by Walter Brasch
A student sued Misericordia College because she failed a nursing class. Twice.
She said she suffered psychological problems. Those problems included anxiety, depression, and poor concentration skills.
The college had agreed to allow her to retake the final examination last summer.
It set her up in a stress-free room, gave her extra time to complete the test, and did not provide a proctor. The professor said the student could call her by cell phone. That professor was in another building monitoring another test.
The student again failed the required course.
So now she’s suing. She claims the professor didn’t answer her numerous cell phone calls. She claims this made it more stressful. She claims it wasn’t her fault she failed. It was the professor’s fault. The college president’s fault. And several others’ fault.
So she sued, claiming the college violated her rights under the Americans With Disabilities Act.
That lawsuit acknowledges she had average to below average grades.
Let’s pretend that a federal court agrees with her, and she gets so many accommodations that she now passes that course and somehow earns her nursing degree.
Let’s also pretend that when she takes her nursing boards, the state gives her extra time, in a room by herself, without a proctor, makes one available by cell phone to answer questions–and, perhaps, allows her to have whatever notes and textbooks and learning aids she needs to pass that exam.
Assume all this. Now, here’s the next question. Would you be comfortable having a nurse who can’t handle stress? Who admits she can’t concentrate? Who barely passed her college courses and requirements for a license?
Society should make accommodations for persons with disabilities—as long as those disabilities don’t directly affect others and reduce the quality of care. Perhaps the student could be a nurse-educator, helping others better understand the need for vaccinations or how to care for young children. If that’s the case, why even test for state boards and get the R.N. added to the B.S.N. degree? Perhaps, with psychological help, the student might be able one day to handle the stress of testing and clinical nursing.
Perhaps, the student could become an administrator. But, would nurses be willing to work for someone who suffers stress attacks and has never worked in patient care? Would teachers be willing to work for principals who never taught a class? Would firefighters be willing to take orders from a battalion chief who was never on a fire line or who rescued victims?
There are persons in the health care professions who are blind or deaf or who are paraplegics, and who perform their tasks as well as anyone else. But, almost all of those with physical disabilities probably studied hard, may have even exceeded the expectations and abilities of others who don’t have physical disabilities, and are working in areas that don’t impact patient care. A neurosurgeon with epilepsy, for example, would be rare, but a medical researcher, psychiatrist, or rheumatologist with epilepsy or mental or physical issues might be highly functional and, possibly, contribute far more than any neurosurgeon.
John Nash, who probably had far more psychological problems than the nursing student, still managed to earn a Ph.D. in mathematics from Princeton, become a tenured professor at M.I.T., and earn the Nobel Prize in Economics for his work on game theory. His story, told in A Beautiful Mind, has a subtle underlying theme—even with his mental issues, he didn’t expect society to grant him extraordinary accommodations.
The sense of entitlement—and providing rewards for the smallest of achievements—goes back to almost a neonatal stage. We now have kindergarten graduations, complete with caps, gowns, and diplomas. For the next 12 years, our children will receive sparkling peel-off stars on their homework papers, medals and trophies for being one of the top 3 or 5 or 7 winners in athletic competitions. Even if they don’t get the hardware, they get embossed ribbons just for participating.
In college, many students, forced to leave boxes of rewards at home, resort to excuses to demand special treatment and rewards for not achieving what they and their parents believe is their destiny. They complain about the amount of writing required. They complain the professor distracts them because she is too beautiful or too ugly or that she wears dated clothes. Black students complain that their White teachers are racist; White students complain that their Black teachers are racist. They claim to have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and gobble adderall as if it were M&Ms, taking away time that teachers, counselors, and physicians can work with those who truly have ADHD and who, for the most part, don’t use that diagnosis as an excuse.
In a grade-inflated environment, where a “B” is now the “new average,” propped up by many professors not holding to rigorous academic standards and the college more interested in pleasing parents, who pay the tuition and fees than in enforcing rigorous academic standards, the student graduates. Perhaps we need to ask who might be more valuable to society—a plumber, an electrician, or a farmer, against an unemployed English major who can write compositions about ethereal subjects or a lawyer whose goal is to amass thousands of billable hours and a country club membership on the way to a partnership.
Our society is saturated with people with college degrees who complain they didn’t get the “A” they wanted, and now whine it isn’t their fault they have so much debt and no job.
Many of our millennial children believe they are entitled to have what they believe their needs are. After all, the media skewer them with ads, photos, and stories of people who “have it all.” Isn’t it just logical for teens and those in their 20s to hear the siren call from the media and want the bling that others have?
When all the ephemera are stripped away, we are left with a college generation that believes they are entitled to that high grade, that job, that upscale lifestyle. Somewhere, there might even be a clinical nurse whose own problems, or perceived problems, affect someone’s health.
[Dr. Brasch was an advocate for the mentally and physically disabled, long before he had to use a handicapped parking placard. His latest book is Fracking Pennsylvania.]