I’ve been reading a lot about entitlement this days because, as a college teacher, many of my students are part of what has been dubbed the Millennial Generation, a group of people for whom entitlement seems to be the operating principal, at least according to some.

And this attitude makes me crazy in my students. They walk into class and tell me they need an ‘A’, and when I suggest that such a grade must be earned, they roll their eyes and walk away like I’m an idiot and have no idea how things “really” work. Or, like yesterday, they stroll into class, spend the most of the class surfing the internet, and then when it comes time to work on the paper drafts they’ve brought, 14 of them don’t have anything. When I tell them that they’ve made a bad choice because now they’ll be counted absent for today and receive a grade deduction, they roll their eyes and walk away like I’m an idiot and have no idea how things “really” work. Are we sensing a theme here?

I’m not much older than this generation, which is defined as people who were born between 1977 and 1995. I was born in 1974, but I did not think of my education as something I was entitled to. Instead, I thought of it – still do – as a privilege and something I had to earn. I would never challenge an assignment, ask for more extra credit, or just blow off work, not because I was a perfect student (far from it) but because it would never have occurred to me. The one time I got a bit haughty about courses, my professor pulled me aside, told me that I was being disrespectful of his course, and I nearly cried. (I’m still sorry about my attitude, Dr. Hess).

The truth of the matter is that I’m really struggling with how to teach these folks. My father has always told me that you can’t motivate people, and I certainly agree. But I do need to know how to get them to try.

I have many, many good, respectful students who really work hard to learn and take control of their education. I’m blessed with that.

But sometimes, when students tell me that they “deserve” to get a grade simply because they came or because they paid tuition, or whatever they say, I want to tell them what they really deserve – to be escorted out of the classroom because they do not know how to value an education. I wish that were possible.

If you have any suggestions, please, please share.