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A Review of Margaret Wente’s “Inside the Entitlement Generation” Essay

Margaret Wente’s Globe and Mail article on the existence and characteristics of the entitlement generation in Canada is both opinionated and thought provoking. The author strongly supports that the entitlement mindset is quite prevalent in Canada’s universities, has been nurtured by its preceding generation and has led to students’ unrealistic work expectations. Although Wente effectively communicates her opinions regarding the entitlement generation, her arguments are compromised by poor use of appeal to authority and a polarized approach to the topic.

Those who have stepped onto one of Canada’s many university campuses may have noticed the student mentality encompassed by its definition. Wente credits Dr. Ken Coates, a professor of history and former Dean at the University of Waterloo, with elucidating the mindset of the entitlement generation— “the kids who’ve always been told they’re smart, and never pushed too hard” (par. 3). With the assistance of Dr. Coates’ expertise, the author argues that the development and existence of this generation of students has led to their unrealistic work expectations and disappointment post-graduation. She contends that this mentality is derived from student disinterest and laziness, yet nurtured by a former generation. Wente makes her opinion on the topic of the entitlement generation very clear by using a firm tone, which may be misinterpreted as condescending by the wrong audience. She makes implications regarding the entitlement generation and their work ethic.

Applying these implications to a sizeable population is Wente’s fundamental flaw. Moreover, she bases many of her arguments on the shared opinion of Dr. Coates and does not deviate from this source. Implications that apply to large populations and the use of only a single source leads to generalizations that consequently contribute to error in appeal. These characteristics of Wente’s writing make many of her claims questionable and open to criticism, even though they may be valid arguments. The author uses Dr. Coates’ apparent expertise on the entitlement generation to support her arguments. She reassures her reader that Dr. Coates is an expert on the entitlement generation by indicating that his book, Campus Confidential is “a guide to the mindset of the entitlement generation” (par. 3). Wente presents Dr. Coates’ opinions as if they were her own, demonstrating her concurrence.

Her agreement can be seen in her support of Dr. Coates’ statement that “[students] bring assignments in late and think that [professors] will mark them without penalty” (par. 4). Wente claims that this attitude is predictable because “that’s the way it’s been all their lives” (par. 5). Wente’s editorial is riddled with this type of accord, which may be criticized by the reader. The author only introduces the audience to Dr. Coates who is assumed to be the expert-on-the-topic and lacks an indication that there is adequate agreement among other experts. Additionally, there is no mention of the opinions held by Dr. Coates’ students regarding his credibility and competence in his role as a professor. It is possible that his opinion of the students he has encountered during his career has been shaped by their attitude towards his teaching ability, popularity or subject of expertise.

Finally, Wente adopts a polarized approach to the topic by implying that students are either a part of the entitlement generation or the top 15 to 20 per cent of their class (par. 10). Wente argues that only the top of the class, can realistically anticipate jobs with a starting annual salary that exceeds $50 000 (par. 11). She implies that the remaining students are encompassed by the definition of the entitlement generation and are considered both uninterested and lazy. Furthermore, the author suggests that only the entitlement generation expressed their desire for unrealistic work/life balance, vacation time and a starting annual in the recent survey of university students (par. 11).

She fails to acknowledge the possibility of a group of students who do not achieve a GPA that reserves them a spot at the top of the class yet possess a genuine desire to learn and be challenged. These are the students who might “[devour] the works of Frantz Fanton, Karl Marx and Gloria Steinem” (par. 7), but may also be involved in extracurricular activities, which take time away from their studies. Dr. Coates and Wente, do not recognize important attributes that students gain from being involved in clubs, sports or organizations. This lack of consideration contributes to the polarized approach adopted by the author.

Wente’s holds a firm opinion regarding the entitlement generation and their characteristics. Her article brings public attention to a common mindset of Canadian students, which may help to explain the unrealistic work expectations of the current generation. This information may help employers who draw from Canadian institutions hire candidates that will integrate well into their organization based on their attitude. Employers should be wary, though, of the information presented in Wente’s article as it adopts a polarized approach to the topic of the entitlement generation with poor use of authorities.

Works Cited

Prinsen, Jean. “Mind Wide Open: Critical Reading.” Kingston: Queen’s University, 2011. 1-6.

Wente, Margaret. “Inside the Entitlement Generation.” Toronto: The Globe & Mail division of Bell Globemedia Publishing Inc., 17 September 2011. F9.


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