The unteachable student

A passage from an article of a few years back by Janice Fiamengo, the article titled: The Unteachables: A Generation that Cannot Learn

Their belief that nothing requires improvement except the grade is one of the biggest obstacles that teachers face in the modern university. And that is perhaps the real tragedy of our education system: not only that so many students enter university lacking the basic skills and knowledge to succeed in their courses — terrible in itself — but also that they often arrive essentially unteachable, lacking the personal qualities necessary to respond to criticism. . . .

Such students have not only been misled but fundamentally malformed. They have never learned to listen to criticism, to recover from disappointment, or to slog through difficulties with no guarantee of success except commitment. The person who is never challenged is also never refined, never learns to cope with the setbacks that come on the way to high endeavor. And it is not only in the academic realm, of course, that they may be hampered: a full life outside of university also requires the ability to confront one’s weaknesses and recover from defeat. Despite the admittedly important emphasis on character formation in our schools — on tolerance, anti-racism, refusal of bullying, and so on — it seems that we have failed to show students what real achievement looks like and what it will require of them.

This article was linked from an even more depressing discussion of the erosion and disappearance of the middle classes, the bourgeoisie whose disappearance heralds the end of our civilisation. The excluded middle dwells on how we are removing the yeoman stock from our cultural inheritance with disastrous results ahead. The conclusion:

When middles are excluded, whether in the halls of academia or the arena of productivity, a miniscule tier at the top may yet find means to benefit or survive while the bottom will form a spreading magma of misery and destitution. The buffer of in-betweeness will have been eliminated. And a once-vigorous culture will subside into a condition of economic and intellectual inertia.

We have lived through a golden age, a silver age and are in the midst of an age of bronze. How it can be turned around from here is the question, but before it can be answered, it first has to be understood that there is even a question being asked.

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