Hmm. This NYT piece and Michelle Cottle's follow-up both seem a bit overwrought to me.
Yes, of course, grades are earned by performance, not deserved by effort. And, yes, of course, "I showed up for class and did the reading" doesn't count as spectacular effort anyways; that's the beginning of trying, not the end.
On the other hand: in any field of endeavor, "But I tried very hard!" is the first response to being told that you didn't do a good job. It's not strictly speaking relevant, but it's part of how a person defends him- or herself, and tried to redeem his or her standing in the eyes of the other person. If you really make it the grounds of an appeal of a grade, of course, that's a silly mistake. But the mere fact that you can find some undergrad sentences that express a sense of desert and entitlement doesn't mean that there's some new crisis wave of such things. I can "kids these days!" with the best of them, but Professor Marshal Grossman's complaint that "Some assert that they have never gotten a grade as low as this before" is utterly banal and trivial. Of course they do. Of course college is a new experience and there's a shock to the system compared with high school. Of course that's especially true for a college with competitive admission, when high schools are basically just admission-by-geography. The perennial condition of the 18-year-old college frosh does not make for a deep anomaly to explain in terms of the last generation's parenting skills, etc., etc.
Grossman and Cottle are both saying the sorts of things professors say to each other all the time, but it's trivial-level grumbling, on a par with saying "hot enough for you?" in the summer. (See also: Rate Your Students, passim.)
Maybe I'm undersensitive to such things, because the truth is I've experienced *very* little grade-grubbing during my academic life, despite being a medium-hard grader. I do believe that women faculty get hit with grade appeals more often than men, so at least on that front I've been unfairly insulated from the problem to the extent that there is a problem. And I have some other reasons to think that my experience isn't totally representative. But at the end of the day: I like undergrads, and in my experience they try to do well. To the extent that they don't understand what it means to do well, I think they respond well to having it explained to them. Making fun of them, by name, in the pages of the New York Times doesn't seem to me like the way to go. Neither does the Allan Bloom/ Harvey Mansfield approach of elevating "Kids these days!" into social criticism.
(I'm sure that there have been other days in my scholarly career when I would have written a "Go Grossman!" post. But the mood passes-- and grownups are supposed to know how to let a mood pass without committing it to print at other people's expense.)