Archive for Saturday, February 25, 2006

Mayer: Hey, just let ‘em teach!

February 25, 2006


My column last week on athletes, meddling parents and their drawbacks drew a flood of favorable reaction from frustrated coaches. The premise: When possible, coaches might be better off recruiting orphans. But most surprising was the number of academic people who responded - facultonians fed up with hindrances by stifling helicopter mommies and hovercraft dads. This from a veteran Kansas University professor:

"It's not just sports parents! The faculty as well are pretty sick of Johnson County, botoxed, stage mothers descending in person to advocate for their indulged, immature, petulant child stars. (Does one really wonder how the brats got that way?) I actually had one mother storm into my office, and as an introduction she plunged her Louis Vuitton purse ($2,800) right in the middle of my desk before even saying hello! I guess that blatant act constituted her academic credentials.

"Upon leaving, she wondered out loud if they had towed her illegally parked Mercedes (yessssss, please, God!). Another screamed at the top of her lungs that her baby's having absented herself from more than 25 percent of the classes was because 'they're just kids and need vacations.'

"It used to be that the faculty were protected by the Buckley Amendment ... which prohibited us from talking with parents because of students' rights to privacy. But the self-entitled generation now knows that mom and pops will back them in their adolescent tirades; they actually grant the requisite written permission for their parents to intercede on their behalf. I NEVER would have told my parents about trouble with a professor; they would have yanked the tuition payments and told me to get my head out of the trough and go to work if I didn't appreciate the privilege of an education. ... I'm sure you'll get a flood of e-mail from equally outraged faculty ..."

And I did. Just as coaches are harassed by doting parents wondering why they're not handling Marvelous Murgatroyd a certain way, so are non-jock teachers put on the pan for doing a good, demanding job designed to stimulate kids, and they are that, to learn and excel. The courses are too hard, the lecture words are too big, enforcement of spelling and grammar propriety is resented. "I won't accept sloppy papers," said one prof of quality. "I'm talking about formal papers stained with coffee rings, peanut butter smears, papers that resemble crumpled, water-stained pieces of trash. ... Do they really expect to get away with this stuff in their future employ?"

Outstanding teachers get zinged by lard-butts for "corrective comments" on student work; some administrators don't have the guts to back them up. Kids routinely complain that criticism damages their self-esteem. One wimpy department head suggested a teacher have two sets of standards, one for the bright, one for the not-so-bright. Any wonder so many are deeply concerned about the dumbing down of American education?

KU athletes, pampered and otherwise, aim at competing "at the next level." Regular students better belly up to coping with domestic AND foreign influences, many already on campuses, regularly whipping the homegrown dandies' buns. Motivated "outsiders" often work harder and better despite countless language disadvantages. They're the new NFL and NBA.

Kids with tough, challenging and highly capable teachers and coaches need to pay a helluva lot more attention to them and less to the hovering hens and roosters back in the nest.


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