A friend of mine is in her first year of teaching English at a liberal arts college. She is only one year removed from finishing her doctorate, and there is very little age gap between her and her students. I asked her how her first year is going, and what one thing about her classes has surprised her the most. She replied that she is taken aback by the sense of entitlement that most college students have – this notion that the teacher, the school, and society in general should be giving them their kudos and guaranteeing their success.
The same day that we had this conversation, I attended a meeting of my college alumni board. We heard a presentation from our Director of Admissions, and he discussed the challenges that the college faced in communicating with today’s prospective college students. Prominent on the list of challenges in his powerpoint: students’ sense of entitlement.
What have we wrought? I am part of the boomer generation that has raised these kids. It makes me wonder whether we have been overly-generous with our children while they lived under our umbrella.
These issues came to mind again when I read an excerpt from Wendell Berry’s collection of essays, The Way of Ignorance. Berry writes of our desire for more and more stuff:
"[we] seem to be living now with the single expectation that there should and will always be more of everything, including 'life expectancy.' This insatiable desire for more is the result of an overwhelming sense of incompleteness, which is the result of the insatiable desire for more. This is the wheel of death.”
Somehow, many of us believe we need more and more things. Worse, we think we deserve them. But we still end up cleaning out our parents’ homes when they move on – whether to a smaller living quarters or to the final calling – and most of this stuff ends up on a dumpster.
Our memories, our relationships, are much stronger than all our physical possessions. We should teach our children before we need our own dumpsters.