When you absolutely must have a helicopter to get off the mountain

Spread the love

Regular readers of this blog know that I often tend toward the speculative and theoretical. I want to go sideways on my posts for newbies and comment instead on an interesting article at NPR about the overparenting crisis. (http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2015/08/28/434350484/how-schools-are-handling-an-overparenting-crisis) I’d like to observe that I’ve mostly worked in academically and financially-disadvantaged schools so overparenting as a phenomenon has seldom impacted my work life. In my last district, we were working to decrease the drop-out rate, not increase the percentage of admissions to Ivy League schools. We viewed any high school graduate who chose to go to any college as a success story. In addition, in my experience, bilingual students are seldom overparented. Their parents may help land them jobs, but they don’t expect to attend any job interviews. Those parents don’t do science projects for their children. Often, they can’t do science projects for their children because their children speak better English than they do.

In any case, NPR interviewed two authors, Julie Lythcott-Haims and Jessica Lahey. I offer up the following for thought:

Lahey: Teachers and administrators complain about parents, but we helped create this frenzy.

One mother told me she was willing to step back, but felt like she could not because the standards have moved for what constitutes an A on a science project. Teachers have come to accept that parents interfere and co-opt school projects, and have begun to take that for granted when grading.

Lythcott-Haims: The other way in which high schools in particular play into the dynamic is during the college admission process, where they feel judged based on the brand names of the colleges their seniors get into, and their incentive is to brag about that.

Eduhonesty: As we raise standards and increase the emphasis on test scores as measures of life success, I can see why parents might rush into the gap between our expectations and what can realistically be expected. We don’t want to let our children fail. The article observes that letting students do their own work, and possibly fail to get that high grade, will prove beneficial to those students. I’d like to ask a couple of questions, though.

How did we come to this? How did we reach the point where a “B” became dubious and a “C” became unacceptable? When did we decide grades mattered more than learning? When a parent does Jackie’s homework, that effort costs Jackie learning even as it raises her grade. Many parents now believe that their child needs an “A” average to get into an acceptable college and they also believe that only certain colleges measure up in terms of prestige and future earning power. How did we become this frantic? The cost of our data and grade-obsession may be much higher than many educational bureaucrats and leaders realize.

I’ll end this post with a quote from Jessica Lahey, who said it as well as I ever could: “As long as we continue to worship grades over learning, scores over intellectual bravery and testable facts over the application of knowledge, kids will never believe us when we tell them that learning is valuable in and of itself.”