There’s no “I” in “team,” but there sure as hell is one in “quit.”

Perhaps it’s this group of students or this college or
something in the water out here, but I’ve noticed a goodly amount of quitters
on my campus. The only time people around here get jacked up against quitting
is when my editorial staff feels put upon during the “Great American Smoke
Out.” Other than that, quitting has become the norm.

Last week, my 8 a.m. class looked like a ghost town. Of the
15 kids signed up, I had about 10. I got one email from a sick kid, but that
was it. Later that day, I got an email from a kid who decided to drop my class
because work was “building up” on him. To this point in the class, we hadn’t
done a single out-of-class assignment of any decent length.

I suppose that was better than the kid who works with me at
the student newspaper, who ditched three classes and when I ran into her in the
newsroom, it had all the feeling of running into an ex at the Laundromat. She
said she felt bad, but that quitting the class was what she needed to do
because she didn’t know what kinds of work would be required of the class and
that she didn’t want to bog down later in the term. Never mind that the entire
course was outlined class by class in her syllabus and that had she stopped by
office hours, we could have chatted about this before she dropped.

Kids seem to be floating in and out of my life like confetti,
for some reason, and I’m sick of it.

I remember reading this article once a long time ago about
how quitting wasn’t what we as Americans do. The examples they cited, however,
were of the older generation: The Walter Mondales, the Bob Doles and so forth.
These were people who probably also darned socks, reused paper cups and kept
the heat at 60 degrees in the winter to save money. You fixed things back then.
You dealt with things back then. You toughed stuff out back then.

I’m not pining for the old days or getting ready to yell at
some kids to get off my lawn, but I am perturbed. These are the kids who can
get screamy confrontational on a blog or a message board but when it comes to
facing up to a faculty member and saying, “I’m dropping your class” it’s like
Kryptonite to Superman.

When I went to college, we had to get drop slips signed by
the professor in the class. When I thought about dropping a broadcast class, I
ended up face to face with the faculty member who told me, “You’re a lot
tougher than you think. You can make it through this.” I thought twice about
it, ripped up the card and finished the class. It was a huge pain in the ass,
but I was tougher than I thought and I did get a lot out of the class. Wow, an
adult was right… Damn…

It’s obviously their right to do as they see fit, but I
wonder if we’re raising a generation of quitters who are far too easily
dissuaded from pushing through the tough spots. I’m also wondering what that
will mean to the rest of us as we continue to face the tough times ahead.

9 thoughts on “There’s no “I” in “team,” but there sure as hell is one in “quit.”

  1. Honestly, I don’t think we have a generation of quitters. I know kids that blow the doors off the place, that are hungry for more and more and more work, more and more challenges. The problem is that’s not all kids. And when your sample pool is all kids, some of them will suck. And the suck is easier to see.
    In my experience it’s the adults who have been much quicker to abandon ship at the first sign of trouble, say there’s nothing that can be done, cave to the inevitable, and then make up little stories in their heads about why they’re not the people they wanted to be when they were young.
    But this is me saying this, I’m kind of famous for jumping off the building and saying “it’s not bad so far” every floor down. Which is another flavor of dysfunction. There’s nothing particularly virtuous about suffering for its own sake, Catholicism notwithstanding. 🙂

  2. Speaking as someone who used to teach college, I prefer the quitters to the ones who don’t come to class, don’t do the assignments on time, and then whine about how they’re overloaded from all their other classes and can I pleeeeease give them an extension because they’ve got things due in five of their other classes that week. This, in a class where every assignment gets at least one hour of in-class time to work on it.
    I prefer the quitters to the ones who want to game the system like that. The quitters are much more honest; the extension-whiners are just looking to scam you. I prefer the extension-whiners to the ones who think that every shitty paper they turn in should get an A, and will whine at me for 20 minutes about it. Frankly, in my courses, I gave enough As to keep the curve, but all those As were basically relative; I saw maybethree papers the whole time I thoughtactually deserved As. Departmental grading regulations can, like students who whine, also DIAF.
    In other words, I’d prefer people who honestly figured out they couldn’t handle something to get out of the way and maybe try again later after they get their crap together to the ones whocan’t actually handle it and make it your problem.

  3. Oh, come on, Doc. Keep this up, and you’ll get a rocking chair and a broom on the porch of the First Draft mansion (coming in 3382 AD).
    These kids aren’t any worse than those of any generation. People are just people. Always have been, always will be. They’re capable of wonderful and horrible things, and that’s just that.
    Some people are driven to push through tough spots, some will only when it’s necessary, some won’t, and some can’t. And people can find themselves in each of those categories at different times and with different challenges. I’ve seen grown men who were tough as nails curl up into scared little balls at times, and I’ve seen timid people step up like they were Teddy Motherfucking Roosevelt. And you never know when those flashes of fortitude (or the lack thereof) are going to happen.
    We’re people; like The Dude, we abide. For a little while. Enjoy your while. It’s all you’ve got.

  4. Here’s another way to look at it, Doc. In my experience, when a student disappears and doesn’t tell you anything, whatever the reason for the quitting is, often the reason for the not telling you is that they didn’t want to disappoint you.
    I generally try to follow up with the disappearances (mainly because I’m dealing with such small classes, most of the time I have to beg to get my classes to make). I’d say three out of five times, when I ask why they didn’t just drop me an e-mail to explain what was going on, they say because they felt like they were letting me down.
    And as a former dropout, I can say that was definitely true in my case, too. So as strange as it sounds, maybe you ought to take it as a compliment.

  5. Kids have to be enrolled full time to be on parent’s insurance. Without available jobs, that might be the only reason they are enrolled at all. They might decided your class isn’t relevant to what they want to major in so it doesn’t matter, especially if it’s general ed and they just don’t want to do that much work. The focus is on the classes they need, not yours because you’re teaching it. Look at it from their point of view, huh?

  6. Jude- Can I get a shotgun and a whittlin’ knife instead for my porch rocker?
    Donna- The sad thing is that the kids who dropped were in the MAJOR and this was the LAST CLASS for it. It was a class they needed and one we only offered once every three semesters. If I’m trying to look at it from any point of view, it’s not a financially, educationally or logically sound move. Sorry.
    Interrobang- Yeah, I don’t like the whiners either, but I prefer people who like to work the problem best of all. I’ve never failed a kid who actually tried. The only ones I failed (and that’s a substantial and growing number of kids) are the ones who just didn’t do the work.
    Just a damned depressing week because one of the kids who quit was the kid who kept telling me how lousy he was at this and I kept telling him that it’s been years since someone’s writing kept me engaged as well as his did. The kids in his peer edit group actually were trying to start a class petition to ask him to come back. Says something…

  7. Oh, Doc. That’s heartbreaking. Makes you wonder where the sub-basement self-esteem came from…

  8. Or what’s going on outside that class making him think he needs to do something else instead (like sling burgers to pay his rent, maybe?) of that class.
    Yeah, it sucks to be a college student and broke all the time..

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