Saturday, February 20, 2010

Tiger, Amy and Entitlement

There have been two entitlement stories in the news lately. Tiger Woods explained his behavior as a consequence of money and fame that meant he did not have to follow the usual rules.

And in the case of Amy Bishop, according to a news story and her attorney:

". . . Bishop's failure to get tenure at the university was likely a key to the shootings. Bishop, who has a doctorate from Harvard University and has taught at University of Alabama in Huntsville since 2003, apparently was incensed that a lesser-known school rejected her for what amounted to a lifetime job.

"Obviously she was very distraught and concerned over that tenure," Miller said. "It insulted her and slapped her in the face, and it's probably tied in with the Harvard mentality.""

One has to be careful to fold the Bishop case into this and I have thought it is inappropriate given that what ails Ms. Bishop goes far beyond her apparent Harvard fixation.

Nevertheless it does appear that, whatever her mental illness, somewhere in there she had developed a sense that because she had gone to Harvard she "deserved" certain things in life.

After watching the Woods' press conference I think it is possible that he does understand what it means to have a sense of entitlement. Whether it affect his future behavior is another question. And, the the case of Ms. Bishop, at least we know that observers regard her tragic deeds as a result of the dangerous mix of serious mental illness and a sense of entitlement.

In legal education, a sense of entitlement is principally dangerous only to the students and tax payers paying the bills. Many teachers want to teaching the minimum number of courses to the minimum of students. They want to teach what they are interested it whether or not it generates student interest. They want special teaching schedules and customized leaves. When you combine those wants with a sense of entitlement you begin to enter the realm not just of selfishness but irrationality. By that I mean those with a sense of entitlement seem incapable of understanding how that sense affects their behavior.

They either do not get it or they cannot afford to get it. In any case, they have no interest in trying.

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