Dear Instructor,or even better:
Our son is a freshman at No Hope University and is struggling somewhat with CLASS-2012. I believe meeting with a tutor once or twice a week would be enough to get him on track. Would you be able to help us with this?
(Name of Parent)
Dear Instructor-Tutor,[ed: Yes dear readers, with the exception of protected name changes, these emails, verbatim, were sent by real flesh and blood parents to real flesh and blood instructors early February, this year. The name of the institution has been changed because while this sad tale is incredible, it is also believable that this could happen at any college or university in Georgia.]
I am looking for a tutor in EASYA-2012 for my daughter Amanda, a freshman at No Hope University. If you are available please contact her directly at amandabanana47(at)nohope.edu. If you could let her know your rate that would be great.
(Name of Parent)
There are so many ways to respond to these emails...all of which would get you fired. Here are a couple ideas for responses:
- The hardest thing for students to "deal with" upon entering college is personal responsibility. If the student is so irresponsible that he not only is failing a class but also needs his PARENT to help him find a tutor, this does not bode well. The fact that a particular instructor is willing to tutor students in EASYA-2012 and CLASS-2012 is not secret; all tutors for a given department have easy-to-find contact information. This information can be found on numerous non-password-protected websites run by the individual departments at No Hope University. If the STUDENT is concerned about the STUDENT'S grade, he can easily find this information (hell, his parents could!) and email the tutor directly. But unless the student takes the initiative and the student takes the time to help himself, more than likely this is never going to work.
- From a general tutor's perspective, this has "BAD IDEA" written all over it. Why? If the parent is contracting you to help a (legal adult, but apparently still a) child, the parent is the "client/parent/boss." Moreover, the student/child has zero responsibility in the eyes of the client/parent/boss. For if the student did have responsibility, the parent would be having the child find himself a tutor, or would be having the child pay for the tutor himself. But, the student/child has no responsibility. It's not his fault he's failing. It's the homework system that's confusing, or the instructor who's draconian, or the "system" that made him ill-prepared. So, what's going to happen if the tutor meets twice a week with the student/child, and the student/child continues to struggle with the material and the student/child doesn't magically turn an "F" into an "A"? That boss/parent/client is going to chew the tutor out because "clearly" the tutor is not doing what they're paid to do! Clearly, the tutor doesn't know the subject, or how to tutor, or what specific needs the student/child has that must be met. It is ALL the tutor's fault, and tutor is disappointing their client/parent/boss.
Even MORE sad is the fact that having only this type and this level of parental contact makes your life "easy." Many in academia receive letters from parents pleading to change final grades because otherwise a student will lose the HOPE scholarship and be unable to attend No Hope University. Many people at No Hope University have been threatened by parents. Specifically, the parents have threatened to tell their golfing buddy over in administration, Dr. OverPaid, that the grade should be revoked and will be challenged if left unchanged.
The one suffering the most is the professor in a given department who is in charge of transfer credits; he gets phone calls about twice a month from parents wanting to know why their child got a 3 on the AP exam but managed to fail the department's placement exam. Now in these cases, the law is literally on the academics' side. Thanks to FERPA, it is illegal for a professor to post grades outside his door, or email students about a grade on an assignment, or even talk about a grade over the telephone. It is illegal to discuss with anyone but the student (unless you have a signed document from the student regarding the class, the clearance, and the particular individual who is cleared) the grades of the student. So, a professor legally cannot respond to any emails from Mommy and Daddy about Junior's English paper. A professor legally cannot discuss the particular transfer or lack-of-transfer of a student's AP credits with an "alleged" parent. Naturally, this just frustrates the parents even more, but it does in many ways make these conversations go more "smoothly". At least these conversations are shorter as a result.
What makes this whole topic even more sensitive is that we all probably know people in our personal lives who are these parents. Who call professors to ask about extensions or transfers or incompletes or letter grade changes. Who blame everything from genetics to roommates to other relatives for the failures and irresponsible behaviors of their own children.
This needs to stop.
If parents continue to coddle their children through college; if parents do not let their children fail; if parents continue to blame everyone else for their children's failures; if parents continue to threaten professors and instructors; if parents continue to act entitled when it comes to access to their adult-children's lives and academics, what sort of society will develop? To quote The Lion in Winter, "What kind of spindly, ricket-ridden, milky, wizened, dim-eyed, gammy-handed, limpy line of things will [we] beget?"