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Parents – You Are Not Helping Your Students.

November 18, 2014

Next week is Thanksgiving. We have class Monday and Tuesday and then Wednesday through Friday off. And a surprising number of students are coming to faculty, in person and via email, to inform us that they are going on vacation with their families and so will not be in class next week. One even said that if we cover anything “really important”, the student could Skype in if needed. Another student is in a class where a literature summary is due so the student will be turning in the assignment early. But the absence defeats part of the learning experience as the task for that day is to discuss the paper that was the topic of the literature summary. Invariably, students understand the paper better after the discussion. So, while the student will garner the points for turning in the assignment, the student misses the opportunity for further learning. If I were more cynical, I might come to the conclusion that the student values the grade more than the knowledge gain.

In my classes, I don’t enforce an attendance policy. In my mind, students are adults and can make their own decisions about whether they should be in class or not. The rest of us will be there learning. The only exceptions to this policy are days when exams are given in which an absence for a vacation would garner a zero. But whether or not the students can make up the work is only part of the issue.

Another part of the issue is that it is the parents of the students asking them to skip classes to accompany them on vacation.

The message that this sends to the students is that college is not as important as other activities. And if the parents do not value the education they are presumably providing to the students, how can they possibly expect the student to value the education? And if the parents and students don’t value a college education, my job becomes almost impossible to accomplish. And if we normally don’t do anything “really important” in class, why would you come to class on your non-vacation days. If students continue to think this way and parents support this type of thinking, the educational endeavor quickly breaks down and learning comes to a halt.

So, I beseech parents – don’t ask your students to take time off from their studies to go on vacations. You are sending them the wrong message about the value of higher education and reinforcing the idea that they don’t really learn anything of value in college. Unless this is what you really believe, in which case, enjoy your vacation. But you could probably afford a better vacation if you were not wasting all that money on tuition, room and board.

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