We’ve just finished dealing with the school Science Fair assignment. The directions were handed out just prior to Winter break, coinciding beautifully with the end of semester for me, and my extended stay in Sydney for family reasons. I got back the day after school started to a child with the project begun only in my child’s head. No materials, no nothing.
This, my friends, is payback.
I remember my own last-minute, less than exemplary projects throughout my school career. I became queen of throwing something together the night before and handing it in. I went to school in the dark ages – a time when Google did not exist. You could go to the newsagent and buy a School Project folder on different topics for a few dollars, which you’d then copy parts out of and cut up the pictures to stick on the cardboard. You had to go to the library, not access it externally. People (not me, thank goodness) sometimes cut pictures out of library books thinking the teacher would be impressed instead of horrified.
I remember my dad sitting on the edge of my bed telling me a project was not good enough. He was right. I remember his frustration.
It’s what I felt as I painstakingly argued with my son, trying to get him to apply himself to his science fair project and get it done properly. Properly. Such a subjective term. It would have taken me about an hour to do it. But I didn’t, except for helping with pasting the sections on the cardboard.
But it’s truly agonising to know that the kid, young as he is, doesn’t appear to care as much as I do.
What did I do wrong?
Any mother of four children has done the late-night run to get poster board. Has goaded the kid into doing the work, writing it up and getting the darned thing finished. And if you’re like me, you have more interest in the overall piece of work than the kid does. Oftentimes it leads you to directing the work a little more than you should. A little more than is necessary. A little more than is fair.
We’ve all seen those projects where the parent has apparently taken the lead in no uncertain terms. The presence of the child in the work extends to writing their name at the bottom and little else.
None of us wants to be ‘that’ parent. But then again, they have to hand something decent in, don’t they? You don’t want to be the parent that allowed their kid to hand in an incomplete piece of utter crap. Suddenly you see the family name tarnished! (or some such garbage.)
As an ex-college teacher I would say that a parent doing a child’s work is akin to plagiarism. It’s not fair to anyone. Not the child, the parent, other children, other parents – or the teacher. But in college we fail people who plagiarise. I wonder if it’s time to start failing those children whose parents have done the assignment?
What do you think?