Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Parents Sue School over Son's Cheating

I read a recent article in the San Mateo County Times: Helicopter parent sues school over son's punishment for cheating. The father, Jack Berghouse, a family law attorney, believed the school district was wrong for kicking his teen out of an English honors class for copying someone else's homework. He argued that the school had conflicting policies and that the penalty of being kicked out of a class was too harsh and detrimental to his hopes of getting into an Ivy League School.

Once the story came out on the internet and beyond, Mr. Berghouse receive hate calls at his office and the story received nationwide attention. He had clearly hit a nerve. Beside the irony that the lawsuit's popularity in the press probably put his son on the "questionable character" list on Ivy League admissions, Berghouse did his son no favor by not allowing him to take the consequence and learn from his mistake.

I think people are becoming aware that one result of helicopter parenting is the creation of a sue-happy society: an accepted model of lashing out when things don't work out the way we had hoped. Everyone seems to want something for nothing, and this is why our children have become so entitled.

Berghouse did not dispute that his son had cheated, but his lawsuit against the school was clearly an attempt to patch up his son's wrongdoing. So when our teens are spewing out demands, and snapping at us- telling us we need to buy them a smartphone because, "everyone else has one," we need to take one big look at ourselves. One great big look.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Three-Part College Admissions Formula

The Three-part College Admissions Formula

Did you hear Gunn had four go to Stanford this year? Did you hear York had two?

Can you hear the buzz?

High school juniors are listening to the seniors gossip about the girl with the 4.0 who got into Harvard when the guy with a 4.8 didn’t get into Harvard. It’s the talk of early Spring.

Everyone is trying to figure out the formula.

When students with 4.0 G.P.As and perfect S.A.T. and A.C.T. scores receive denial letters from selective colleges, students and willing parents are anxious to know exactly what universities expect from the incoming freshman class. What is the protocol? What are the steps?

Instead of urging your student to join a dozen clubs and to play on several sports teams, I challenge you to have your student make their mark by completing a project.

The independent project is not just something that will separate your child from other college applicants. The success it generates greatly enhances the young person’s chance of success in LIFE.

The Three-part Road Map

When I start with ninth, tenth and 11th-grade clients, I give them the formula proven to work the best. It is a three-part road map to getting into their target college. I have helped my clients go on to Stanford University, UC Berkeley, UCLA and Claremont McKenna and have handled graduate admissions for 35+ years. From this experience, I conclude that your child needs to master three things to stand out in college applications:

  1. G.P.A.
  2. S.A.T.& A.C.T.
  3. The Project

Our kids are so bright, yet not all are motivated. It is my job to find out just what makes them tick. What is their passion in life? What will drive them to get out there and improve this rich and vibrant world? Of course grades and test scores get their college application looked at, but it is the project that sets them apart and secures their admission into college.

What is the Project?

The high school project for a college-bound student is the creation of an original event, organization, business, publication, production/film, or experiment. It stems from something the student is curious about or engaged in. The work includes planning tasks, setting up a budget, finding a mentor, making sponsor kits and press kits, and things like applying for non-profit status, applying for grants, setting up a website and organizing an event. The project is designed for the young person to plan and execute independently, to gain leadership and life management skills, and to foster self-confidence and self-worth, thus quite naturally, creating young citizens and caring community members with a real place in this world.

It is important for my clients, who begin their work as early as eighth grade, to select a project that they are interested in- because they will be intimately involved with the project for years- at least until high school graduation.

So far we have had a colorful array of world-changing projects come out of the Merit program. Here are some of the projects that improved my high school clients’ chance of getting into college.

Created “Loves and Heat Music Festival”:

Engineered the Progressive Brake Light System:

Wrote the book, “Who’s Controlling Your Candidate?”

Organized and created Harry’s Tru School Hip Hop Concert Tour:

Built a hydrogen fuel cell

Started a nonprofit: Kids for Hydrogen

Wrote, advocated, and accomplished the passing of a new California law for pharmaceutical drug disposal

Created public education website on the uselessness of anti-bacterial soap based on her own research

Founded Give it up for Teens (GIFT), a fund-raising effort for teen domestic violence survivors

Created, an anti-Iraq war website with peace petition and digital art piece for image distribution made up of the faces of 4,300 soldiers killed in the Iraq war

A Note From a Parent…

“It is really incredible, Susan, not only did the project get him into the college of his choice, but he is meeting so many amazing people. He tells them his dream and when he adds that he has already manifested some part of it, they immediately take him seriously, want to know him, meet with him. He is loving UCLA and the WAC program. Thank you for your vision and your passion.”
-- Marian

I Have a Dream
As a private
college advisor, I encourage my clients to select projects that position them to be competitive in the admissions game. Projects win scholarship dollars and at the same time, fix problems that our government does not, in this economy, have the resources to tackle. Even though my high school clients work on projects in hope that they will improve their chances of getting into the top colleges, they inevitably realize that their projects make them better people.

