Following my post yesterday, a reader provides a useful counterpoint:
David, I think you’re reading too much into the motives of professors who get cranky about helicopter parents. I’ve had parents lobby me to raise their kids’ grades (despite the work that wasn’t turned in), to withdraw plagiarism cases, and to place wakeup calls if the kid doesn’t show up for class. My colleagues have had parents try to sit in on course scheduling meetings. I know of at least one parent who pounded the president of EKU’s door at 2 a.m. because Precious Baby Darling had gotten a parking ticket from campus cops — not an urban legend; I heard the mom brag about it.
If part of the purpose of higher ed is to prepare students for the post-graduation world, this is counterproductive. How would you feel about a new hire’s mom calling you each week to see how her kid is doing, and could you get them a better parking spot, and should the dress code really apply to her kid? We get this a lot.
I appreciate this response, and to be clear, I’m not at all taking the position that the academic equivalent of the stereotypical “Little League parent” is a model to be emulated or applauded. I don’t think any reasonable person defends such conduct, and “my child is always right” parenting is a plague on our culture from birth until well past the college years.
My concern is with the attitude that a parent’s job is over when Sally or Johnny head off to school, and from the moment first-year orientation begins, they have new mentors and teachers (thus, the need for “bouncers” at college events). It is when colleges take it upon themselves to “prepare students for the post-graduate world” by intentionally replacing parental influence with the influence of professors and college peers that lines are crossed.
While this is most likely a minority attitude amongst all academics, I can’t tell you the number of reports I receive from students angered by the open hostility shown by professors or administrators against world views instilled in the home — hostility that often manifests itself through overt ridicule of parents and parental influence. Perhaps this is a problem confronted more often by devoutly religious students, who often deal with the stereotype that they’re impossibly sheltered and merely living out their faith because “that’s what Mommy and Daddy made them believe.”