Overcoming Entitlement: A Case Study

entitlementEntitlement is an increasingly common problem among students.

Fox News carried a report about recently that stopped me in my tracks. A professor from Valencia College in Florida, Jack Chambless, was interviewed on an entitlement experiment and an essay he gave his class this semester.

He assigned his class to write a short essay on what the American Dream means to you. Students were to write off of the top of their head, for about ten minutes. The papers Chambless received sobered him. The students were clear:

  • 10% of the class said the American Dream was about being responsible to make the most of opportunities and not depend on government to do it for you.
  • Over 80% of the class, however, said the American Dream was about government providing the amenities for them to live comfortably:
    • Free tuition and healthcare
    • Money for a house
    • Money for a comfortable retirement
    • Money for vacations

In fact, the majority wrote they felt the government should tax wealthy citizens more since they owned more, so that they could benefit from that wealth. Hmmm. That doesn’t sound like Adam Smith or John Locke to me.

One kid’s essay said: “As human beings, we are not really responsible for our own actions and so we need government to control those who don’t care about others.”

Where does this spirit of entitlement come from?

My study tells me it stems from 20 years of entitlement messaging from our schools and culture. When Professor Chambliss asked if his students had read or even heard of Adam Smith or John Locke, (early writers on free enterprise and capitalism), they looked at him blankly. Foreign names and concepts. We’ve failed to teach the foundations upon which our nation was built and now we are reaping the harvest…in the form of entitlement.

Today, 44% of our U.S. population live off of government subsidies, compared to 29% just thirty years ago. While I am all for helping the needy (in fact, my family gives 20% of our income to charity), what’s the model we are displaying with these numbers? In short, it is:

I am not responsible, someone else is.

Now to the entitlement experiment. After reading the papers, professor Jack Chambless asked his students to pull out their wallets and purses. When they did, he randomly selected one, grabbed it from the student, rummaged through it and pulled out that student’s cash. He then said his American Dream was to own a cabin he could retire in, and didn’t have the funds, so he was going to help himself to the money he’d just found in that purse.

Needless to say—this didn’t go over very well with the students. It did, however, spark a discussion on who’s responsible for who, when it comes to work and provision.

I realize I may sound terribly narrow and conservative—but am I wrong? What kind of adults will we have in twenty years, if this is the foundation for their beliefs? Do you want to be dependent on social security funded by the income of this kind of adult?

What can we do to change this entitlement attitude?

Overcoming Entitlement: A Case Study