Student Attitudes: Have they really changed?In my ten years of teaching, I've seen what appears to be a serious change in attitude. Students don't often seem to want to learn like they used to....

Student Attitudes: Have they really changed?

In my ten years of teaching, I've seen what appears to be a serious change in attitude. Students don't often seem to want to learn like they used to. When I first started teaching, I'd have one or two students who resisted compliance with normal rules, but for the most part, students would eventually do what was required. This is not true anymore. Very few students seem to follow rules unless they know an adult is around who will enforce it (and they won't follow the rules unless that adult actually does enforce it!). Many students are outright rude to ANY adult who speaks to them and are defiant if their own teachers try to address them. I've been in an inner city school, a suburban school, a specialty school, and an alternative school, so it's not just that I've taught in rough schools. Are you seeing these changes in your schools? Or, if you've been teaching a long time, do you think it has always been true of kids?


Expert Answers
lfawley eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think, too, that we have bred an attitude of entitlement - education has become a right, not something that they feel should be earned. This has come directly from changing attitudes within our society. Additionally, the bar has been lowered. As we continue to drop standards, we also drop expectations. No child left behind has turned into make sure they all pass whether they learn anything or not and be sure you don't hurt their feelings in the process. If we raise our standards and our expectations, then we will start to see students rising to meet the new levels. However, it must be an across the board change if it is going to have any impact. If one teacher sets rules and sets a high standard but the other teachers do not, then the teacher who raises the bar is seen as unfair, discriminatory, or "just plain mean." I think home life is a factor, as is access to technology (which, while it has given us many great advances, has changed so rapidly in the past several decades that we have not yet developed the means to keep up with it), but the main factor is that students don;t place any value on education. They see a world in which they feel as though they will be given what they need/want because they have a right to have it, not because they have the ability to work for it!


I do not teach at the elementary or high school level, but the sad thing is that I see this at the college level all the time. They come to class (if they bother to come at all) with the attitude that they have a right to be there and that teachers are there to serve them. I had one the other day cursing me out in the hallway stating: "Just because you have all these (insert colorful expletive here) doesn't make you any better than me. You don't get to tell me what grade I get. You don't determine my grade." To which I calmly replied: "No, I don;t determine your grade. You do. By the quality of your work, the timeliness of your work, and the attention you give learning." He didn't;t really have an answer. This all began because he felt that he should still be graded for a paper that was three weeks late (in spite of my policies to the contrary) because "teachers always accept late work" - Well, not THIS teacher!

lynn30k eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I know what you mean. The good students are still good students, and that is a credit to the way they were raised. Others, however, have this weird sense of entitlement. Somehow the message of "encourage self-esteen" was twisted into some students feeling that the world owes them things. It is very frustrating for those of us who know very well that it doesn't, and that when they leave high school they will be completely unprepared for life. It is then doubly frustrating to hear that these kids flunking courses is the teachers' fault...that somehow a kid who never does homework, sleeps in class, and doesn't study for tests reflects on us, despite our efforts to get them, daily, to do these things! At our school, we confiscate cell phones when kids use them. You know who is texting them, half the time? A parent! Even though it is made abundantly clear that it is against school policy, the *parents* think they have things that are just so important that it can't wait till 3 PM. We have procedures to get emergency messages to kids.

Anyway, it is about time that parents realize they have to instill a sense of personal responsibility in their children.

brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It's a combination of factors.  I have witnessed the same thing in my 17 years in the classroom, but I think it's a combination of factors.  Some things to think about:

1)  Kids are much more plugged in and distracted today - cell phones, MySpace, texting, etc.  They have trouble focusing.

2)  They are more visual, and teaching methods are slow to change to accomodate this.

3)  Cheating has become vastly easier thanks to the internet, so the stigma has been removed, and they tend not to work as hard as students I had in the 1990's.

4)  Schools have become more testing/results based, and this has removed a lot of creativity and enjoyable learning from the classroom, and replaced some fun electives which give students buy-in and replaced them with remedial math and English classes.  We see a corresponding lack of motivation, and a different concept of the purpose of school.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Posts #4 and #5 are striking bullseyes!  Indeed, there was a marked difference in students' attitudes about the school environment after the wave of "boosting self-esteem" and, then, the lack of proper parenting.  Parents who are really parents in the "old school way" have themselves commented that the fault of everything with children is the parents themselves who do not instill respect and a love of learning in their children.

Another villain is technology; for, so many junior high and high school and college students now feel that they do not need to know much since the internet will provide the answers.  After all, they are far too busy with their social lives which take precedence over "old-fashioned" memorizing and reading. 

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think way too many parents have adopted the attitude of allowing their children the independence to make far more decisions than in past years. So, if a child decides to be rude or break rules (or the law) or stop doing schoolwork, it's OK because it's their choice. Such ideas reflect stupid parenting on the most part. Some kids accept these responsibilities on their own when given the choice, but other kids can't see the big picture--just like many parents. I've talked to too many parents who say that they won't be like their own parents--strict and forceful--and therefore they won't put restricitions on their own children for fear of alienating them. More bad parenting strategies, IMO.

dunnde eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Personally, I think society has changed. I have had many parents tell their children: "If your teacher tells you that you can't use the bathroom, just get up and leave!" FOr some reason, they don't think normal restroom times should restrict their child's travels.

Another parent, during a conference, told her daughter that it was NOT okay for her to ignore anyone teasing her. If she didn't punch the kid in the face, she'd get beat when she got home! (I'm not kidding!) The mom said it was important for her daughter to stand up for herself or she'd be the victom all her life!               What are we doing to our kids???

ask996 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

While I would love to change the home life of these students, there is a great deal more going on. One of the reasons students are disengaged in education could quite possibly be attributed to the enforcement of mandated testing. In many schools this end result becomes the focus, and consequently, students are not given enough opportunity to learn the ways in which they enjoy learning. Nor are they given enough opportunity to make learning relevant for themselves--to make meaning for themselves. No wonder they disengage and sit in class ACTing as if they don’t care.

besure77 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Many students today feel like they are owed something. They come to school with the attitude that they do not have to listen to anyone if they do not want to. This is not true for all students of course but I have seen a change.

I also think that home lives are changing a great deal as well. Kids are finding themselves in tougher situations and it causes them a lot of confusion. There are many divorced families out there. I think many kids go from one parent to the other and they have different sets of rules and expectations.

lrwilliams eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One thing that has not been mentioned is the change in the structure of your typical family. We have gone from an era of strong two parent families with both parents  involved in  raising children to families that are made of all different combinations. I have seen divorced parents get into knock down drag outs at school trying to prove who has control over the student, if this occurs at school I can only imagine wht the student is exposed to at home.

booksnmore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree with the posters, but was thinking especially about technology. We expect things (via technology) to be fast and easy. No effort needed. We get used to writing in abbreviated texts and then wonder why kids think it's "TMI."

Entitlement is an issue not just for our kids but for our culture. It's something that I haven't seen in our countries and cultures.

lilissue | Student

To be completely honest with are only half right. At my school (I am in high school 10th grade) the kids are pretty nice. They care about each other and try to help each other out whenever possible. Some students will joke with a teacher and end up taking it too far but all in all I would have to say the respect we all have for each other is pretty sweet. On some occasions a student will dis a teacher or peer (whether it be behind the back or not) so I can only half agree with you.