There are two factors that I see as contributing to entitlement, which have not been mentioned.
One is that the rich are getting richer in the USA, and the poor are getting poorer. It is more difficult, sometimes much more, to get a good, well-paying, stable job than it used to be a few decades ago.
The other factor is the very high cost of college/university and the need for many people to take out huge amounts of money in student loans.
I think both those factors can lead to entitlement b/c students know they are expected to perform at high levels and also distinguish themselves in a lot of extracurricular activities. The message is that you won’t make it in life unless you do this. Some students may be rebelling about these pressures by sitting back, not working, and feeling like teachers owe them good grades, instead of the other way around, that they should be working hard to earn their grades.
Student loans can contribute to this b/c college costs so much, and some young people are in debt for so long, that they basically feel like they have paid for their degree, whether they work in class or not. So just showing up, or sometimes not even that, is good enough to get a good grade. I have read that if students who think that way are challenged on it, they get angry and say that they’ve paid for teachers’ services.
I think those ways of coping show entitlement and they are self-destructive. However in discussing entitlement, I also think it’s important to note that students graduating college with very high levels of debt is a fairly new thing.
Students in high school often do not get the feedback that would allow them to make good choices regarding college, such as, going to a community college for a couple of years and then switching to a 4-year school can save a lot of money; the education you get from an Ivy League school may not be worth the debt you have to take on, and it’s important to be realistic about college majors and employment prospects.
Sometimes students don’t get any guidance that is really helpful and then you have 18 or 19 year olds making decisions about majors when they don’t really know enough about their abilities, or employment prospects, to make that decision.
It is very expensive to go to college, and students who take out a lot of money in loans may need to delay buying a home, getting married, or having children, sometimes for years. I would be angry if I were in that situation. I think at least some of the lazy/hostile behavior in school is a form of retaliation about that and also the pressures to perform well and have a “perfect” resume with a lot of impressive extracurricular activities in high school or even grade school.
What I’m saying is that I feel class issues are very important. It’s easy to focus on families and what parents did or did not do in terms of providing emotional support, but in this society I think all too much comes down to money. There are so many disadvantages to not having money, or not having stable employment. Lack of health insurance is one of them. The inability, or difficulty, in buying a home or even renting a place in a nice, safe neighborhood is another.
The very rich will get by and do well, as they always have. The very poor may well find that scholarships and other help is available. The problem is that everyone in between may really be challenged to afford the basics of a good life, such as housing, college, and health care.
It’s not constructive that some young people are reacting this way, but OTOH I think it’s hard to justify the pressures that some parents put on children to be the “best” and the most “well-rounded” or “accomplished” and get into the “best” schools and then pay for much of their own education on top of that. And although I think some parents want “designer children,” many parents apply these pressures b/c that is what they feel their children need to do to have any hope of establishing themselves in a profession and getting a good job as adults.