'It doesn't matter if you win or lose - it's how you play the game." If you played Little League or soccer growing up, you probably heard that all the time. The idea that "everyone was a winner" didn't seem silly. If the losing team of the league didn't get some kind of prize for trying, those poor kids might be sad. In a lot of ways, we were conditioned to expect success if we put in some effort.
Fast forward 10 or 12 years, and here we are at Penn. We came here expecting the same high grades we received in high school. And while a few tough curves may have taken us down a notch, we still tend to view C's as below average.
And Penn kids aren't alone in these high expectations. The New York Times' recent article, "Student Expectations Seen as Causing Grade Disputes," discusses how college students assume that if they work sufficiently hard, they deserve at the very least a B, and in many cases an A. In light of the recession, these concerns are even more pertinent - if we can't deal with a B, how will we cope with the job market? H. Terry Fortune, a physics professor who has been here since 1969, has seen a definite change in students' attitudes over the years.
"Today's students are much more interested in good grades, but much less willing to do the necessary work," he wrote in an e-mail. "In the freshman Engineering courses, students' main goal seems to be to do the least work possible."
Some of us need to realize that those Little League days are over. We all can't be winners; those who have a knack for the material beat the curve, and those who don't get C's, which is not the end of the world. Realistically, a C is average - not bad, just average. The problem is that most of us went through high school with the idea, reinforced often by parents and peers, that average is unacceptable.
Wall Street Journal contributor Ron Alsop recently wrote a book titled The Trophy Kids Grow Up: How the Millennial Generation Is Shaking Up the Workplace. He discusses how our pampered upbringing and high expectations for attention and reassurance will force employers to adapt to our over-indulged generation.
But entrepreneur Garrison Wynn points out in a Houston Business Journal article that these concerns are not new. Parents in the 1920s, he writes, worried about their daughters wearing short skirts and their sons moving off the farms to live in the city, thinking, "What will become of these spoiled, overconfident, overspending kids under 30 who lack the work ethic they need to survive in the future?" No doubt our grandparents worried about our free-loving, drug-using parents back in the day in just the same way. Even though Alsop may have reason to worry about the difficulties of managing such spoiled young employees, it seems to me that these concerns are overshadowed by our country's economic situation - a recession with no end in sight. During the Goldstone Forum last Wednesday, economist Paul Krugman repeatedly emphasized that this is not our fathers' recession; it's our grandfathers' and great-grandfathers' recession, with many more similarities to the Great Depression than anything the Baby Boomers experienced.
As such, perhaps this current crisis is out of our fathers' league. While older generations may think we're hopelessly spoiled, our generation is full of high achievers. We're master multitaskers, incredibly tech savvy, and hold very high standards for ourselves.
And we're already beginning to adjust to the new job market. Career Services' senior associate director for Wharton undergraduates, Barbara Hewitt said she's already seen a shift in students' attitudes this past year in light of the recession.
"This year students are happy to have a job - they're being realistic," she said. "They may be disappointed, but they're willing to be flexible."
So yes - maybe we do feel entitled to good grades. But when we have to, we put in the work. Sure, maybe some of us won't be able to cope with the harsh realities of a long-lasting recession, but most of us will. We'll buckle down and come out the other side better for it, just like every generation before us has.
Katherine Rea is a College sophomore from Saratoga, Calif. Rea-lity Check appears on alternating Fridays. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.Comments powered by Disqus
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