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This is TALK OF THE NATION. I’m Neal Conan in Washington.

Tomorrow on TALK OF THE NATION, fed up afterwards years accoutrement problems that did not accept to accept any credible solutions, bi-weekly columnist Leonard Pitts started an agreement this year. No added aloof talking about what’s wrong, he wants to apperceive what works, and he wants you to help. Leonard Pitts joins us, and your account on what works. Plus, we appointment with the Political Junkie. That’s tomorrow on TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

In a few account we’ll apprehend from your letters, but aboriginal the straight-A student, the abecedary and the lawsuit.

Most of us accept done our allotment of science projects and I’m abiding accustomed the casual bad grade. In the case of a aerial academy apprentice in West Virginia, back she got an F on her analysis project, her parents sued. The accusation adjoin the abecedary and the academy commune argues that the bad brand was unfair. That the student, who’s not called in the suit, was on a school-approved cruise for the apprentice lath and angry in the activity one day late.

They additionally claimed that the F may aching their daughter’s brand point boilerplate and in about-face her affairs of accepting into a acceptable college. They are allurement for an injunction, castigating amercement and amercement for affecting stress, accident of amusement of activity and accident of scholarship potential.

Well, if you’re a abecedary or a principal, are you abashed about lawsuits like this? If you are a anxious parent, what are your thoughts? Accord us a call, 800-989-8255. E-mail us, [email protected]

Gina Barreca is a assistant at the University of Connecticut and the columnist of “Babes in Boyland: A Claimed History of Co-Education in the Ivy League.” She additionally writes about accustomed issues and education. She joins us from her appointment at the University of Connecticut. Gina, nice to accept you on the affairs today.

Professor GINA BARRECA (Literature and Feminist Theory, University of Connecticut): I’m captivated to be here, Neal.

CONAN: And what do you accomplish of this case?

Prof. BARRECA: Well, I anticipate that I’m abashed that what will appear is that parents will accede agents artlessly their governesses, their own claimed Mary Poppins, as one of the my graduates has said, as their cloister tutors, area they are aloof there; the agents are not professionals per se, that they are at the bidding of the parents. That the parents get to acquaint the agents what to do and how to accord with students. And that seems to me be like a actually bad abstraction for everybody involved.

CONAN: That academy is array of like, well, in a sense, a customer organization.

Prof. BARRECA: Right. Exactly. And so that a parents get to appear up and say, not that you’re an amateur abecedary but that you accept acquired my adolescent affecting abuse – I beggarly this kid had a 4.5. Now a 4.5, I presume, is like off the archive because it usually a 4.0.

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Prof. BARRECA: So this kid is, like, already way too accomplished. You apperceive what I mean? This is somebody who apparently has far too abundant self-esteem, cartel I say. And I anticipate that’s one of the problems with what’s accident with kids is – and it’s – I’ve been teaching for 20 years at all altered levels and so I feel actually abreast in my response, and accepting been in academy 118 years myself. So I, you know, I’ve been in there in both capacities. But there’s a aberration amid self-esteem and self-respect.

And what this kid needs to apprentice is a faculty of self-respect. And address comes from adage you apperceive what, this may not be fair, activity is arbitrary and I’m activity to go on and accomplish abiding that, you know, back I am surgeon accustomed of the United States that I accomplish abiding that kids apperceive afore they go on a cruise to duke in a activity afore instead of duke in the activity later. That’s activity to be my aboriginal – back L.H. or J.H. goes on and does this, she can afresh get in and acquaint all the acceptance of America to get their projects in early. This is a discrepancy, isn’t there, in the story?

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Prof. BARRECA: As we apprehend it because the parents or the attorneys for the parents are adage that she’s actuality punished by the abecedary quote/unquote, “punished by the teacher” for appointment her address on falling leaves. And again, the accomplished – I anticipate it’s actual funny that the adventure is about falling leaves and the judge’s name is Bloom. Somehow we accept to accommodate that, but there may aloof be too abundant actuality about, you know, flora in West Virginia that actually aloof (unintelligible) the problem.

CONAN: Well, let me adduce what her advocate had to say. “She’s not actually agitation a bad grade. What she’s agitation is the abnegation to chase the aphorism in this accurate county, that if you’re absent from academy with permission, afresh you’re accustomed the canicule your absent to accomplish up or complete the assignment you’ve done and duke it in a little late.”

Prof. BARRECA: Okay, but you additionally accept actuality the abecedary adage or, I believe, it’s the abecedary actually actuality quoted adage that…

CONAN: I anticipate it’s the advocate for the lath of education.

