“Unwarranted Self Regard”

One fears for the future if these students are typical of today’s crop:

Once again, I explained how to answer the question, and once again the student was pleased. The error was just a trivial difference of opinion. “Yeah, I get it,” she said. “I was just thinking of it differently.” You say tomayto, I say tomahto.

No, I wanted to say, you weren’t thinking of it differently, you had it completely wrong; you didn’t understand it at all. But like her many compatriots, she was unlikely to acknowledge that, or admit to a mistake even when she created a version of reality never seen on a map, or in the actions of a blackbird.

Students have always deluded themselves, of course, and hope has always sprung eternal, or at least until final grades appear. And at least some in my classes really do eventually master the material. But confident placidity in the face of error seems to be on the rise.

Maybe it’s all that self-esteem this generation of students was inculcated with as youngsters, or maybe it’s the emphasis on respecting everyone else’s opinion, to the point where no answer, even a mathematical one, can be truly wrong because that might offend the one who gave it.