November 19, 2008

Culture of Whine (a rant)

Shirley at DE Curmudgeon has a terrific post which hit me at just the right moment today. I had just finished with what has to be the friggin’ WHINIEST class I’ve had in years. After spending some three days on a topic, I assigned a few pages from their workbook. First, about ten students didn’t even HAVE the workbook with them. This, despite me telling them the day before to bring it AND making a similar announcement over the school PA system this morning. Then the real “fun” started …

“I don’t get this.” (This question despite me asking numerous times over the last three days “Any questions?”) “We didn’t do this.” (Um, where WERE you the last three days?) “How are we supposed to know how to say this?” (By what we learned the last three days, perhaps? Have you looked at your notes?) “I don’t remember this.” (Maybe the fact that you kept talking to your neighbor that one day, and that you kept reading that pleasure novel the other day in class has something to do with it?)

My classes are supposed to be “honors” level. That’s right – “honors.” You might expect an “honors” level class to do their homework regularly, not get ridiculously irate by mildly difficult work, come prepared to class everyday, and get this – actually pay attention when there’s a lesson going on. This year, out of all my many years in the classroom, has demonstrated what a knee-slapper the term “honors” has become. Don’t get me wrong – there are still many students who rightfully deserve the label “honors.” But I feel bad for these students because they, like me, have to deal with the knuckleheads who shouldn’t be in their class.

Why are these kids in “honors” classes? One way to get in is to have mom or dad merely complain about it. You’ll get in an “honors” class, no problem. Grades? Test scores? Not a problem. The other reason there are kids who don’t belong in “honors” classes is because of what Shirley wrote – we don’t “want to hurt anyone’s feelings.” Y’see, those that aren’t in “honors” classes might feel … “left out.” “Stigmatized.” It’ll “hurt their self-esteem.” Then, there’s that tried and true belief (/sarcasm) that the real honors students might serve to “lift up” those who are not actual “honors” students in those “honors” classes. Yeah, uh-huh. In actuality, the typically worse behavior of non-“honors” students usually “rubs off” on the “honors” students.

Some “honors” students think they’re soooo smart that this somehow exempts them from actually doing any work. “I got As on my tests,” they’ll argue. “But,” I’ll retort, “you neglected to turn in those two papers, didn’t do that oral presentation, and you skipped five homework assignments.” In other words, “honors” means more than just smarts. It also means work ethic.

Perhaps this dilemma will get better next year. My field of endeavor, after all, has its ebbs and flows like anything else. (My group last year, for example, was one of -- if not the -- best group of kids I've ever had.) Perhaps. Just perhaps. But as a whole, I believe what Shirley noted is too rapidly becoming the norm. Kids want things easy. They want things to come to them easily. Effort? How come? If they don't do well, it couldn't possibly be THEIR fault, could it? "Why did you give me a 'D,' Mr. Hube?"

Yep, that's a classic line. The classic retort to which is "I didn't 'give' you anything. I merely wrote down what you 'earned.'"

Posted by Hube at November 19, 2008 06:18 PM | TrackBack

Comments  (We reserve the right to edit and/or delete any comments. If your comment is blocked or won't post, e-mail us and we'll post it for you.)

couldn't have said it any better HUbe. Well stated. Culture of whine/complaint/self esteem/non work ethic...and its from the ner do'well (sp) parents that they get it know, the same ones that are two busy to get kids on the right track by teaching them about hard work and consequences...its just get me what I want or I am not is your game and cell phone and who cares what they are doing as long as its not bothering me....Hate the 'honors' kids that don't deserve to be there...and right on, I feel so sorry for those true honors/academics who have to put up with the bs of these whiners!

Posted by: cardinals fan at November 19, 2008 08:16 PM

Those who work hard will always out perform those who are smart but lazy.

Posted by: Duffy at November 20, 2008 11:03 AM

Great post, Hube (and thanks for link to Shirley's). From schools these kids go on to jobs where, if accepted for a position, they think all they have to do is show up...maybe on time, maybe not; if they have nothing better to do; don't have a clue how to work and expect their employer to be babysitter (or teach them what they should already have learned with regards to manners, respect, work ethic and team-work. But hey, first question they ask on being hired is "When's pay-day?"...the one 'work'-day they never miss. Being an employer is bad enough...I wouldn't have your job, Hube, on a bet these days but kudos to you for persisting in your vocation.

Posted by: Nancy Cleveland at November 20, 2008 12:12 PM

Thanks for the kudos, Nance. Great commentary yourself, here, too!

Posted by: Hube at November 20, 2008 12:20 PM

I sincerely hope that you are free to grade these immature youngsters appropriately. I don't know how far standards have fallen.

In my time as a high school math educator (1985-1992), I had the pleasure of teaching three honors math courses. I remember there were only one or two students who were not capable of success in those classes. For the most part, however, those students were quite dedicated, in that day, to their education.

If a parent were to complain bitterly to one of the Vice-Principals of my school at that time because the son or daughter received a 'D' (or worse), well, the only thing that would have happened is that the Vice-Principal would have commiserated with the parent, and promised to look into it. Then, after sitting down with me, we two would have ended by smiling at each other and saying, "Well, the attitude of THAT parent certainly explains things."

Posted by: Mike Devx at November 28, 2008 05:09 PM