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What is the "American Standard"?

posted May 9, 2012, 1:21 PM by Kyle Willey
It seems like politicians keep advertising that they meet the standards of the American people. I ask: "What standards?". Don't get me wrong, I'm not anti-American. I'm willing to say that America is overall the best country in the world, but we have a problem.

I look outside and I don't see any progress. I see people wasting time and wasting energy pursuing false leads. I see people who are so involved in video games, television, and other media that they forget to live. Even I spend way too much time wasted on this petty escapism, but I seem to be one of the few who is genuinely concerned.

What is the American standard? I don't see it any more. I'm a college student at one of the largest universities in the world, the "New American University", and it's no secret that my peers are pretty lax in their efforts. I walk around and I see a ton of things that just don't scream "American standard", but rather "American substandard". There's often broken glass bottles that used to contain various types of alcohol right outside the residence halls (and it's a dry campus), even honor students ditch classes whenever they feel like it, and professors have to take a good chunk of time out of their lectures to berate the class for cheating-not just a small segment but something like ten percent of the class. Students don't care about things that they need to know for their future careers, ignoring the fact that their efforts to avoid dreaded subjects like mathematics and sciences will cripple them as they enter all sorts of fields from business to engineering. And these aren't the "bad students"; these are just the average and above average ones. Students who are in "low-effort" majors often boast about how little time they spend on coursework and how they get by with the bare minimum grades in their core classes. I've heard the phrase "Due tomorrow, do tomorrow" so many times that it runs through my head whenever I contemplate getting stuff done. This environment isn't just apathetic, it's downright self-centered, and it creates a toxic environment where our students will be incapable of competing with other places because we have such a low standard that anyone can get through with just a few tiny token efforts. The joke about the school I go to is that "anyone with a pulse" can get admitted, which is partly due to the fact that it's a public university, but it is more true than people think. I've had classmates who cannot write complete coherent sentences and appropriate diction in academic papers in an English class intended for sophomores. After two years in college, some of these students would be receiving a lousy grade on papers that I would be grading in a high school classroom once I get my education degree and enter the workforce, just because they write research papers like some people write text messages.

If this is what academia in America is like, I'd hate to see what happens when these self-centered students become adults and have their own jobs; I'll confess to not being perfect, but I get things done; I see my peers trying as hard as possible to avoid any semblance of work. What will happen when we have people in business and engineering who only get their math right 80% of the time and who can't write a memo that's polished enough to be coherent? I'm not looking forward to what will happen in a future where my fellows who are slacking off most of their waking hours have to hold up the structure of a whole nation.

Sure there are great students; I'm lucky enough to know a ton of them, but the question is whether or not my friends as primarily honor students are representative of the population at large? I don't think so, since even among the lower echelons of honor students we see this epidemic of apathy take hold, and as an honor student myself I am most familiar with fellow honor students who have self-motivation. But what of the tons of students who party more than they study? I'm convinced that we have a problem, and I have no clue what do to about it. It would be nice if we had a switch to make my generation care as much about getting work done as they do about Facebook and Twitter, but I don't even think that would solve our problem.

So where are we defining the American standard now? Where is our American exceptionalism? All I see is a ton of mediocrity surrounding me on every side; the songs of praise sung by those who place my generation on a pedestal grate my ears.