessors? College students would have you believe so. A recent study shows that students have become increasingly confident in their abilities over the last 47 years.
On the American Freshman Survey, the number of college students who rate themselves above average has drastically risen since the survey's inception in 1966. Students rate themselves "above average" on factors such as writing ability and drive to achieve. I'd like to report that this is because these students are, in fact, further excelling in college than generations past; after all, there is nothing wrong with self-confidence if it is founded in truth. Unfortunately, this is just not the case.
"Above Average" Self-Ratings Correlate with a Rise in Narcissism
Psychologist Jean Twenge, who analyzed the data with her colleagues, reports that students are actually doing worse on objective writing tests and spending less time studying. Their self-assessments do not correlate with reality. They seem to be suffering from what mental health professionals would define as narcissism, excessive self-love and self-centeredness.
Twenge confirmed this suspicion in another study, in which she found that narcissism is on the rise in United States college students. According to the BBC, "one in four recent students responded to a questionnaire, the Narcissistic Personality Inventory, in a way which leaned towards narcissistic views of the self."
Narcissism in the College Classroom
This trend toward narcissism in college students is sometimes referred to as "academic entitlement." Today's students tend to expect to get high grades and special treatment without having to put in a lot of time and effort. This is not entirely a student's fault. It is likely a result of several factors, including over-inflating and over-engaged parental behaviors, a trend toward consumerism in higher education, and the self-indulgent nature of social media.
College instructors are noting this change in students' behavior. Lauren Purington, PhD, an Assistant Professor in Albany, N.Y., tells Yahoo! Shine, "Academic entitlement is embodied in simple things, like expecting that I will record and post online all lectures for viewing at their convenience, that lecture notes will be posted well in advance of the lecture period, that I am available at nearly all hours of the day or night for instantaneous response to email." In other words, the world revolves around students, and professors should bend over backwards to serve their needs.
A Challenge for the College Instructor
Perhaps this is a sign of the times. In a world where simply recording a video in one's living room can lead to international fame and celebrities respond to fans' 140-character thoughts, it's no surprise that individuals are finding themselves more worthy of special attention.
But does this mean that a student should be rewarded with an "A" simply for being bothered to hand in an assignment? Teachable moments may abound, that is, if college students don't take their precious business elsewhere instead of accepting the opportunity to learn.
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