This is so weird.
The Chronicle of Higher Education has a new opinion piece out today in which an adjunct professor named Elayne Clift describes a class that went completely off the rails. Apparently the first session was a disaster (although Clift refuses to say what happened), and she was never able to get things back on track. In twenty years of teaching, she says, she had “never … seen such extraordinarily bad behavior in [her] students.” Even some of their classmates agreed: “I’ve never seen such disrespect for a teacher,” she quotes one of them as saying.
I get this. Sometimes you wind up wrong-footed early in the term, and things just … deteriorate. Whether it’s because a relationship with a vocal student has turned adversarial, because you’ve failed to articulate your expectations clearly, or just because you can’t quite manage to dispel an odd mood, it’s surprisingly easy to discover, a month or two in, that a class has gone weird on you.
But that dynamic isn’t what this prof wants to talk about. Executing a sharp rhetorical pivot in her fifth paragraph, Clift emerges in the sixth with this:
“The sad thing is, I’m not alone. Every college teacher I know is bemoaning the same kind of thing. Whether it’s rude behavior, lack of intellectual rigor, or both, we are all struggling with the same frightening decline in student performance and academic standards at institutions of higher learning. A sense of entitlement now pervades the academy, excellence be damned.”
Wait, what? You just said that the students’ behavior in this class shocked both you and their own peers. You just said — twice — that this group’s behavior was utterly outside your experience. This class was three semesters ago. How can it reflect a universal trend already?
The rest of the piece is standard-issue student-bashing boilerplate. Students suck these days, she says. They’re lazy and entitled. They’ve got cellphones. They cheat.
But the kicker for me is that her biggest academic complaint about this new generation — and I swear this is a direct quote — is their fondness for “unsubstantiated generalizations, hyperbolic assumptions, [and] ungrounded polemics.”
Yeah. I hate that stuff too.