Saturday, June 30, 2007

They grow up so slow these days

A couple of years ago I quoted a passage from an article by Frank Furedi. It ran:
In 1997, I completed my book The Culture of Fear. Most of the comments my copy editor made about the manuscript were routine questions about grammar, incoherent formulations and inconsistencies. But one of the comments stood out as an explicit challenge to the authenticity of the text. The contentious passage informed the reader of a relatively new development - the arrival of parents on campus. To illustrate the changing character of university life, I pointed to what was then a relatively novel phenomenon: students arriving on campus for their interviews, accompanied by their parents. "This cannot be true," exclaimed my editor.

At first, I was taken aback by her implicit challenge to my integrity. But after we had discussed this issue, I was able to understand where she was coming from. As someone who was an undergraduate in the 1970s, she could not reconcile her experience of a parent-free university with the subsequent changes.
I thought of this when I read an article in today's Guardian by Anne Karpf. It was in the frequently gruesome Parenting section. I too was an undergraduate nearly 30 years ago and because of that the article's opening seems bizarre to me:
I wandered around a university campus with my oldest child the other weekend. It was an open day and our first university visit, so where had I seen this parade of other eager parents with their children before? And then I got it. For most of us, this was the fourth time we'd scrutinised a place to see if it was good enough for our kid, or assessed their chances of landing a place
The idea of your parents would accompanying you when you went for interview at university would have seemed laughable - literally laughable - when I was in the sixth form.

Yes, times change and in a comment on my original posting Tabman offered some ideas on why they have changed in this case. But such change should make us guard against simple-minded assertions that children grow up more quickly these days.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It gets worse. My older son went to several open days last year, and said that parents were gate-crashing sessions specifically for prospective students (parents having their own diversionary activities arranged) and asking 'well, duh' questions while their offspring cringed in embarrassment.

A lecturer friend regularly fends off calls from parents wanting to know whether their 19-year-olds are turning up to lectures and handing in essays on time.

Seems to me that parents should be firmly encouraged to start taking up hobbies when their children get to 15ish - a 'Surestop' scheme, perhaps?