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.