top of page
  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Teaching fragility: 1/5 of undergrads are 'disabled'

Colleges are disabling students, teaching them that they need not show up in class, complete assignments on time or give an oral presentation in class, writes Colleen Eren, who teaches sociology and criminal justice, on Discourse.


The definition of "disability" has broadened to the point of meaninglessness, she writes. No medical diagnosis is required if the student self-declares as suffering from anxiety, depression, learning disorders or attention-deficit disorders.


As a result, a growing number of students are seeking twice as much time on exams, "flexible" submission dates for assignments, permission to miss class and the opportunity to take oral exams in private or not at all.


"There was a 292 percent increase in students classified with disabilities at the top eight liberal arts colleges over the past 12 years," she writes. For example, 27 percent of Amherst students and 26 percent of Brown students get special treatment for disabilities.


For all the talk of "equity," the most privileged students are more than four times more likely to receive accommodations than students at community college, which tend to enroll the least privileged. Perhaps upper-middle-class Amherst students see disability as a way to acquire the virtue of victimhood. Or they just want more time on tests.


"In 2016 a remarkable one-fifth of the undergraduate population in the United States was determined by their college to have a disability, with learning disabilities, attention-deficit disorder and the psychological issues of anxiety and depression comprising the vast majority of these disabilities," Eren writes. And the numbers keep going up. There's a move to include "test anxiety," which surely includes almost everyone.


Young people who are anxious or easily distracted need to figure out how to cope with their challenges before they face the challenges of the workplace, writes Eren. "It is highly unlikely a manager will give them double the time to complete a task as they give others, and many careers require reading and executing tasks in expedient fashion."


Quite a few requiring speaking in public. Nearly all require showing up.


Lowering the bar will lower the value of a college degree, Eren predicts. Worse, "we will have saddled students with a belief in their frailty, in a workplace that will provide them with lowered expectations and severely damaged the resiliency they need to succeed in their post-academic lives."

10 Comments


Guest
Aug 11, 2023

The most devastating of the new-fangled accommodations that have become common in the last five years is "attendance leniency." We are often not talking here about students who suffer from chronic migraines or brittle diabetes issues, but ones with vague anxiety that miraculously resolves when it comes to their social lives. A big majority of the ones I have with this accommodation will miss 30-50% of the classes, a recipe for disaster.

Like

Guest
Jul 31, 2023

We have a college kid who has OCD. The lockdowns during covid did a number on him. Being isolated, and not even being allowed to go out in the world, made him spin for over a year in his compulsions. Today, we do wonder whether he will recover enough to be able to hold a job, but getting through college is the first step.


This generation was put through things no other generation has had to cope with. Limited access to school, isolation from friends and relationships, new experiences of their teenage years curtailed, etc. All of that, and then being convinced that going about a normal human life will kill someone's grandmother, took its toll.


These kids are more…

Like
Guest
Jul 31, 2023
Replying to

Certainly not like a teenager in 1918 were the "parlor" fell out of favor instead being called the "living room" because the parlor had held so many of the family dead from 1917-1920.

Like

Guest
Jul 31, 2023

Back around 2003, there was the phenomenon of embedded reporters meeting 20 y/o military members who were the same age as some of their children but were much more adult and responsible. One reporter describe it as "hard world" versus "soft world." College is now part of the softworld. Of course, universities have many ways to deal with their soft students such as firewalling the hard majors, creating business-lite easy majors, and being more loco parentis that in previous decades.

Like

Guest
Jul 30, 2023

I wonder if this is also a result of test optional admissions that give preference to kids who are wealthier - top schools expect students to learn and work faster. Test scores are a good proxy for the ability to deal with info quickly. These kids are wealthy and in over their head, so instead of getting sent home, they get declared disabled, which they are relative to the speed expected…

Like

Guest
Jul 30, 2023

What happened to the status university's selecting students to create the best class demographic for learning? This seems in opposition or at least a drag on the non-disabled students given the "group" dynamic of the "class selection" approach.


The best part of modern universities is the lack of intellectual or logical consistency in their operation.

Like
bottom of page