Saturday, October 23, 2010

Are Students Less Independent?

"I never teach my pupils. I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn." - Albert Einstein


Go read this: 
...and then come back, okay? Thank you.

This article pisses me off. Take a look at those links on the left.

(Okay, so I wrote an enormous rant about this and then I looked back and decided it was terribly immaturely-phrased and then deleted it.)

Those air quotes. Stop the air quotes. Please. They offended me more than anything else in the article. Our "feelings" and "suffering" are just as valid as yours, Linda Bips.

While I suffer from neither depression nor anxiety, I was under the impression that medication does not remove the feelings. They merely make them more tolerable. There's an excellent passage in Will Grayson, Will Grayson that I would love to quote for you now, except Emily still has my copy, but the general gist of it was that while Lowercase Will was on medication, he fought his depression every minute of every day. Medication in prescription dosages is not an escape. And even if she's right, it's psychologists like this woman who set everyone on drugs and hope they recover. There are other ways. 

My mom and I are in something of a minor argument right now as to whether or not I'm good at "money management" (she insists that I'm not because I always ask Dad for money, I say I am because I never ask him to pay for anything I wouldn't buy myself if he refused). Is she being a "helicopter parent"? No, she's trying to raise me to be responsible for myself.

Most of the teenagers I know (and I have no specific exceptions) well enough to make a judgement on this are very resilient. We may be lazy sometimes, but when we know we need to get something done, we do it. Emily devotes all of her time to marching band and still gets A's. The same goes for me and NaNoWriMo in November. There are other examples.
Maybe we take advantage of some of the conveniences we have, but that doesn't (necessarily) mean we can't survive without them.

Even though my parents want me to go to college close to home, those of you who have been reading me for awhile will have seen quotes from them on parenting and know they won't be "helicopter parents." To paraphrase, the point of parenting is to raise your kids to be compassionate and successful adults, and to make them handle stuff for themselves. Parents are a source of support and advice, but the kids have to actually do the work.

(I am now going through the list of links on the left.)

Although this other article is still negative about young people, I am much more in agreement with it. While my dad is a fantastic proofreader, I get that it's better to do it yourself. That makes sense (no sarcasm intended). The thought of college scares me, yes, but I'm also excited for the challenge.

However, I feel a bit conflicted about all of this. Lots of sources tell parents to be "involves with their teenager" and for teens to "listen to their parents." Yet these articles, which sound like they're written by the same sorts of people, say otherwise. Are we children in need of guidance, or burdens that should be thrust away with as little contact as possible? We can't be sheltered our whole lives and then suddenly "BOOM! Hey, my name's responsibility and independence! I don't think we've met before!" A happy medium, people.

One thing I've noticed this school year is that my mom still asks me if I've done my homework. I always do my homework before doing fun stuff, unless the homework isn't due the next day. For instance, I have a lab report due next week but I'm not working on it until tomorrow. There's some parental dependence that some people might still have, and that I could very well have were it not for, well, NaNoWriMo. I should write a post on how much that has affected me.

"Instead of absorbing the negative information and figuring out how to resolve the problem or how to do better, the call gets made to home, where Mom or Dad solves the problem, often by calling the school administration. " 

Okay, yes, I would likely call home in the event of a serious problem with my roommate (that was one of the examples mentioned prior to the quote), but even now, my parents don't solve the problem for me. They ask "What do you think you should do?" and we discuss the problem. I used to have a quote as part of my email signature that read something like "Advice is what you ask for when you know the answer but wish you didn't." They just remind me that what I know is the answer is indeed the best/only answer, and that I really do have to implement that answer.

"It is difficult to be meeting new people and seeking novel experiences while you are talking to your old pals." Sorry. I like my high school friends. I intend to be friends with many of them for life. I refuse to let go of them simply because we're going to college in a couple years.

"Because colleges are in the business of education, they could take on the role of educating parents more than they already do about what's appropriate parental behavior at this stage and how to gently let out the leash." <- *Stamps APPROVAL stamp on these words*

1 comment:

  1. This is an interesting post linking to interesting articles, so I think I have quite a bit to say, sorry? First off, I am unsure that Nerdfighters provide the best examples of "typical" students. Personally, my parents didn't visit me at university until my sister joined me there my third year, and I didn't own a cell phone until I went off to grad school. Since they discovered Skype, hurray *sarcasm*, at about the same time, I know grudgingly call or am called by them weekly. However, I know lots of students have closer familial relationships than I do.

    One thing that multiple articles did was imply that students becoming more family dependent/oriented was a bad thing. I think this comes from our "frontier mentality" as a culture (I assume you are in the US, the articles were from the NYT at least). In another, more family oriented, culture, these trends might be lauded, however, the "parent grizzly" response that schools get from irate parents would probably need to be curbed there as well.

    As an undergrad, I was a Resident Assistant for 2.5 years. I never was on the receiving end of any serious "parent Hulk smashes," but during move in there would often be a lot of little incidents where parents would become agitated when their little pookie couldn't have a microwave in their room, or couldn't be assured a spot in the bike room. Judging from the amount of institutional paranoia regarding parental intrusion we saw in our training, I tend to suspect that there is something to what these articles are saying.

    Currently I am a graduate teaching assistant in my third year. Again, no direct experience with parents calling me to yell about their darlings' grades, but in training we were told a couple times that this can happen. Of course, the parents usually call someone much higher up on the food chain than me at whom to complain. In regards to my students, while some show a shocking sense of entitlement, and many have a serious disrespect for academics, almost all of them have been respectful people whom I have been privileged to teach.

    Even with my lackluster parental communication, I found this Wednesday I was startled by the realization that I could buy a new computer without consulting my parents. And I haven't lived in their house for more than a couple weeks at a time in over 6 years. It seems reasonable that others more connected would have a harder time unlearning childhood programming. Regarding high school friends, not much personal experience there, didn't really have any to keep, but I did observe that people who left campus most or all weekends did not make as many ties in the campus community. Of course, with all this great technology, I can sort of keep in touch with my undergrad friends and only make it back to Oregon for one or two blessed months each year... not that I have integrated myself well on this campus, hmm.

    Well, there is my veritable manifesto on the subject. I'm a bit sick, so hopefully the ideas made it safely from my brain, through the tiny chicken eggs, and out into the Internets.


Talk to me.