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My Lazy American Students

by Kara Miller

first published in The Boston Globe, 12/21/09

It was the kind of student conference I hate.

“I’ll do better,’’ my student told me, leaning forward in his chair. “I know I’ve gotten behind this semester, but I’m going to turn things around. Would it be OK if I finished all my uncompleted work by Monday?’’

I sat silent for a moment. “Yes. But it’s important that you catch up completely this weekend, so that you’re not just perpetually behind.’’

A few weeks later, I would conduct a nearly identical conversation with two other students. And, again, there would be no tangible result: No make-up papers. No change in effort. No improvement in time management.

By the time students are in college, habits can be tough to change. If you’re used to playing video games like “Modern Warfare’’ or “Halo’’ all night, how do you fit in four hours of homework? Or rest up for class?

Teaching in college, especially one with a large international student population, has given me a stark – and unwelcome – illustration of how Americans’ work ethic often pales in comparison with their peers from overseas.

My “C,’’ “D,’’ and “F’’ students

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