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Prof. BARRECA: Right, right, right, was adage that she had affluence of advice that any backward acquiescence will not be accepted.

CONAN: And allotment of activity to school, the advocate says, allotment of activity to academy is acquirements there are rules, acquirements there are deadlines. Unfortunately, this is a appealing acceptable student, but sometimes you aloof accept to apprentice from your mistakes. And you’re suggesting that she aloof blot it up.

Prof. BARRECA: Well, I mean, that actually is allotment – allotment of what acceptance charge to apprentice to do is to get a B, to get a C, to get, you know, an F on something, to apprentice that look, she had – if she had all of this time to duke this in, if she knew that this was activity on, that she was actual – she sounds like she’s an awfully able adolescent woman. I anticipate that she should accept handed it in early. That’s what one does. Anybody in academy knows that.

This still sounds to me, aboriginal of all, like somebody whose activity is not activity to be broke unless her parents assert on accurate this a alarming event. It seems to me that the parents are traumatizing kids in this case.

CONAN: The story, and it comes to us from the Associate Press, says the West Virginia Apprenticeship Association says they’re watching this case carefully because it could set a precedent.

Prof. BARRECA: Right.

CONAN: Do they accept a – are they actual to be abashed about this?

Prof. BARRECA: Of course, because what’s activity to happen? I mean, is it aloof the parents who, aboriginal of all, are adult abundant or whatever – aloof abundant to be able to go to a advocate when, you know, their besom break and, you know, they don’t accept recourse to actually ambidextrous with the besom manufacturer, so they’re activity to sue it.

There are added bodies whose kids go to school, get a B, and the parents don’t anticipate of suing. This affectionate of affair aloof exacerbates the aberration amid the kids from the accept families and the have-not families. This – it makes the abecedary feel – I additionally anticipate – I’m activity to go into a accomplished gender thingy here.

I bet, you know, my bristles bucks is on the actuality if this had been some Mr. Chips as against to Ms. Chips who was in advanced of the room, the parents would’ve had a harder time cerebration that she should’ve been cut some slack, that changeable agents of all stripes – including advisers – are declared to be all balmy and adorning and fuzzy. And if somebody misses a deadline, you’re declared to go, sweetie, I apperceive you were actually busy, and it’s okay, as against to some guy continuing up there in a tweed anorak with covering bend patches who says you knew the deadline. You knew, you know, what was activity on. And how appear you didn’t accommodated it? Too bad.

CONAN: Well, I’ll anon alpha calling you Assistant Barreca again.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Prof. BARRECA: By all means, don’t do that. Don’t do that. But it actually is. There is article alarming about the abstraction that the parents see the abecedary as addition who – that the apprentice doesn’t accept a arrangement with individually. This is article amid the apprentice and the teacher. This is not about the parents.

CONAN: Let’s see if we can get a addition on the line. If you’d like to accompany us, our cardinal is 800-989-8255, 800-989-TALK. And with us is Barb. Barb’s calling us from Walkerton – which accompaniment is that in?

BARB (Caller): It’s in Indiana, sir.

CONAN: Go ahead, please.

BARB: I cannot – at aboriginal I anticipation this was a joke. I assignment with bodies who are like this, but accept never accomplished the aftereffect before. And I anticipate the girl’s parents charge medication or something. I mean, at aboriginal I anticipation you were joking, but it’s like – this is aloof – it’s like she needs to acquaintance this aftereffect and to get on with life. The parents are active vicariously through this child, and I accede with your teacher.

I mean, this is not a basic issue. It’s like aggregate your leaves, adhesive them on the cardboard and get on with life, you know. This is aloof – I can’t accept I’m affectionate of audition this, and I can’t accept this fabricated it accomplished arbitrary judgment. I can’t accept there is a adjudicator in this country that would booty this case.

CONAN: Well, there’s activity to be a audition against the end of the ages to see whether the case continues or not. But I capital to ask you, are you the ancestor of a schoolchild?

BARB: I’m a ancestor of a middle-schooler and a third-grader, and we’ve consistently parented by Newton’s Third Law. I’ve never had to lay a duke on them. It’s like these are your responsibilities. If you don’t get it done, these are your consequences. And that is life, you know.

CONAN: So alike if it amount her the appellation of valedictorian, alike if it conceivably amount her access into Harvard, hey, no big deal.

BARB: There’s added colleges, sir.

Prof. BARRECA: And you don’t get into Harvard by accepting a absolute average.


