Monday, May 21, 2012
By Barry Rubin
Janice Fiamengo’s brilliant article, “The Unteachables: A Generation that Cannot Learn,” fits my past experience teaching at American universities. But I realized that her account applied perfectly to…something else.
Fiamengo writes that students are upset when teachers get tough on grading, “Offended pride and sulkiness replace the careless cheer of former days.”
They don’t get it when the professor points out the shortcomings in their papers . “But my work has always been praised before! Your criticisms are exaggerated!” And they may boast: “The general idea was good, wasn’t it? I’m better at the big ideas. On the details, well…”
And then if you don’t give in they become belligerent. As Fiamengo puts it:
“Their tendency is,…not to confront the problem directly but to hit back at its perceived source.…These students experience a range of negative reactions, including anger, anxiety, and depression.”
They are incapable of learning because they are can't deal constructively with criticism orr learn from failure.
Now does this sound familiar? It sounds exactly like President Barack Obama. So I wondered. Suppose I was Obama’s professor in a class called, “Being President 1” and I gave him an “F.” If he fails to improve his grade he won’t be allowed to continue for next term. Here’s how such a meeting might play out:
Me: Barack, I’m happy to discuss the grade on your paper, `How to Fundamentally Transform America and Make It Fair' with you but I hope you listen carefully and learn how to improve."
Obama: There must be some mistake! I’ve always gotten an A+ from the media. I was admitted to Harvard! I was editor of the law review! And in 2008 I won the presidency and then the Nobel Peace Prize! I'm the smartest man in the world! The mass media--which can't find any occasion where I was everr wrong--and millions of people can't stop raving about how wonderful I am!