The American Freshman Survey, has been asking college students to rate themselves compared to their peers since 1966.
And since that time there has been a dramatic rise in the number of students who describe themselves as being ‘above average’ in the areas of academic ability, drive to achieve, mathematical ability, and self-confidence. In fact, Over 70% of all students now taking the survey view themselves as above average academically…Which of course, if you are an academic, you know is a mathematic impossibility!
Researchers now call this aberration “ambition inflation”. Which is an actual condition that students suffer from…good grief! It seems that their increased ambitions accompany increasingly unrealistic expectations….and incredible tuition fees I might add…causing parents to suffer from income deflation…and causing colleges and universities and banks to…well, rejoice!
But I digress because researchers have also found a disconnect between student’s opinions of themselves and their actual abilities. For example, while students are much more likely to call themselves gifted in writing, their test scores actually show that their writing abilities are far less than those of their 1960s counterparts. So all of our students’ recent poor test scores that have caused consternation throughout the free world (The USA) haven’t affected how our students feel about themselves. Parents…Isn’t that good news?
And get this…Also on the decline is the amount of time students spend studying, with little more than a third of students saying they study for six or more hours a week compared to almost half of all students claiming the same in the late 1980s. But even though students are studying less, the number that said they had a high drive to succeed rose sharply!
So how is that possible???
Well, a separate study has shown that there has also been a 30 per cent increase towards narcissism in students since 1979. And that our culture here in America before the millennium, used to encourage modesty and humility but now here in the 21st century tends to promote bragging about yourself, as the way to go. So while today’s students tend to feel good about themselves and like to brag about it, the end result has shown a corresponding increase in anxiety and depression in America’s students since those 1970s.
And why is that? Well, researchers say that when an unrealistic number of young people think that they are above average and going to achieve great things, and then a much more realistic number don’t, because, well, let’s face it…most people really are average. And when reality finally sets in, depression isn’t far behind…not to mention those hefty student loans with interest due!
So is there a lesson to be learned here? Yes! And the lesson is: Despite the idea that we can achieve anything if we believe we can, there’s very little evidence that it actually works in the real world. Educational Research still shows that when it comes to academic success nothing works like being humble and unpretentious while employing self-control and hard work!… Who knew?
But if you are a parent and you are worried that today’s kids are too darn full of themselves don’t despair because the American Freshman Survey also revealed that along with having an inflated sense of their own abilities and talents today’s students also describe themselves as being less individualistic, less co-operative, less understanding of others and finally, less spiritual than students in the past! Which in my mind makes this one of the most unsettling surveys to come along in a while, especially if you are a parent.
However if you are a College or University official then this survey all but predicts smooth sailing ahead for a future of expanding enrollments and overflowing coffers. Which is ironic because it has been the colleges and universities of our country that have decried the poor skills of incoming freshmen so vociferously that it has drastically changed the way in which we test, evaluate, and rate today’s students. Back in the old days colleges and universities would simply not have accepted poor performing students into their hallowed halls…but that was back before education was all about making money…
Now while inflated egos, narcissistic attitudes and ambition inflation coupled with mass enrollment, high interest student loans, and tuition inflation may lead to dashed dreams, crushing debt and a life living in your parents house…it just might also be an insidious, and one hell of… an excellent business strategy.