I first heard the term “entitlement nation” somewhere between 2005 and 2008. I can picture some article hanging on the wall somewhere at work. Or maybe it was the back page of a magazine at work. In any case, entitlement was about–so I thought–the general public wanting something for nothing. As in, people wanting money for not working, people wanting healthcare without paying for it, people wanting to retire without saving for it. Little did I know how wrong I was. Perhaps it is more accurate to say little did I know how small a part of entitlement those big social programs were.
Want to know what entitlement is? Entitlement is driving too close to a semi-truck that kicks up a rock that chips your windshield and believing the semi-truck should pay for the damage. Entitlement is believing that you should only have to stand in line a certain amount of time at a store. Entitlement is believing that your food should come out in a timely manner at a precise temperature, and if it doesn’t, the restaurant should pay for the meal.
Learning is defined as a change in behavior based on experience. Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results.
By the time a person is old enough to drive he has heard stories of large trucks kicking up rocks which can chip windshields. Learning has not occurred when a person drives too close to a large truck. Learning has occurred when a 16-year old gives a large truck enough space for some other moron to drive too close to it.
By the time a person is old enough to be in a line at a store by himself he has to have seen the correlation between number of items and people and the length of the wait. Learning has not occurred when this person freaks out or allows his emotional state to change because he just can’t believe he has to wait so long. Learning has occurred when an impatient person stops shopping during the busiest time of the day.
By the time a person is old enough to be at a restaurant and pay their own way he has to have seen the occasional slip up by the staff. Learning has not occurred when this person demands their food be free and throws a temper-tantrum. Learning has occurred when this person pays their bill and never returns to the restaurant *or* returns but has lengthened the expected wait time and lowered the expected temperature of the food.
Learning is changing. Insanity is sameness. Entitlement is sameness. Entitlement is insanity.
Quit being insane people.
The students took their standardized test. Everyone waited to see if they had learned anything over the last quarter of school.
When asked why a student’s performance decreased tremendously, the student replied hopefully, “Does that mean I’m out of your class?”
When told that she scored higher than her end-of-year growth goal on this the second assessment, the student says smiling sheepishly, “Oh. That’s because I didn’t really try on the first one.”
Weirder still is that if an observer wasn’t told the students were the lowest performing in the entire country, the observer would never have guessed it. Most students had no clue what the test scores were “out of”, yet they proceeded to celebrate and congratulate each other in precisely the same manner as the highest performing students do upon receiving grades.
What really takes the cake, however, was the “lead” teacher’s reaction to the generally positive test results. In an email to the principal she asked:
“Do we have money we could spend as rewards for the students who are proficient or who have growth on the assessment? How about $5 in “school cash” toward a school colors shirt/hoodie?”
Yep. Kids who hate the–admittedly ridiculous and difficult to enforce–dress code (only really concerned with preventing the kids from wearing gang colors) that leads them to choose to just wear school t-shirts and hoodies; kids whose parents have failed to create in them any appreciable amount of dignity or self-respect from which they could base an internal motivation to succeed at anything academic; these kids are going to be happy to have earned a ratty t-shirt.
One day and a wake up left. Pray for me.
The principal responded “yes” by the way.
“It is simply a matter of time. Quantity over quality,” he told his boss, the principal, as he resigned. He had never been so torn in his entire life.
How does one give up on a child?
He felt like crying.
The first step in solving any problem, he knew, was identifying it. The school district wanted high performance on standardized tests. The start of his resignation began when, as an outsider looking in, he surmised that the powers that be thought there was a direct correlation between the amount of paper on classroom walls and high performance on standardized tests. Finding himself in vehement disagreement, he wouldn’t support this doctrine. Remembering, or rather, not remembering there being much paper, certainly not much memorable paper on the walls of his childhood classrooms–save an attempt to show Pi’s irrational nature and a few motivational quotes–he couldn’t help but laugh at the sick joke.
In dealing with 13 year old’s who didn’t know their times table (and didn’t care to learn it), he recollected something he learned in college. He recalled learning that the notion of a juvenile, that is a 13-18 year old human, is man made. The theory goes something like, “until relatively recently puberty marked the coming-of-age of a human.” Puberty marked the entrance to manhood. It marked the entrance to womanhood. In at least Western civilization, however, we have something in between childhood and adulthood. We have the juvenile. For the deserving, this truly is a privilege. The deserving, those 13-18 year old’s who possess an ability to appreciate this extended grace period, should reap a benefit from past generations diligence. But the undeserving? What should happen to them? No matter whose fault it was, the undeserving should be placed where they’ll be placed in a few years anyhow–the adult world. “Don’t want to learn? Work. Find the simple joy of labor. Or, regret with a vengeance the stupid decision to not want to know how to think for yourself.” Either way, they’d be better for it.
Alas, frustratingly, even if he identified the problem as a misunderstanding of human biology, he only opened the door to another problem. What could have been done to teach 13 year old’s to value a readily available, free, and rigorous education? The answer? A home where education is valued. A better home school.
In his short tenure at the school he refused to call any of his student’s parents–for their protection. He wasn’t trying to protect the students, but the parents. He knew once the conversation began he wouldn’t be able to stop. “How could you raise your children with such carelessness? How could you not read to your children? How could you not ask about school and homework? How could you not demand the highest standards of behavior and performance? How could you reward their poor behavior with enabling feigned as ignorance?”
His own achievements convinced him of the simple truth that no expectation was too high. His own achievements began with the fear of earning a mother’s scorn. No way would she, or his father, have let his school advance him to 4th grade without doing his best in 3rd grade–and having the grades to show for it. His student’s parents though? Ha. They weren’t human beings. They were jokes.
How does one give up on a child? Most adults avoid situations which might result in needing to answer that question. He finally saw why. The answer was simultaneously unthinkable and the right thing to do. He cried.