This week's Unsolicited Advice comes from a forum for college students. Clearly this problem posted a few months ago, but I think it speaks to a larger teaching problem that we should be talking about: increasingly active parents and the weakening of FERPA protections.
~ Academic Monkey
My question is about the application process and parenting access to my college work. Most of my chosen universities are using the Common Application program. In some ways, that really simplifies things, as I only have one big application to focus on. In other ways, it makes things worse, as the strengths I would emphasize to get into Harvard are different from those I would highlight in an application to a small women's university. Still, that's not my question. Recently a teacher who was going to write me a rec said that he wouldn't do it unless I waived my FERPA rights on the Common App. When I brought this up to my parents, I expected them to support my privacy -- but instead they also want me to waive my rights. Now that I've talked to some friends, it seems that their parents are all telling them to check the box to waive their FERPA rights.
I don't know about the average college student, but I was sort of looking forward to becoming an adult and dealing with my own problems in college. Now it looks like my parents and other adults are going to have the same amount of power over my life as before. What should I do about this? Can I waive my FERPA rights now, to get the teacher's rec and please my parents, and then change that later when I leave for school?
Let's just come together and take a collective breath at the parenting culture of this generation. (low whistle) Egads.
First: the Common Application does not speak for your entire school experience. Upon moving to campus, you can go to Student Affairs to ensure that there is a layer of protection between you and any meddling elders who wish to pave a path of ease between you and a diploma.
You seem to already know this, but it bears repeating: having a path made easier for you by intervening parents does little to challenge you or to help you deal with adversity. Making your own way is the key to a successful career. So go ahead and waive for the Common App. Teachers are just worried that you can read their recommendations and they want to speak freely. Then just switch it up when it comes to your future university home instead.
We have noted on this blog before about the increased activity of parents who are doing their best to "help" Junior's chances but in the process merely sabotage the tyke's future. This even plays a minor role in the recent Tina Fey / Paul Rudd movie "Admissions" about getting into highly selective schools by any means possible (side note: that movie was pretty good, in a bad sort of way).
How often have our moans and groans been answered by singing "FERPA FERPA" at our attackers? With this new trend of applications waiving FERPA rights from the very beginning of the college education, we might soon find ourselves knee-deep in parental presence. Oh god, the irritating phone calls, the insistence on Snowflake's brilliance in spite of evidence to the contrary, the poorly made baked goods!!
What can we do about this growing rise in students who wish to be children forever? I have no idea.