Sunday, September 18, 2011

The college students are all right

“Inside the entitlement generation,” blares the headline on Margaret Wente’s column in The Globe and Mail.

It’s an old song: Post-secondary students think they know it all. They are lazy and dumb because they have never had to work for anything.

The sky is falling!

Wente bases her familiar complaint on comments by Ken C. Coates, co-author with Bill Morrison of Campus Confidential: 100 Startling Things You Didn’t Know About Canadian Universities. Coates is a history professor at the University of Waterloo.

Full disclosure: I have not read the book.

I have, though, listened to an interview with Coates on the University of Waterloo website. Employers complain that university grads are “overly coddled and protected,” he says.

The problem is that “Our students are trained to do what they want to do, not what they have to do.”

I often hear similar complaints about other post-secondary institutions: Students want high grades but won’t show up for class. They demand the right to hand in assignment when they feel like it rather that at the deadline.

But nil desperandum.

It certainly ain’t so in the Creative Communications program at Red River College, where I teach journalism.

Students must show up on time for every class. They must turn in assignments on time, not a minute late, or receive a failing grade. They must spell all names right or receive a failing grade.

Those are the standards that employers demand that instructors uphold. We agree with them, and students do, too.

Then, because they meet those and many other standards, in two years they are entitled to serious consideration for a decent job.

That’s real entitlement.