Chem rant

[We asked Mike Jansen for his opinion on the Edmonton science teacher who was suspended for giving zeros for missed work. This story caught our attention because of the national media coverage in Canada. Science teachers do not typically make the news. Below is Mike’s reaction. If you want to read more about this story and the follow up, Google Lynden Dorval at Ross Sheppard High School, Edmonton AB. Interestingly, there is a student-initiated petition to get the teacher back.]

Who do you want to change your diaper?

Some years ago I heard a mother asking her two year old “Who do you want to change your diaper?” In case you were wondering, she was giving her son the option of Mom or Dad, not the Pope or Mick Jagger or the Dalai Lama.

The question struck me as weird. Why give a kid the choice of who will deal with his crappy nappy? A child should be happy that anyone is changing his diaper.

Why do parents feel that kids need input into every decision? Whatever happened to “you'll take what you get . . . and like it?” And at the same time, I get the impression that parents are doing far more for their kids than their own parents did for them. Am I the only one who sees parents covering for their kids —backing them up on late work, for incomplete or missing assignments, missed practices, etc. I see parents of elementary school-age children tying the kids' shoes, for heaven's sake.

I don't think this is good. The things that parents ought to be doing more of, such as letting kids struggle and sometimes fail, are falling by the wayside, while the things that parents shouldn't be doing, like picking up after their kids and paying for a cell phone and otherwise pandering to their every whim, is on the increase.

Where do parents get the notion that they must do everything for their kids? Where does this end? Look at the large number of students who get driven to school and are picked up afterwards. I walked about two kilometres to my high school (uphill, both ways). It never occurred to me to ask for a ride; furthermore, I knew what the answer would be. In the past thirty-five years, did I miss some-thing? Did kids lose the ability to do anything for themselves?

This brings me to the point of this rant. It is to rail against the "no zero" policy for work not submitted. What are we supposed to do? What does a boss do when an employee doesn't produce — call his mom and ask for a note? We need to teach young people about responsibility and about consequences, because many (not all) parents aren't doing it.

But what's a rant without a solution? Either we ditch the "no-zero" policy, and in the process keep policy wonks and politicians and politician wannabees out of education, or we don't. If the policy stays, we can simply print an image of a pacifier next to whichever of a student's grades were calculated with any "zeroes" omitted, on his or her transcript. Either way, teachers won't have to change anyone's diaper.