I will preface this piece by saying I don’t give up on students; they give up on themselves because they’re allowed to and sometimes even enabled. Parents are vital cogs in a child’s educational coming-of-age, but too often than not nowadays they function more as impediments than impetuses in helping their child realize his/her fullest potential.
The excuses nowadays aren’t even well-thought-out or imaginative in any way.
It wasn’t posted online when I checked.
I didn’t see it written down in class.
My mother forgot to put it in my bag.
They’re about as apathetic as the students themselves. Even the attempts at copying work or cheating aren’t creative (the stretch and the yawn are so played out); students will literally copy assignments word-for-word.
Recently, I had a student who plagiarized an ENTIRE sample essay and then one of his parents claimed he didn’t understand the assignment. Comical, it really is, since even if you had the most basic, perfunctory understanding of English, nowhere in the assignment does it say COPY. Yet, this particular kid’s parent not only denied that he plagiarized, but he then asked if the transgression would affect his child’s ability to transfer to another school because “he didn’t want it to go on his permanent record.”
Nothing about the student’s fault.
Nothing about a learning moment.
Nothing at all.
So, it’s not about what the student understands and can apply; no, it’s about what’s on the transcript and how that sets him up to go to a more prestigious “name” school, whether it’s high school or college. So, to hell with being able to write a complete sentence or comprehend even the most rudimentary reading comprehension questions. We’ll have your tutor write your three-page essay that “earned” you a high 90s mark despite the glaring fact that you do not have the ability to string together three coherent sentences – let alone three body paragraphs – in a row. Unfortunately, there comes a point in educating a student where you can’t fight anymore, so you let his parents win and receive a grade the kid might or might not be able to count up to.
Conceding so easily, old me wouldn’t have done that. He would’ve talked to this boss and that supervisor and called this parent and had that meeting. Until he realized that even if you challenge the validity of the essay and prove it to be fraudulent, where does it get you? Earlier mornings, more work, more stress – no change, same story. No matter what the outcome, the point is moot; it won’t change people’s values.
As is usually the case, though, the only one who’s losing is the kid. This entire year, the entitled, arrogant student has sat in my class doing below-grade-level work, from writing assignments that do not answer the question to unsubstantiated claims with no evidentiary support to being unable to respond to oral prompts. He’s an insouciant child whose immaturity is only validated by exclusive positive reinforcement and a concerted effort by his parents to deflect any criticism he might receive from his teachers. No lessons are learned, no progress is made, only stagnation, which is an apt characterization of the young scholar’s mind – stagnant, fetid, sluggish, stale, the list of inert words is seemingly endless. He’ll never change either, for it’s far too easy to live a life where the wrong choices are not only excused, but validated too. Don’t worry, Johnny; I know, it’s everyone else’s fault; it usually is.
If I tried a quarter of the stuff these kids do and brought home some of the grades they bring home regularly, I would be rolling down the stairs. And my parents wouldn’t have pushed me. I would’ve thrown myself down them. That’s where the issue begins; that is, with the parents.
I’m not a parent, I don’t intend to be one for some time, and I would never prescribe my beliefs on parenting to anyone else, yet I’ve always questioned some parents’ motivations in their blind and ultimately detrimental support of their children’s shortcomings. Nowadays, it’s so bad that when a student produces a final, typed draft of an essay littered with spelling, capitalization, and punctuation mistakes, an essay that wouldn’t make sense if it were drawn out on a storyboard, the parents do not come in to discuss methods for motivating the meandering student to put in a better effort and earn an improved grade; no, they come in to complain that I should be giving her positive reinforcement on work a second grader would’ve been embarrassed by.
That’s what’s changed in education – the parents are on the wrong side of the fence. Am I saying that all parents should side against their kids in giving their teachers carte blanche to do as they please? No, not at all; however, some parents need to take a step back and consider the effect it has on their child when they make excuses for him, when they commend subpar work, when they simply do his work for him, when they place all of the blame on the teacher and none on the student. Simply, it sends the wrong message because, in reality, once the child gets to college (which I don’t believe is a foregone conclusion with some of the students I teach), there will be no excuse – only failure.
Then again, though, this is the generation where their parents call their college professors to complain about grades, so maybe some facets of secondary school are finding their way into higher education.
Interacting with some kids and worse their oblivious parents, I first think that maybe a family planning restriction is a legitimate idea worth pursuing; as the Dystopian ideal dissipates, I think that if this is our future, it looks a lot closer to Terminator 2: Judgment Day as opposed to Epcot’s Future World.