Declining Resilience Among College Students?

A year ago I received an invitation from the head of Counseling Services at a major university to join faculty and administrators for discussions about how to deal with the decline in resilience among students. At the first meeting, we learned that emergency calls to Counseling had more than doubled over the past five years. Students are increasingly seeking help for, and apparently having emotional crises over, problems of everyday life.

…Faculty at the meetings noted that students’ emotional fragility has become a serious problem when it comes to grading. Some said they had grown afraid to give low grades for poor performance, because of the subsequent emotional crises they would have to deal with in their offices. Many students, they said, now view a C, or sometimes even a B, as failure, and they interpret such “failure” as the end of the world. Faculty also noted an increased tendency for students to blame them (the faculty) for low grades—they weren’t explicit enough in telling the students just what the test would cover or just what would distinguish a good paper from a bad one.

  • Less resilient and needy students have shaped the landscape for faculty in that they are expected to do more handholding, lower their academic standards, and not challenge students too much.
  • There is a sense of helplessness among the faculty. Many faculty members expressed their frustration with the current situation. There were few ideas about what we could do as an institution to address the issue.
  • Students are afraid to fail; they do not take risks; they need to be certain about things. For many of them, failure is seen as catastrophic and unacceptable. External measures of success are more important than learning and autonomous development.
  • Faculty, particularly young faculty members, feel pressured to accede to student wishes lest they get low teacher ratings from their students. Students email about trivial things and expect prompt replies.
  • Faculty members, individually and as a group, are conflicted about how much “handholding” they should be doing.

…We have raised a generation of young people who have not been given the opportunity to learn how to solve their own problems. They have not been given the opportunity to get into trouble and find their own way out, to experience failure and realize they can survive it….

—Peter Gray, “Declining Student Resilience: A Serious Problem for Colleges

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  1. I agree with the observations made in this post. And having taught, I know that there are many other non-complimentary observations to make about the average college student and below. Certainly, one of the reasons for this fragility is because the public schools are running on 4 flat tires meaning that they are failing because of the all of the stakeholders in the system from students and their parents to teachers and their administrators are failing at their jobs.

    In addition, you have the overreliance on technology and the learning ethic of no student left behind education that, according to the feedback I received from my students, must also include preaching the false hope that one can do or become anything one wants. I use to tell my students that there is a difference between believing you can do or become anything you want from you don’t know what you can accomplish.

    Then we have cultural values that revolve so much around entertainment and impersonal communication media (a.k.a., social media).

    When you combine all of these factors, we find that a perfect storm awaits our future. And since our children are our future, not even this thing can go better with Coke.

  2. “Faculty also noted an increased tendency for students to blame them (the faculty) for low grades…”

    If someone else caused them to fail then that someone must have it in for them, in fact, must hate them. Here we have the dread-inducing ingredients for both hate crime laws and for scapegoating.

    In the wake of the death of the Holy God of Scripture an anarchy of selfishness, hatred, contempt and envy disguised as legal and personal opinion and special rights expressed in baseless yet guilt-inducing accusations of homophobia, racism, intolerance and hate is gaining a more complete leverage over our society. As it does what follows in its wake are absurdity, paranoia, brutality, hatred, murder, chaos, tyranny and scapegoating.

    Just as the Middle East is a scapegoat culture where a victim of rape can be stoned to death by her rapist, here in America we witness the rapid rise of a scapegoating society because a majority of “sinless” Americans (a consensus) within and without the Christian Church reject their own fallen condition and the Triune God in favor of their own sovereign, yet morally relative “sacred opinions” “feelings” and “choices.” Thus they refuse to accept personal responsibility for their own sins while freely and hypocritically scapegoating other people who they unjustly accuse of hate, homophobia, racism, sexism, intolerance, hate speech, fear-mongering, mental illness and academic failure.

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