I have been hearing the same complaints from instructors all semester.  One
adult student reported that in her class ten students were so angry about
their test grades, that they got up together and walked out of the class
(exams, which they weren't allowed to keep, in hand).  I've met with many
students over the last two years who get very angry at their instructors
when they don't do well on exams, even when they haven't studied very hard.
 The tone (and the language) they use to describe instructors is troubling
to me, especially when it's a dedicated, superb instructor who happens to
teach a difficult class.

The climate in the average classroom is often disturbing, especially in
freshman-level classes.  A colleague just reported that one of her students
told her "to be cool," when she asked him to leave (because he was
sleeping); and of course he didn't leave.  In this same class, a group of
five students insults and intimidates other students who try to
participate.  And this is an instructor who is always well-liked,
well-respected, and in an administrative position.  Another said that one
student raises her voice and declares, "I'm doing it my way so just leave
me alone," when he tries to give her advice on her writing assignments.

It's a big problem all of a sudden and I suspect the new era of television
(and computer)-as-parent is greatly responsible for our students' brash
behavior and puzzling overconfidence & cockiness: professional athletes are
supposed to be mean and tough and outspoken these days--they go after
referees and coaches, they tell you how great they are; musicians make
millions being as outrageous and irreverant as possible--they curse at us,
they make obscene gestures, they poke fun at stereotypical parents; the
culture of MTV promotes getting attention however you can--taking off your
clothes, sharing intimate details of your life, acting like you're an
adult.  And of course now you can get attention from millions by creating
your own web page.  This makes your opinion automatically count, even
though it may be ill-informed, skewed, or not relevant.

Another factor seems to be that students today feel entitled to things
(including acting however they feel, whenever they feel) because they have
been living like adults for too long.  They work full time, they take care
of brothers and sisters, they counsel emotionally-disturbed parents, they
deal with drugs and violent crime.

I try to teach students that this behavior is going to be self-destructive
in the end.  If you get to spend a lot of time with these kids, you find
that most of them are angry.  Most are relatively respectful one-on-one,
especially if they think you care.

Solution:  hard work, I think, for all of us at the university.  We have to
address this problem before it gets out of control.  We have to, as
faculty, staff, and administration, have a long discussion about why kids
are angry and disrespectful.  And yes, we will have to create behavior
policies.  Most of us aren't good at this kind of discipline, but we're
going to have to be.  Of course we can address the "culture of the
university" we strive for in FYE classes, but I suspect we have to be ready
to fight for a calm, safe class environment.

Jason Sublette
Aurora University

At 01:41 PM 11/1/99 -0500, Daryl Stephens wrote:
>Recently several of my colleagues and I had noticed that there seems to be a
>great deal more immature behavior than usual among our students this semester
>--mostly talking in class and coming in late or leaving early.  At our state
>developmental conference last week, I talked to instructors from several
>points in the state, and they had noticed the same problems--actually
having to
>ask students to be quiet or leave the room if they were going to have
>non-content-related conversations during class.
>Is this a problem nationwide this year?  (I think this year's college
>are the group that were in fourth grade the last year I taught fifth grade in
>another state, and I remember that bunch being less well-behaved than most
>Daryl Stephens  <[log in to unmask]>
>Assistant Professor (math)
>Division of Developmental Studies
>East Tennessee State University
>Box 70620, Johnson City, TN 37614
>Office phone (423) 439-4676   Fax:  (423) 439-7446