Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy. ~Robert A. Heinlein

Dear Student's Mommy,

I have received your email expressing concern about the grade your adult child received in my class. I certainly appreciate the detail you went into, explaining what she wrote on her exam and how she skillfully incorporated the elements required by the question. Your description of your offspring's performance would impress anyone who did not have said offspring's exam right in front of her.

It is not my intention to shatter your ideas that your child is excellent academically. I suspect her transcripts have at least put a dent into that thinking, although not having reviewed them myself, that is only a hunch. It is my intention, however, to offer a little friendly advice from one adult to another, in hope of sparing your offspring much future embarrassment from your decisions to "help" her---after all, she will one day have an employer who makes demands of her that she does not like or thinks are "unfair," and an email from you most assuredly will not help.

As disconcerting as it may be to you, I cannot talk to you about your child's performance because she is an adult, and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) bars me from discussing her with you. In fact, I am not supposed to even acknowledge to you whether she is my student or not. She could give permission to allow me to talk to you, which would have to be in writing and signed (which rules out email), but...

I am not going to discuss her performance with you in any case. You simply do not know what you are talking about. I am the one who has experienced your child in class twice each week for the past 15 weeks. I am the one who has had to tell her to wake up, to stop texting, to stop reading for other classes, and to stop playng on Facebook when she is supposed to be taking notes on a film we are watching that deals with Hitler's rise to power.

It is also important to recognize the purpose of this class, which is to learn about the theories that areprominent in your child's chosen area of study. I hope you will agree that to complete a theory course successfully, a student should be able to name one theory in said field of study. Perhaps you should ask your child to name and explain three points of any theory that has been covered in class this semester, without looking at her book. This might shed some light on her pretense that she incorporated theory into the discussion of the book she did not read.

If you have the education I do, so that you can step in and teach this class that is half-filled with clones of your offspring, please submit your Curriculum Vitae to the university and I will gladly give up a section of this class so you can experience the joy of trying to teach those who really don't want to be here, as well as deal with their parents who know better than you what goes on in your classroom and about the academic field in which you have earned a Ph.D. and they may or may not have taken a single course in college 20 years ago.

This is not about whether you are a good mother---I suspect you have shown great care for your child during her life. This is about your inserting yourself into something you know nothing about, making rude demands for "justification" of my objective and experienced assessment of your child's performance, and sending the very loud and clear message that your adult child is, in fact, a child who needs her mommy to make her owwie all better. You may have the best intentions, but you have lowered my respect for your daughter, and worse, are handicapping her by teaching her not to handle her own problems,not to take responsibility for her choices, and not to learn to deal with consequences that are unpleasant. I do not believe that is the kind of parent you want to be, but it is the kind of parent you are.

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Your offspring's professor

~Shyla Lefever