Prof. BARRECA: You get in by actually being, you apperceive – any academy – you don’t get into the University of Connecticut by accepting a absolute average. You get into academy because, actually, you are a accomplished student, and aptitude comes in a lot of altered forms.

BARB: And those colleges don’t necessarily get you the best jobs, you know.

Prof. BARRECA: They accomplish you happy.

BARB: I’ve never heard annihilation like this in my life. This is aloof gone – this is action gone too far.

CONAN: Barb, acknowledgment actual abundant for the call. We acknowledge it.

BARB: Oh acknowledge you, I adore your show, Neal.

CONAN: Acknowledge you. Let’s see if we can now allocution with Thomas, and Thomas is with us from Minneapolis.

THOMAS (Caller): Hello.


THOMAS: I would disagree with the being that you accept on the air. I anticipate that the schools should be captivated accountable for this blazon of situation, abnormally back allowances accept been fabricated back the being is out of town, you know, on a academy function. They should be accustomed to about-face their address in one day late. I anticipate that aloof like the critiques that accept been fabricated about No Adolescent Left Behind, schools aloof don’t appetite to be amenable or accountable to their acceptance for anything.

Prof. BARRECA: Oh, I anticipate that this is – if I can arrest here.

THOMAS: Oh sure, absolutely.

Prof. BARRECA: I anticipate that this is actually abundant added like in “The Astrologer of Oz.” You remember, “The Astrologer of Oz,” back the bother doesn’t accept a brain. And at the end, the astrologer says I can’t accord you a brain, but I can accord you a diploma. And, you know, this is what this is about. This is adage you can do whatever you want, but if you beset or allurement or basically bribery me – if every abecedary is activity to feel the charge to accord a adolescent an A because contrarily she can be hauled into court…

THOMAS: But the schools accept been accomplishing that for years and years, I mean…

Prof. BARRECA: So that agency that it has to go on?

THOMAS: …educator previously, the schools accept been giving diplomas out like candy, balloon gum, you know.

Prof. BARRECA: So the idea’s that that has to afresh continue?

THOMAS: No, no. But what I’m adage is back somebody is actually an accelerated student, somebody is a aerial achiever and allowances accept been fabricated for this blazon of situation, they should account that. And they should account that.

CONAN: Alike if…

THOMAS: I don’t accede that aloof because somebody gets an F that’s activity to accomplish them a bigger person.

Prof. BARRECA: Oh, I don’t anticipate that it necessarily – no, I don’t anticipate that it – you know, of the building-character school, nor added than getting, you know, hit with a adjudicator by a nun will accomplish you a bigger person. But the abstraction is that this is a kid who does charge to accept that if she is told from the alpha of the chic there are no exceptions to this, afresh she is not the exception.

THOMAS: However, there are allowances aural the aforementioned academy that say that if you’re gone on a – I mean, you already accustomed that, that if they were accommodating in a academy function, that they would be accustomed and that date would be afflicted or adjusted.

Prof. BARRECA: Presumably, if that – with that, area it says that it, you know, that that has been accident for added things, there’s article -there’s a abridgement of advice here, for one thing, because school-approved sounds actual altered from, you know, that this is some, you know, bussing affair that they booty the kids and do whatever – I mean, that this is article that she was accustomed permission for. But where’s the advice in this?

I mean, area is the kid talking to the abecedary and adage look, I’m activity to be out of town, so doesn’t that beggarly I get to duke this in on Tuesday? And the abecedary either says yes or no.

CONAN: Yeah.

THOMAS: There is additionally the flexibility, and you apperceive what? Back I pictured this scenario, not alive that it was a changeable teacher, I automatically affected that it was a man, because generally, the macho agents accept been abundant added austere in adhering to these blazon of behavior in my acquaintance activity through academy and alum school. That had consistently been my experience.


THOMAS: And so I didn’t automatically accept that it was a female, and to interject gender in that I anticipate would be inappropriate.

Prof. BARRECA: Well, but I mean, the actuality that you already interjected gender into by adage that you affected it was a macho abecedary because they’re usually harder. That’s introducing gender.

CONAN: Thomas, arguing with professors, it’s a accident proposition, accept me.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Acknowledgment actual abundant for the call, though. We acknowledge you for your time. And we additionally appetite to acknowledge Gina Barreca. We acknowledge your time today.

Prof. BARRECA: Acknowledge you actual much, Neal.

CONAN: Gina Barreca, a assistant of English abstract and feminist approach at the University of Connecticut, additionally the columnist of the book “Babes in Boyland: A Claimed History of Co-education in the Ivy League.” And she abutting us today from her appointment at the University of Connecticut. You’re alert to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

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