Entitlement: The Fruit of the Plastic Trophy

“Thanks for Showing Up!”

Yesterday I received an interesting article from friend and SABR colleague Dr. Sam Quintero on “Student Entitlement” by Miami (O) University Sociology Professor Stephen Lippmann and others on the increasing face of entitlement in college students, how it disrupts the educational process, and the remedies that institutes of higher learning may take in trying to deal with the problem. Lippmann claims that students today have greater trouble recognizing the difference between mediocrity and excellence, but they still bring high expectations with them to college when it comes to grades. As the cost of college educations have soared, the student “demand” for high grades has increased on increasing levels toward their instructors. The “as if” explanation here seems to be that the American consumer mentality has encroached upon the sacred ground of universities. People want more for their money as a result of the higher school costs – and regardless of how well they ae doing as students.

Check it out for yourselves:


Maybe I’m oversimplifying the issue, but when you’ve spent a good part of your professional adult life dealing with the language and style of academics  who complicate things for all kinds of reasons that have little to do with actually solving real problems, the temptation is irresistible.

Here’s what I think:

(1) Mediocrity vs. Excellence: Not all young people today have the problem noted – and many students who  do know the difference also recognize that instructors and universities also do not always stay on top of how well they are doing on that same scale of self-evaluation. Getting your degrees and tenure for teaching anything today is not enough to assure this generation of students  that you have come to class prepared to give them your best. You are going to need to show them too.

(2) The High Cost of a College Education Today Has Awakened the Consumer Mentality: Of course, it has, as, indeed, it should have done. Universities are going to have to get used to the fact that the soaring cost of a college education degree today has awakened consumers to the eternal final question of the marketplace: “What am I getting for my money?” Among those who seek legitimate answers too, there will also always will be some (to many) who feel “entitled” to better grades as a result of the greater cost.

(3) Reeducating the Plastic Trophy Generation: Lippmann suggests a number of steps that boil down to making the expectations for an “A” grade clearer – and the differences between excellence and mediocrity, mediocrity and failure – easier to see and grasp. I’m all for that step, if schools can do it without turning a university-level course into just another test-taking challenge that has little to do with a real education.

We do have a large entitlement contingent out there among our young people – and why should we be surprised? We have spent the last fifty years handing out plastic trophies to every kid who showed up for any of the activities that our adult minds could conceive for the sake of helping our kids build self-esteem.

Who among us has completely escaped that trap as parents?

The plastic trophy did not build self-esteem. If anything, the failed good intentions of the plastic trophy world are the ostensible reasons why academics like Lippmann are writing today  about the need for making the difference between excellence and mediocrity gradiently clear.

In protecting our kids from disappointment for two generations, we have protected too many of our children from the great life lessons that not everyone is excellent  and that failure itself is a great teacher on so many levels.

College students should not be graduated with honors merely for paying their tuition and showing up for class.

Tags: ,

2 Responses to “Entitlement: The Fruit of the Plastic Trophy”

  1. Doug S. Says:

    Exactly why when both my sons played YMCA ball but I still kept score and told them whether their team won or lost that day. They quickly learned this as well and the everyone gets a ribbon crap didn’t tarnish them.

    I strongly feel that the no winners and no losers is a major problem in our society. Try the no winners and no losers approach in business or even more so in War and see what happens.

  2. Bill McCurdy Says:

    Zita Witte Maxwell Says Via E-Mail:

    “I agree there is a disturbing tendancy for the Mr. Roger’s generation to expect to get a trophy or ribbon for merely being. It does not help that the line between adult and child is constantly blurred by aging baby boomers asking to be addressed by their first names–by five year olds!!!

    Liked the article, Bill”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: