Holden Thorp resigned yesterday as Chancellor of my beloved alma mater UNC, and one can only speculate exactly why. I would suggest it might have something to do with the man’s integrity. After both athletic and academic scandals plaguing the university in the past several years, and academic scandals helping perpetuate athletic fraud I am not surprised that the man got discouraged and tired of dealing with the culture of entitlement without achievement.
What do I mean by that last phrase? Among other things I mean a culture, nurtured in many educational institutions in the land which suggests that academic rigor and integrity can be sacrificed for various ‘good causes’, causing varying from helping various sorts of students (in this case athletes, and more specifically athletes in the African American studies program at Carolina) graduate, to greasing the wheels of an athletic juggernaut out of control, and yet strangely in control, at the nation’s oldest state university (no rebuttals from dawgs in Georgia please. You had the land grant first, we taught the students first).
It’s not just that the athletic tail is wagging the dog (because after all, we are promised, the tail brings in all kinds of expensive puppy chow for the dog), though that often seems to be true. It’s that even our academic institutions are nurturing a culture of academic mediocrity in order to make sure no one fails, no child is left behind, and as a result no one ever really discovers what there true level of academic ability is. And the Carolina Blue skies are not cloudy all day.
Of course Carolina is not the only school doing this— it’s an epidemic. I witnessed it here in Lexington Ky. this past year where, with a straight face, people at U.K. actually called players like Anthony Davis student-athletes, even though they were brought in to the university with a one and done understanding from the get go… using the university as the diving board from which they bounce high into the NBA (with no intentions of getting a college degree).
And then someone suggested that the real solution would be to pay these one and done players to entertain us. That would be fine if they were performing in an NBA futures league. Not fine if we are talking about amateur athletics at a university, and athletes actually being expected to get a college degree. But this is only a small part of the problem which is perpetuating academic fraud at major universities.
No, a good deal of the source of the rot does not go back in the first instance to our schools which are called upon to coddle rather than challenge our precious offspring (and then someone over-reacts and comes to the absurd conclusion that teachers should be held responsible for the irresponsible behavior of students on standardized tests— see the mess in Chicago).
It goes back to our families which have cultivated an ethos of no accountability, of no disciplining of children, and of defending the bad behavior of one’s children simply because they are ‘my children’. When I was growing up, back at the dawn of time when the earth was still cooling, parents backed up the teachers and principals when they disciplined unruly, non-performing, disrespectful students. They didn’t back up bratty behavior by their little darlings. Indeed, the parents would often take their kids home and read ‘em the riot act, far more than the principal had done.
We are now living with the malaise created by a generation of students who think they are entitled to a degree, entitled to a good paying job, entitled to two cars in every garage, entitled to sex without consequences…. without ever earning any of it, or achieving much academically to merit it or without living a life of moral integrity which is the basis for marriage and appropriate sexual expression within marriage. We are reaping what we have sown in the last several decades, and it is producing a crop of bitter fruit, and even fruitcakes masquerading as college and graduate students.
Holden, I feel your pain. I too would have gotten discouraged if I had your job. The culture of entitlement without achievement, and being given college degrees without their being any moral integrity about whether they actually deserved those degrees or not, has overgrown the academic system like kudzu swallowing up a tall North Carolina pine tree, and it is smothering the institution, and sucking the life and light right out of it.
I understand that another part of the problem is the ever burgeoning competition of faceless online only institutions, producing people with apparent degrees with sterling grades, only to discover that the A’s earned at Chitlin Switch Online Tech is about equivalent to a C- at best at say, Duke, or Vanderbilt. And a further part of the problem is the inability to evaluate the merits of a transcript (or references) from a purely home schooled child who has never had to deal with a teacher other than their omniscient parents.
Over-protected, endlessly spoiled, over-praised children grow up into adults that take for granted ‘entitlement’ should come naturally, easily for… as Jim Morrison of the Doors once said ‘we want the world and we want it NOW!’ Why wait? Why struggle in obscurity for any length of time? Can’t I just buy it all online here and now? Including my education? If you have never heard about a student coming to a teacher and saying ‘look, I paid $3,000 for this course, I deserve an A’ then you have been living in a cave.
Well I have been an educator now for over 30 years, and when you begin to hear these things even in a seminary setting, you know it’s gotten bad in the general culture. When even Christian students act like spoiled brats who are entitled to the best of everything without any academic achievement to speak of, you know that education is on the road to Hades in a handbasket.
Of course the handbasket has the local school logo, and branding on it. You can accesorize and get matching earrings as well. Why not buy the T shirt too, to show your support for your school where you have loitered for several years expecting to march across the stage with highest honors?
If you think I am exaggerating the problem, I suggest you try the teaching profession for say— five years, and get back to me. You will discover that Pogo was right when he reported “I have seen the enemy, the enemy is us!’.