How did I ever do it? How did I manage to go to 12 years of public school and six years of full-time graduate school with seeking out my teachers for extra help only 2 times that I can remember? I recall seeking out my college math prof for some help with a problem and my linguistics professor in graduate school who had assigned me a paper on the Anglic Spelling Reform Movement which when I went to begin my research I learned to my horror that the primary sources were almost all in Swedish, a language I neither speak not read. My parents never lobbied the officials of my schools for extra help. Neither did they hover over me as I did my homework. I was expected to be responsible for my school work.
How did it come to be that today no matter how much extra help (sometimes referred to as remedial), the demand for more increases exponentially? I have the impression that children today have become conditioned to expect that they will have to have things explained several times before they are under any obligation to know it. It also seems to me that the grade obsession sickness that pervades our schools sends the message that that one’s grade may increase a point or two from attendance at special help sessions, either from knowing the material better or by being seen by the teacher to be “really” interested. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for providing assistance to students who are trying to stretch their abilities and tackle subjects that in my day would not have been open to them. What I think we need to talk about, however, is why is it that even our brilliant students appear to believe that they need to attend remedial regularly. Are we on the road to what is done to children in many Asian countries where they are sent to cram schools after their regular schools day? Are these schools which Asian immigrants have brought with them to the United States going to become mainstream with all students expected to attend? We need to have an intelligent discussion about this. We can’t just continue to meet what has become a completely irrational demand.