In A Tough-Love Manifesto for Professors in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Thomas H. Benton, an English professor, argues that professors are setting low expectations, enabling “a student culture of self-indulgence.”
At many institutions, courses have been gutted to the point that students receive high grades for minimal effort, and the lowest grade many professors can risk assigning is a “B+.” Even that will produce imperious complaints from students who think they are destined for greatness: “I worked really hard. Your class is not fair. Raise my grade or I’m taking it to the provost. Just wait till you get your evaluation!”
The consumer mentality of students results in their desiring less rigorous instruction because they are paying more for it. They use the cost of tuition — which, I acknowledge, is far too high — as a justification for lowering standards. So they will pay again later when they discover that their degrees are a form of inflated currency and that employers will not treat them like little geniuses but expect them to actually work without complaining. Even if one accepts the instrumentalist view of education, we do our students no favors by letting them leave with so little knowledge and so much attitude.
Counting teaching assistants and adjuncts, “it’s probably safe to say that more than two-thirds of college teaching is now done by people who are routinely punished for maintaining standards. The professional survival of untenured faculty members depends on processing large numbers of students without making waves.”
Benton has just received tenure so he can practice tough-love teachng without fear of poor evaluations affecting his career. I notice he’s still writing under a pseudonym, however,