Entitlement vs. Enlightenment: Navigating Today’s Youth Attitudes

Written by Debra Olshan Cooper,
President and Founder of Your Career Design lab

The Entitlement Culture on Campus

Recent events on college campuses have brought to light a concerning pattern of behavior among some students—behaviors that lean heavily toward entitlement. A striking example came from a news report about a student protester who, after a brief stint in detention, complained about not being provided water or bathroom access for five hours. While basic amenities are indeed important, the undertone of the complaint seemed to underscore a deeper sentiment prevalent among many young people today: a strong sense of entitlement and a smug, know-it-all attitude.

During my twenties, self-exploration involved personal introspection and a desire to shape my world without impinging on the rights and routines of others. Unlike the disruptive confrontations seen today, my generation often sought change without casting blame, shaming, or shouting down the opposition. Today’s narrative, however, seems to pivot towards holding others accountable without a corresponding examination of personal responsibility.

A Contrast in Enlightenment

This narrative of entitlement stands in stark contrast to the enlightenment I witnessed at the University of Delaware Horn Entrepreneurship Diamond Challenge. Here, high school students from across the globe convened not to protest but to propose. Their pitches were not about what the world could do for them, but about what they could do for the world.

The difference was palpable. These young individuals displayed a passion channeled towards constructive, purpose-driven endeavors aimed at bettering our world. They were articulate, inquiring, and curious—qualities that foster understanding and growth rather than division. Their demeanor was kind, compassionate, and inclusive, embodying the potential of what our future leaders could be.

The Impact of Enlightenment

The participants of the Diamond Challenge represented more than just hope; they embodied the true spirit of enlightenment. They engaged in discussions that were not divisive but unifying, presenting ideas that sought to bridge gaps rather than widen them. This was a clear demonstration that the youth of today can and do embody the capacity to lead with empathy and intelligence.

Spending 48 hours among these inspiring young minds was a profound reminder that despite the chaos of the world, there are beacons of hope and light in the younger generation. They are not only prepared to face the challenges of our times but are eager to solve them creatively and collaboratively.

Conclusion: Embracing Enlightenment

In a world riddled with conflicts and a prevailing sense of division, it is essential to recognize and nurture these young enlightened minds. As we reflect on the attitudes of entitlement versus those of enlightenment, we must ask ourselves: How are we contributing to shaping these attitudes in our youth today?

By fostering environments that value curiosity, empathy, and collective problem-solving, we can help more young people move from entitlement to enlightenment. This shift is crucial for the future of our communities and the broader world, ensuring that the next generation of leaders is equipped not just with knowledge, but with wisdom and a deep sense of responsibility.

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