My students seem to think that ignorance and incapacity are immanent characteristics like height, eye color, or the shape of one’s ears and have to be accepted by everybody with no criticism or comment.
Time and again this semester I have tried to guide them towards improving their performance only to hear an indifferent, “Well, I’m just not good at spelling,” “I’m not good at interpreting poetry,” “I’m not good at remembering instructions,” “I’m not good at writing essays.”
They seem to believe that once they said this phrase, all further discussion of their performance should immediately stop. Capacity and incapacity are God-given qualities that a mere mortal can in no way modify.
I tried suggesting that the purpose of a college education is precisely to enrich one’s set of skills and store of knowledge but I’m not getting through. Students seem convinced that college exists so that they can come here, display the skills they already have, receive praise, and move on to another sphere of life. There, they will exhibit the same skills they had before coming to college, receive praise, etc. Existence is not about learning and improving but, rather, about exhibiting your pre-fabricated and unchanging uniqueness to as many people as possible in order to get the greatest number of accolades.
The concept of a self-made American has been substituted by the idea of a God-given one.