Satisfaction with Mediocrity

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I just turned in my grades for the past semester.

As usual, my emotions are a mixed bag: relief that I finished (early this semester); frustration at myself for what I didn’t accomplish; elation because of the few students that I actually reached and saw shine; anger at the students who were willing to scrape by in mediocrity.

This last feeling is the most frustrating for me. I have seen it in numerous situations lately; not just in the classroom but in people’s general attitude toward life . There seems to be a willingness to accept the mediocre. Why work for an A when a C will do? And, if you don’t get the A, then of course it is the fault of the instructor, never oneself. If you are getting less than a C, particularly an F, you can always beg for withdrawal as long as you can come up with a heart-wrenching explanation for why you never bothered to attend class or turn anything in. I am giving lots of “F”s this year.

I gave an assignment for students to create a portfolio of their work. “Lay it out nicely,” I said. “This will be useful for you in the future. Create something that you would turn in if you were applying for a job. Create a cover, label your images . . . etc.” I get a collection of images labeled with a blue pen. The cover is notebook paper, blue handwriting scribbled across.

I give the students the opportunity to create a final that is interesting to them, where they can latch onto whatever intrigued them throughout the semester and pursue that topic. I set guidelines, but I allowed. I get, an odd mixture of well thought out work merged with half-accomplished efforts.

This is not just a refection of the school I am at, but a general attitude of students today.  They want knowledge handed to them in the simplest way possible, and then they want some kind of guarantee that all of this work will lead to a lucrative job. I cannot give those guarantees, because I would never hire them. If I owned my own company, I would only want to hire people who are willing to put something more than mediocrity into everything they do. I want to work with people who can find inspiration in anything, so that they do it all with joy. I want to work with people who are not satisfied with a C.

I wonder if this is a reflection of American culture. Have we become so complacent that we are somehow “the best” that we no longer strive to become better. I hate to think that the best we can do is middle of the road.

What do you think?

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