Imagine if every college-bound student completed a project? One project at a time, I believe these two million students entering our high schools can solve our energy, housing, health care and civil rights problems.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Time for Part II for Amy Chua: Slumber Parties and a Saxophone

I just read a thoughtful new interview that a Star Tribune reporter conducted, "Tiger Mom Has Few Regrets,"in response to Amy Chua's "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" paperback release and book tour this February. The headline was a little misleading, because the article covers some of Chua's big-time regrets. At the end of her book she said the ultimate question was:"What does it mean to live life to the fullest?"

And when one is asking that kind of question, isn't it a reflection on that word we tend to use, "Oops!" Now she thinks she should have given her kids more choice.

Chua still stands by the decision to write an honest but rebellious memoir, without toning it down. She wishes people understood her intention to make the book funny, and she wonders why she received the flood of angry e-mails, like the one that said, "I hope both your daughters commit suicide."

Her rebuttal: You need to actually read the book before you decide, then come to the table.

I am one of the people of the thirty countries where the book sold, who actually read the whole book. In fact, I wrote, Our Entitled Children, An American Tiger Mom's Story in response to her book. So I'm coming to the table wondering why, in her interview in the Star Tribune, she said she is changing her parenting stance. More details please. This could be really helpful material for those of us who constantly evaluate the process of parenting.

"I really did change in many ways cold turkey-" Chua was quoted. "I'm still a parent with very high expectations school-wise. But, you know, Lulu (her 16-year-old) is a very social girl, so we've had a party at our house every weekend. She had a big sleepover for her 16th. She's a great student. She went back to violin, but the rule is: I cannot interfere. Ever. Period."

Quite frankly, now I'm confused. It sounds like Chua is still in the process of finding her philosophy. She is talking from both sides of her mouth. "Why didn't I say, try the saxophone?" Chua admits at the end of the interview.

I'm sure I am not alone when I say, Amy Chua, we are ready for Part II. You need to write another book. You admit you gave your kids too few choices. Now let's hear what you have to say about finding that wonderful place called Balance. Have you found it yet?

In my experience raising two daughters, I put myself in constant check. I also found it imperative to check my ego at the door. I learned through experience that, as a parent, you must help your children find thier place in the world. You find out who they are as humans- their hopes, interests and talents. Next, your place as a parent is to hold them to their commitments so they can learn to honor themselves and others in the community.

If Chua had her daughters work on a project (and kept her hands out of it) her daughter may not have fought so hard- ripped up sheet music and said things like, "You're selfish, you're insane, you're wrecking our lives." If Chua could have looked closely at her daughter and recognized her daughter's need to be social, she could have had her daughter work on a project that incorporated her social gifts, like fundraising and recruiting others for a good cause. Her daughter would be even more desirable for colleges if she had a project under her belt, and her self-identity would not be sacrificed in the process.

In my experience as a college advisor I have seen the worst in regards to extreme parenting. On one side of the spectrum we have the Helicopter Moms, who write their kid's papers and cushion their kids from any type of failure. Then we have the Tiger Mothers like Chua, who are on the opposite side of the spectrum, who force their kids to conform to the educational system's highest standards, with no goofing off. I choose the middle ground.

Parents are drawn Chua's book because they need to examine the extremes so they may define their own parenting style. I ask parents which style (Helicopter vs Tiger Mom) they lean toward with one objective in mind: I want them to think about it. They have more influence then they think. There is a fine balance between forcing your children to do something, and guiding them along on their personal journey. My students and my daughters are taking a well-supported, tried and true course in life. I wouldn't call American Tiger Mom style a parent philosophy. It is a tried and true technique.

It would be helpful for us to read how Chua is learning to balance. Our interest is at its peak. Now how about another book about her daughter's new world that includes slumber parties? I would like to read a Part II, and like her editor said, no need to sterilize it. Give us another honest memoir about how you have changed. There is no doubt it will be helpful.