Comments on: Helicoptering: what does it matter to faculty? History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present Sun, 21 Sep 2014 11:42:55 +0000 hourly 1 By: Z Sun, 25 Jul 2010 08:05:07 +0000 Our funniest encounters are actually with spouses. “How dare you assign a book with sex in it to my wife…,” things like that.

By: Anonymoose Thu, 22 Jul 2010 04:11:09 +0000 Honestly, this is just how it is in the admin side of the academy. My experience is truly no different than that of any of the peers I ever met at conferences. Its a tremendous problem, and because of it, so much valuable time and money is spent dealing with parents of students, rather than focusing on students.

By: Historiann Thu, 22 Jul 2010 01:48:15 +0000 Wow. That’s a nightmare, Anonymooose. I can’t believe you had the stomach to stay in higher ed after that experience.

I have to wonder what the romantic/sexual future is for the children of helicopters (esp. Black Hawks.) Who wants a boyfriend/girlfriend/lover like these snotty-nosed and/or potentially criminal or destructive losers? Seriously. I didn’t raise this issue in my post, but it’s been on my mind all week long. How can people like that function in any kind of adult relationship?

I mean function in a way that’s healthy. Kids like that are ripe for the plucking by unscrupulous people, much like their parents.

By: Anonymoose Thu, 22 Jul 2010 01:25:28 +0000 I am posting this Anonymously, to avoid Google. Helicopter parenting is a college’s worst nightmare. I am on the academic side now, but started as a administrator in higher ed (at a bigbucks R1 private institution), and what we saw there, starting about 2000, was just cringeworthy. If I had a dollar for every student that cried in my office, because, given a choice of two courses of action, neither of which was perfect but both of which had some pros and cons to them, students would say, time and time again, “I’ve never made a decision before. You choose.” When we kept tallies of parent calls, we found more than 75% of calls to academic advisors came from parents. Parents were moving into dorms and living on the floors of their kids rooms, or buying small condos nearby and living near their kids, to work for them like 24 concierges.

And some helicopters? We called them the Black Hawks, mowing down everything in their kids’ paths, regardless of who got hurt, to smooth the way for their children. I have had parents lie to me about a spouse dying, to get an advantage for their kids. They have offered me (and my confederates) buckets of cash to obtain some perceived advantage for their kid on campus, as well as free plastic surgery (um…that was a little hurtful, frankly!), exclusive use of a boat for the summer, and a summer house stay. We have had Black Hawks make up deliberate lies about their kids’ roommates, as a way of trying to get the other kid kicked out so their kid can have an extra large single, and on my campus we had parents key a profs car in the parking lot and blame another kid in the running for the same fellowship as their child.

Everyone suffers – the kids whose parents helicopter miss the opportunity to grow up. They literally are paralyzed with fear about what to do, because they have never had the opportunity to fail. And kids whose parents don’t helicopter – 1st generation kids, kids whose parents don’t speak english well, etc – they suffer too, because those Black Hawks are mowing them down to get as much advantage for their precious snowflake kids as possible. The reason most admissions office don’t put much weight on admissions essays is because of the Helicopters, who write the essays, or hire professional writers.

And, lest I sound bitter, I talked to hundreds of parents (over the span of years) who didn’t helicopter – who gave their kids some space to make their own choices, who let them make mistakes and learn from them. But I talked to way, way more helicopters and Black Hawks, the ones who make it known that when their kid is caught with cocaine its the roommates, and when their kid is arrested for rape its the girl’s fault, and when their kid hangs a noose over a dorm door its a practical joke, and that they will not let their innocent child suffer for it, and oh, if any of this goes on his permanent record we are suing you because he is going to be president one day and cannot have this kind of blemish on his record.

We kept a whiteboard in my office – parent, student, helicopter, Blackhawk. By far, most calls were helicopters, least calls were students, and Blackhawks and regular parents were somewhere in the middle.

By: Wogglebug Wed, 21 Jul 2010 19:46:06 +0000 @ Madaha: When I was in college and grad school, I was most likely to feel overwhelmed by an essay or research paper if the instructions weren’t really clear to me: vague, apparently self-contradictory, whatever. The thing that helped most was getting to read one to three model papers of that type (not the exact same topic, just the same length / level of analysis / style / etc.). Then I had a much better idea of what to aim for and no longer felt like I had to cover a near-infinite number of possibilities.

Copying a few of the best papers from previous years and handing them out as models could be quicker and more effective than counseling students about their emotions.

By: Historiann Wed, 21 Jul 2010 14:05:01 +0000 Perpetua, this is another version of the old adage, “80% of the people cause 20% of the problems, and 20% of the people cause 80% of the problems. If it were my kid having surgery, you can bet that I’d be in the hospital with hir and would let my kid deal with any proffies or missed deadlines hirself!

I’ve noticed that the above-board kids go out of their way to be scrupulous and follow directions to the letter, while the others. . . not so much.

CPP: agreed. We’re right! But no one listens to us becuase they think they can always find a magical shortcut that will cost them less money. Just once I’d like to be wrong but rich, like the people who are ignoring us.

