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Free Range Parenting?

Discussion in 'The Front Parlor' started by LizzieMaine, Jun 15, 2015.

  1. I cared very little about school, was an indifferent student at best (and my teachers reciprocated). Attended because I had to and endured to the end as I had to in order to get into university. I worked til 1:00AM most nights and my best teacher was junior year Math...he let me sleep at my desk each first period math class. My second fave was junior year Chem. Mr Blake passed me on the condition that I never took another Chem class as long as I lived.
    My 4 years in university were a far better experience. I enjoyed those years immensely.
  2. BlueTrain

    BlueTrain One Too Many

    By no means do I claim that my opinions or my experiences were the same as anyone else's at school. There were some who drifted through school, some who were intense students (one became an MD) and so on. But most were average, almost by definition.

    When I went away to college, there were several other first-year students who I got to know. Well, I had a disastrous freshman year, so I dropped out and a few months later, joined the army (my son did the same thing). Three years later, I returned to school and did okay, graduating in December 1971. I ran into several who I had met as a freshman, either going to graduate school or waiting for their wife to finish school. One person, however, still had not graduated by the time I did, meaning it took him eight years to get his bachelors. But he went on to get a master's, nevertheless.
  3. I couldn't stand school at pretty much any level, between the rotten environment and the dreary, unimaginative curriculum. I enjoyed English and social studies, but loathed anything to do with math, so I was an A student in the former and a C or D student in the latter: I didn't care about math and still don't, and the longer I went on, the more I resented having it shoved down my throat.

    I also couldn't stand the classroom setting itself -- I found it frustrating and superficial on the subjects I liked and irritating beyond belief that I was compelled to spend time on subjects for which I had no aptitude or interest. The teacher would be yapping about polynomials and I'd be sitting in the last row with a copy of the National Geographic hidden in my lap. My eleventh grade algebra teacher in particular I really detested -- I can't even remember her name, but her squawking Donald Duck-like voice sticks in my memory like an infected splinter.

    I have almost no memory of my senior year, other than that I also had a full-time job that year.
    belfastboy likes this.
  4. A lot of what Lizzie hated about high school is solved for in college. There are, of course, some required courses, but overall (and more as you move up in grades), you choose your courses or from a series of options in your selected field of study.

    I was an Economics major with an English minor - two of my favorite things to study to this day, so I really enjoyed almost all of my classes. And away from those two fields, I took electives in things that just interested me - I remember a neat course on food science and several history courses that I loved.

    Also, by the third year, you knew by experience or reputation the different professors' styles and leanings, so you could also vet for those characteristics. And as Rutgers is a gigantic University, you had an incredible amount of choices (amidst the colleges and within them) for courses, classes, teachers, professors, etc. Additionally, (with one notable exception), there was almost no attendance or other "policing," you attended class only if you wanted as your grade was based on your work - papers or tests (again, with a few small exceptions).

    All of this, for me, added up to a very "adult" experience at college. Until I got to college, school was not fun, but college was a place where you could really learn, expand your knowledge and pursue your interests and do it in a reasonably mature and respectful manner.
    belfastboy and ChiTownScion like this.
  5. I didn't "get" algebra until college. And there were two things that flipped on that light switch:

    1. I had taken a course that dealt with a lot of Aristotelian logic. Syllogisms. I got to where I could recite them in my sleep, and it really helped me in a course that I took in Algebra- the ones which most normal people took in their junior year of high school.

    2. The realization that the "=" sign is akin to a scale: anything you do to the left of it, you have to do on the right to "balance" the equation. Seems pretty elementary, I know.. but I suppose that the teachers always presumed that we "got it" and didn't need it pointed out.

    Learning math is, as I see it, dependent upon a teacher who can motivate students. My HS freshman algebra teacher was a lazy, fat slug who rarely got off his oversized arse to get up to a blackboard to point out the essentials. He had an oversized class of 14 year old males and used to smoke constantly. He was one of those late 1960's types who went into teaching because it meant a Selective Service deferment. He was the type of lethargic slacker who couldn't motivate someone with a boot filled with horse urine to pour it out.

    The really sad aspect was that we had a really terrific math teacher (who had taught me a summer school "pre- algebra" course that I loved) but I was not given him. I am now convinced that his classroom slots went to the rich kids at our parochial school. Too bad: this particular guy was extremely inspirational and talented.. although he had one flaw: he would always insist that no matter how pathetic the teacher, and student who wanted to learn math, could. That is, of course, nonsense: a teacher like him who earns respect will always motivate the student to put forth an extraordinary effort, because pleasing him becomes a goal. He continued teaching until he died- well into his nineties.

    Nowadays, we have Kumon and other for- profit educational franchises that can be engaged to light the fires of learning at an early age. Perhaps that's part of the whole helicopter parent problem, but perhaps in other aspects it's no more sinister than obtaining a decent set of encyclopedias for the kids was in my day. Utilizing such entrepreneurial services, of course, requires both the financial abilities of the parents and motivation on the part of the kid him / herself: it's a stacked deck and not all have a fair shot in the game. Until this society of a whole grasps the reality that education for all means an uncompromising utilization of our resources, it's going to continue that only those who can pay for their kids will benefit from education. We waste a lot of our future potential when we ration our educational resources solely on the basis of whose parents can write the check.
  6. Even though many University classes (especially large lecture courses!) are attendance-optional, there are reasons to at least keep track of what's happening. Here's the story I tell my students from time to time:

    I was a reasonably talented, overly optimistic, and thoroughly lazy third-year student in Aerospace Engineering. The required course in orbital mechanics met three times a week at 08:00. Luckily, our professor very kindly mimeographed lecture notes, which he handed out at the beginning of class and left on a chair outside his office (along with the homework sets). I very quickly stopped coming to class, opting to read the notes and textbook, work the problems, and slip my papers under his office door before the deadline. I got excellent marks on the homework sets, and came into the final with a reasonable expectation of an A in the course.

    I should have known there was a problem when the professor looked at me curiously as I sat down for the final. He handed out the papers, and announced that this would be just like the midterm.

    And I thought, "what midterm?" Turns out I'd missed that little detail about the class.

    Well, I did reasonably well on the final, and my advisor was able to talk the professor into not failing me on general principle. Needless to say, though, I didn't get an A in the course.

    So, though attendance is often optional, it's a good idea to keep current on what the instructor requires. If there are helicopter parents hovering around my students, they've got an impressive stealth mode, and what I see tends to be a bunch of intelligent, mostly-inexperienced, and thoroughly-overworked young adults, many of whom have (and need to have!) detailed plans to work their way out of extensive student debt.
    Fading Fast and ChiTownScion like this.

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