• Michael Huskey

Is School the Hidden Cause of Millennials’ Entitlement Problem?

How an unsuspecting source, could be the key to understanding a national entitlement problem

Photo by Gift Habeshaw on Unsplash

“This generation is so entitled!”

Is this something you have thought when you have been working with one of those darn Millennials or Gen Zers?

If you are someone who thinks that, I understand. I am right on the edge of being a Millennial and a Gen Zer, and I know the frustration. We are an entitled generation. Sorry to all my peers who don’t think so, but we are. But I am not here to say who’s right or whose wrong or to point fingers.

Instead, I am here to try and highlight how we got here in the first place and what current and future parents can do to try and make sure this sense of entitlement doesn’t embed itself in the next generation.

The Pedestal of College

In our society, the metric of parenting success is based on your son or daughter going to college. If your child does not go to college, it is either because you were either a bad parent or your child was an underachiever.

No parent wants to be viewed as a lousy parent, and no parent wants their child to be considered an underachiever. Being faced with three outcomes, two of which reflecting poorly on your family, what did parents do? They went to the schools and demanded that the school make them look good.

Parent Intervention in Education

If you are a teacher I am sure you will be able to relate. Jimmy is Pre-Calc, and he is not very good at it. He is horrible. He has no grasp on the topics and memorizes knowledge before the test, and this has gotten him a B in the course. He deserves a C or D, but because of his mastery in memorization, he has a B.

Jimmy’s parents need him to get accepted into their alma mater. To get accepted, their son needs to have straight A’s. Instead of accepting that Jimmy is not as smart as they’d like to believe, they write an email to the teacher asking what it will take for Jimmy to get an A.

After a little back and forth, the parents conclude that this teacher is not good and that this “bad” teacher is not going to be the reason Jimmy does not get straight A’s and get into their alma mater.

They elevate the issue to the administration and the administration wanting to maintain its status of getting its students into top universities, nudges this teacher to give Jimmy an A. The teacher trying not to be corrupt decides to offer extra credit to the entire class.

Jimmy's parents are not the first encounter for this teacher. So, now moving forward, the teacher has adjusted the classes' material to cover the test questions and to give out study guides that are essentially the exam.

Now, this teacher becomes very well regarded as a great teacher because all of his students get A’s while, in actuality, his students are experts at repeating tasks, not applying knowledge.

How this has contributed to an entitled generation

I know teachers are reading this and saying, “Yep, that is exactly what is happening.”

This situation I just described is a hidden contributing factor to a generation of entitlement. Our education system, because of this, has become a series of checkboxes. We are not testing students based on their ability to apply concepts, instead of their ability to memorize and repeat tasks.

Entitlement, at its core, is the belief that because you did X, you deserve to get Y.

An education system that rewards memorization and repetition is going to create this kind of thought process in its students. Hence the entitlement.

How we can stop this from continuing

We need to start setting new goals for our youth and education system. Diploma collecting cannot be the end goal for our children. We need something more tangible.

My Goal for the Education System

I think our goal as parents and an education system should be to pass on general knowledge as well as a thirst for learning needed to create responsible and financially independent adults in an ever-changing and evolving job market. There are other by-products, but at its most baseline level, I think this is a worthwhile objective.

This objective allows educators to recommend alternative career paths other than a 4-year degree and not have their credibility as a teacher come into question. It also frees us as parents to not put undue pressure on our kids.

The takeaway

If you are a parent who related way too much to the parents I outlined in my story, don’t beat yourself up. Use this time during quarantine to talk to your kid. Talk about their goals and interests and what they hope to get out of their education. It might not be the most rewarding conversation at first, but if you keep revisiting it, I bet the responses will get better.

If you are an educator, I hope I accurately captured your situation, and I am beyond thrilled if you decide to use this article as a way to start the conversation in your social circles.

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