Is it fair to accuse all American students of being lazy?
Inside Higher Ed chronicles an interesting discussion sparked by Babson College faculty member, Kara Miller, about the nature of American students. Her claim, which she presented in the Boston Globe last month, was that American students are lazy, especially when compared to their international classmates.
Miller brings many examples to support her claim: American students are the ones likely to be texting under their desks, checking email, and generally giving off the appearance of being “tired and disengaged.” These American students are also more likely to be receiving Cs, Ds, and Fs than the international students in her classroom.
Many criticize Miller for her allegations. Some offer respectful rebuttals, like Dennis Hanno, dean of Babson’s undergraduate program, who argues that “real data derived from the performance of students at Babson and elsewhere…illustrate the folly of ascribing the term ‘lazy’ to any one category of students.”
Another contributor says that while American students may be lazy, they one-up their international competition by bringing creativity and independence to the classroom, something that international students lack.
Some offer less productive input: “Sounds like a typical egghead liberal professor who think[s] there’s a correlation between the classroom and the real world. Sorry, teach, but our American kids know that college is for boozing, drugs and hooking up. They’ll start working hard when it matters—the day they get their first job.”
The vast majority of readers, however, agreed with Miller’s assessment. One Boston area professor supports Miller and says:
Based on my decades of college teaching experience [Miller] is exactly right. What she leaves out is that we are dealing with a generation of students that have been left behind by No Child Left Behind, supervised by ‘Helicopter Parents.’ Students now feel entitled to high grades despite little work and want their hands held on every assignment.
Another professor weighs in on the American-International comparison and adds, “The biggest difference I noticed with domestic and international students was the ability to handle criticism. Domestic students tended to be very defensive when pointing out what can be improved.”
Another supports this by saying, “Many of the U.S. students expect to be given A’s for inhaling and exhaling, and look at you like you have four heads if you suggest that perhaps coming to class, doing homework, and studying might improve their grade.”
Whether Miller’s accusations are true or not will always be up for debate. But American Babson student Lauren Garey raises one final point about Miller’s Babson experience:
Miller’s spring teaching schedule comprises of [sic] three introductory liberal arts courses at a business-specific college. Therefore, although I do not dispute her individual class results, I believe that a larger, better-rounded perspective needs to be analyzed in order to prove the validity of the assertions made regarding American students.
Garey is right—maybe it’s not right to judge an entire population based on one teacher’s experience of three introductory courses.
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