Ive not been blogging the last few weeks as much as usual due to being busy dealing with Freshers. One of the problems is that some students these days dont seem to have a lot of common sense. As I discussed in a previous post, we seem to be getting one to many more mummys boys, whose helicopter parents have gone around sweeping any obstacles out of their kids way, hence he/she has very little common sense.
The situation can be particularly acute with some foreign students in the UK, as some come from very privileged backgrounds and are used to having drivers and servants to call on. Hence it can be a bit of a shock to find themselves in a situation where people dont run around wiping their ass on command. Where they have to wait in line with everyone else.
Let me give you example. I was on the train the other day and there was this young Asian fellow with bags (obviously a fresher on his way to uni). The announcer comes on and says were approaching his stop. Of course the train stops short of the station (as they often do on congested UK routes). He asks people on the train how to I get to the station. We tell him wait till we pull in, then push the button by the door. He immediately goes to the doors and pushes all the buttons, even the emergency one :no: (pissing off the driver though fortunately not to the stage where he decides to make a federal case out of it!).
Of course this sort of attitude means that we lecturers face all sorts of problems. For example getting students to pick up their various book and equipment packages (we give the stuff away for free to compensate for fees…and to avoid us having arguments with them over why they’ve not read such and such a book or brought along safety equipment to a lab). Some of the students still haven’t collected it, even thought they’ve had a good month to do so. Some seem to think we should bring it to them on a sliver tray!
Or getting students to showing up on time to class. If I say class starts at 9am. I do mean 9am, not 9:05 and certainly not 10! I might allow a few minutes grace for students to come in late, as some will take time to login or get their notebooks out (and again, Im assuming theyll have the good sense to bring notebooks, one student recently asked me if he could take home my notes to photocopy them!). If Ive scheduled a lecture to take one hour, thats hwo long its going to take, I can wait and I dont want to be rushed into going faster (else they wont be able to follow everything).
Similarly getting them to submit coursework on time can be a problem, as some dont seem to understand that a deadline is a deadline. And some students these days seem unable to accept the possibility of failure. Ill be marking the first few lab reports soon and I know from experience that they probably wont be that good (inevitable, nobody gets it right the first time!) but Ill be facing students used to getting +80% who are then told no, this is at best 50% because of XY and Z. Naturally the result is usually howls of protest. And thats the ones who submit on time. The others who miss the deadline (and get zero!) are needless to say even less happy. I mean they had a busy weekend partying and playing X-box, why am I insisting that they hand in stuff at the agreed deadline! ;D
This, along with tuition fees, is all part of a trend that we seem to have imported from America. In America, parents can actually login to a website and check up on their kids progress in school (i.e. what assignments theyve due, attendance record, marks, feedback, etc.) and often now in university. Here some parents have actually transcended Helicopter parenting and reached whats now referred to as snowplough parenting, whereby parents seem to think its their job to push all obstacles out of their (now adult) offsprings way.
Ive heard horror stories about parents ringing up the President of an American university to complain about noisy/messy roommates in halls :crazy:. Ive heard of more than a few cases of parents contacting senior staff members in the university to complain about marks and try to have pressure applied to lecturers to change them. Or even hiring lawyers to challenge marks. This of course reflects a lack of understanding of how marks are calculated, i.e. a marking criteria rather than opinion and multiple layers of mark moderation by other peers, including usually an external examiner.
Even here in the UK weve seen similar things happen. For example we catch a student committing plagiarism, only for the parents to show up at the resulting academic conduct hearing…and it very quickly becomes apparent that the cheating might well have been the parents idea to begin with.
Of course we have to blame fees and the defacto privatisation of universities in part for this. Many parents and students now seem to think that they are essentially buying a degree. Unfortunately, that doesnt negate the need to work hard and study to achieve it, just because youre paying fees.
This can be made worse in courses such as engineering or medicine, as you will occasionally get some students whove been pressured into taking up such courses by pushy parents who reckon it will be a good career move. Failing to understand that if the student simply isnt capable or motivated to complete the course he/she isnt going to do very well (or indeed drop out and fail) and would be far better off studying something theyre interested in, and likely to do better at.
But certainly this problem of over-parenting is another issue. What parents dont seem to realise is that by constantly sweeping obstacles out of your childs way all youre doing is destroying their capacity to problem solve and function independently all crucial skills in both university and the real world of work. Hence why some of the students I teach, despite being very bright, seem to have little capacity for independent thought or creativity. Shielding them from failure or hard work, means that when they have a reduced capacity to cope with such things in real life (wait till they start applying for jobs and get dozens of PFOs in response!). Ironically this in of itself can lead to more stress and undue pressure on the student to perform. And of course students who feel themselves to be under pressure are more likely to try and take the short cut of plagiarism.
And students are also more likely to do what we usually associate with Fresher’s week, getting more drunk than an Irish saint on an all expenses paid pilgrimage to Munich in October :oops:. Inevitably students under pressure feel the need to let off a bit of steam. And free from the yoke of their parents, unfamiliar with how much is too much or used to dad’s taxi to bring them home, its no surprise some get themselves into trouble.
While I would encourage parents to be involved in supporting their siblings university education, but only up to a point. The stabilisers have to come off the bike and he/she must fight their own battles and learn to be independent. This is after all part of the whole point of going to college. By preventing this, a parent is destroying the whole college experience, not to mention jeopardising the very education they are paying for.