Friday, September 3, 2010

Shooting Down Helicopters

In just six years, "orientation" meetings at colleges and universities for parents of new freshmen have dramatically increased in number.  According to the Los Angeles Times, "Last year, 97% of U.S. and Canadian colleges and universities surveyed had held orientations for parents of incoming students, according to the University of Minnesota's National Survey of College and University Parent Programs, a study of 500 schools. That's up from 61% in 2003, the study showed."

My alma mater, UCLA, is one of those schools, as is our cross town rival, USC.  High on the agenda during orientation: "helicopter parents"  - so-called because they constantly hover over their offspring.  The cell phone has become a weapon of control.   As John Rosemond pointed out in this week's column, what is missing for kids in the land of the free these days is freedom!

Helicopter parents of college students not only prevent their children from learning how to make their own decisions, some of them are causing huge headaches for college administrators and teachers.  According to that same Los Angeles Times article (,0,5909576.story), "Educators tell of parents who refuse to leave campus at the appropriate time, even if orientation schedules now often include a specific time to say goodbye. Some impersonate their children in telephone calls seeking information from campus offices. And some can't stop protesting the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which keeps grades confidential unless students allow parental access."

According to MSNBC (, Neil Montgomery, a psychologist at Keene State College in New Hampshire, surveyed 300 college freshmen.  "Participants had to rate their level of agreement with statements such as, 'My parents have contacted a school official on my behalf to solve problems for me,' 'On my college move-in day, my parents stayed the night in town to make sure I was adjusted,' and 'If two days go by without contact, my parents would contact me.'

About 10 percent of the participants had helicopter parents. The rate was higher in girls than in boys, with 13 percent of the females being helicoptered compared with just 5 percent of males. And it was mainly mothers doing the hovering, Montgomery said. Students with helicopter parents tended to be less open to new ideas and actions, as well as more vulnerable, anxious and self-consciousness, among other factors, compared with their counterparts with more distant parents."

Stories abound about parents calling instructors to argue about their child's grades.

Trying to counter this trend, UCLA tells parents at the orientation, "Take a moment to inhale and release your concerns and anxieties and release your student to this wonderful adventure." 


I wish them good luck with that.

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