Tuesday, April 25, 2017

"My Mom Does My Homework For Me"

Doing your children's homework for them isn't helping them at all.

When I was in grade school, and even high school and junior high, I remember some of the kids bragging - yes bragging that their mothers did their homework for them, as if this was some sort of special treat or way of getting ahead in life.   These were not the very smart kids in class, nor the children of the well-off, but usually the poorer kids from the other side of the tracks.

For some reason, their parents felt that school was all about "winning" - and that seems to be a trait of the poor in general, even though they win at little in life, at least not financially.   Anyway, I guess they felt that if they cheated a little around the edges, and did their kid's homework for them, the kids would get better grades and "win" at school.

Problem is, of course, if you don't do the homework yourself, you don't learn anything, and as a result, when it comes time for the quiz or test, well, you flunk.   So while the kid might get a few extra points for the homework part of the grade (usually a small part of the overall grade) they end up behind the other students in matters that really count - passing the tests which demonstrate real learning.

I am not sure parents still do these foolish kinds of things, although you regularly read online about some homework assignment that the parent was "helping out on" and he tried to use his old-school math skills for some sort of "new math" assignment, and not only didn't help their kid get an "A" but instead got them an "F".  And of course, they are outraged by it all.   I suspect these are parents who are actually doing the homework for the kid, not "helping" - because the child would likely have corrected the parent if they tried to do the work wrong.

It struck me that these parents from my childhood were the precursors of today's "helicopter parents" who try to shield their children from any sort of danger or problems, and then blame the schools when their kids get bad grades.  However, while traveling though Florida, I tuned into a "talk radio" show that was rather right-wing, and realized that the term "Helicopter Parent" is sort of a favorite of the far-right, who also likes to use the straw-man piƱata "Social Justice Warrior" to illustrate how silly everyone is today (except of course, those on the far-right who are the only people left who are rational -right?).

These terms are bandied about as if the majority of people today believe this way.  And indeed, with regard to "Social Justice Warriors" there is a bit of irony.   People on "alt.right" websites and discussion groups spend hours and hours online every day complaining about "SJWs" who they characterize as people who..... wait for it..... spend hours and hours every day online complaining about the alt.right.    In other words, it is OK for them to go online and defend their right-wing views, but anyone on the left who defends their views is an "SJW" and shouted down.

I subscribe to neither camp - they are both idiots.  If you think Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump are great political leaders, you are both insane, sorry!  And neither of you represents the viewpoints of the majority of Americans, who like it or not, are pretty middle-of-the-road people.  Get over it.  the vast majority of Americans are not Libertarians or Communists.   But I digress.

But getting back to helicopter parents, clearly this trend has been around a long time, as evidenced by my experience in school, a half-century ago (has it been that long?).   There have always been parents who were overprotective of their kids, or who insisted that their children "win" at everything they did in life, whether it was school, sports, or whatever.   Here on Retirement Island, we had to amend our annual Easter Egg hunt as some parents (again, the poorer ones) thought the goal of the Easter Egg hunt was to "win" as many eggs as possible, even if they mean bowling over toddlers and snatching eggs from the hands of small children or stealing them from others' baskets.   When confronted with this ill-behavior, the parents didn't not chastise their children, but congratulated them and chastised the event organizers for "interfering" with natural selection.  The culture of belligerence rears its ugly head once again. 

This obsession with winning at trivial things, however, might be part of a greater scheme.   It struck me that the poor and underclasses are obsessed with winning or at least appearing to be winning, and will drive themselves into the poorhouse to do so.   The sales of luxury cars, motorcycles, big-bus RVs, jet skis, penis boats, and whatnot are not necessarily the highest in rich neighborhoods.  The poor snap this stuff up like mad - paying for it all on time, of course.   They are more willing to go into hock over their heads to "win" at "who has the fanciest camper" at the RV park, who who has the loudest penis boat at the boat ramp.

And it goes without saying, these are the same folks trying to "win" at driving their car - weaving in and out of traffic to "get ahead" as if they were at a NASCAR race.   Got to get ahead - so you can "win" that coveted parking space close to the door!  Or better yet, get a bogus handicap medallion, and you can win every time!   Yes, people actually do this.

Again, this gets back to poverty stories and the idea that to get ahead in life, you have to "win" at any cost, and in order to do that, you have to take shortcuts or cheat.   Only suckers will actually play the game by the rules - all the real winners in the world cheat!

This belies a fool's vision of how the world works.  Yes, sometimes cheaters win, but oftentimes we find this out when they are caught and punished and end up losing everything.   Warren Buffet and Bernie Madoff are both famous "investors" but one actually did the hard work and the other cheated.  What was the end result?

In the end, you make more money from actually knowing something than from cheating on the test.  I recounted before a fellow Electrical Engineering student at S.U. who thought she could jump-start her career by memorizing the tests from the previous year (most research professors have little time to change their tests much).   Her career was short-lived once people discovered she really didn't know anything other than how to cheat on a test.

And maybe that is the difference between the rich and the poor.  The poor obsess about "winning" at things that really don't matter in life, and at the same time losing at the things that do matter in order to obtain a meaningless win.   The rich understand what is and is not important, and try to win only when it is necessary to advancing their real interests - not just advancing their appearance of winning.