By: Perpetua Wed, 21 Jul 2010 13:04:43 +0000 I’ve taught at two large public unis and have never had a run-in with a parent – except for once. I have a very strict late policy for my assignments, and on the eve of an essay due date, I received an email from a student I didn’t know well, telling me he had a “stomach ache” and that he couldn’t finish the paper/ come to class. Naturally, I suspected he was lying and sent him my standard response – that he would be held to the late penalty unless he ponied up with a doctor’s note. The next morning, this middle aged man walked into the classroom before class began and introduced himself as X’s father (he even handed me a business card, I presume as evidence). It turns out X was undergoing an emergency appendectomy and he was super freaked out about missing the deadline and wanted to make sure I knew his excuse was real! While on the one hand this is a funny anecdote, on another it signals to me how naive and *young* our students can be (I’m choosing “young” rather than “immature” because it’s not their fault they’re still adolescents!). Why on earth would anybody think they could or would be penalized for having emergency surgery? There might be one professor in the history of academic who would say “I don’t care,” but I’m pretty skeptical about it. The point is, many students don’t know the difference between a safeguard for excuses and a genuine emergency, that we might react differently to a serious medical/ family problem versus a romantic break up affecting their work. How can they not know the difference? Partly I suppose this is the work of growing up and learning how to navigate the adult world, and partly it’s a failure of common sense. But how under the thumb of authority must some of these kids must be in order to be unable to say, “If Dr. Perpetua throws a fit about my emergency surgery, that’s absolutely unfair and I refuse to believe that this would be her policy. We’ll figure it out after I get out of the hospital.” That is, to make a call about what’s right/appropriate and have the confidence to stick to it. The same is true for students who ask for extensions because of overloaded work schedules or minor problems. I always want to say, “YOU need to make the call about your priorities. Maybe my class isn’t your priority right now. That’s not always a bad thing. But YOU have to decide, and live with the consequences.” I’m not sure what to think about why so many of them can’t make these calls on their own. And I suspect that the flip side of the kid panicking because of his emergency surgery is the kid who plagiarizes.

By: Comrade PhysioProf Wed, 21 Jul 2010 11:15:28 +0000

The parents of our college students now are the same parents who agitated in the late 80s and early 1990s about standards, about rigor, about accountability for schools and teachers, and they’re the ones who went big for standardized tests and homework every night from Kindergarten on. Now, apparently, there’s anxiety about how Americans are losing creativity and problem-solving abilities. (Ya think?)

And we Dirty Fucking Hippies tried to tell those rigid uptight authoritarian assholes that this was exactly what the fuck was gonna happen. But did they listen? NO FUCKING WAY, cause what the fuck do Dirty Fucking Hippies know? But as usual, and like with everyfuckingthing else, we were 100% motherfucking correct.

By: Indyanna Wed, 21 Jul 2010 03:52:39 +0000 I remember having a conversation with you about parental helicoptering, how long ago was it, Historiann, well, it would have been the first year of your previous job. That might not have been the specific term of art used, but that was definitely the phenomenon in question. So it’s an issue that goes back beyond the millenium itself, however we may define the Millenial generation. I’ve always associated the issue with the parenting styles of the boomers, and since lots of them didn’t become parents until late in the 1970s–or later–that might fit that particular template. In truth, I’ve had only a few direct contacts from parents over the years, mostly in genuine emergencies, and the others always accepted my Buckley Amendment-based demurrers about getting interactive about their questions.

Whatever I know or presume to know about helicoptering is mostly based on relentless overheard cell phone conversations in campus walkways, hallways, student centers, gyms, everywhere. In once sense, coming from a generation where performative alienation was pretty much a de riguer at least phase, I guess intergerational commity is kind of nice. But I have major questions about the dependency issues in long-term developmental perspective. I’m not sure that our institutions don’t encourage it, even more than they merely tolerate it.

By: nicoleormaggie Wed, 21 Jul 2010 03:41:43 +0000 I had the father of a MASTERS student try to get me removed after his daughter was caught cheating. When the TA brought it to my attention, I immediately turned it over to the honors counsel so really there was nothing I could do even if he had managed to brow-beat me.

When that didn’t work, he tried to get me removed for violating FERPA a year later (which, apparently doesn’t work– the university gets in trouble, not the faculty member, according to the legal office). Everybody knew she was caught cheating, not because she talked about it in the hallway on the top of her lungs (with an embellished story of her victimhood that I could not deny because of the FERPA law she was violating) but because I must have told people. As if the only thing on my mind was to persecute his precious daughter. First he complained to the state legislature. Then he went through the proper university channels. So much paperwork.

It has been 3 years since she cheated and a year since I had to deal with either her or her helicopter parent. Though last year I did have to do a security clearance for her, which I tried to get out of because of FERPA, but then she signed the darned form so I had to talk to them and be honest about it.

I hope they both get hit by a bus. (Is that horrible?) And I am very glad that the recession has caused our improved applicant pool to mean we never have to accept a person like her again. (Though I still want raises back.)