I'm writing regarding the letter from "Not Fooled in Michigan," who expressed concern about her fiance's daughter's reliance on him to proofread her college papers. As a teacher, I know when I assign a paper that the spelling and grammar will likely be checked by a computer or a person other than a student. Whether it's the campus proofreading service or a parent is immaterial. Would "Fooled" have the same "ethical" objections if "Kimberly" were using the campus office to provide the same service?
What matters is the content of her essays, which the girl is apparently writing by herself - and incidentally, completing in enough time to send them to a proofreader and await a response. That suggests a more developed sense of responsibility than is common among my students.
I see no ethical dilemma here, and I find it disingenuous of "Not Fooled" to suggest otherwise. As for Kimberly's "unhealthy" reliance on her dad, the aforementioned campus services are, in my experience, generally staffed with underpaid undergraduates or overworked teaching assistants. If her dad has the knowledge and time to assist her, I see nothing wrong with her asking for his help. That's not over-reliance on a parent. It's choosing the best of one's available options.
- Texas Teacher who Knows
DEAR TEACHER: Thank you for writing. I received a huge number of responses to that letter - from teachers, parents and students alike. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: The fiancee needs to determine which class the papers are for before calling foul. If it's a composition class in which the student is graded on spelling and grammar, then no, Dad shouldn't fix them, but he can advise. It's called being a parent, and "Not Fooled" better become accustomed to the idea of sharing his attention.
If it's something like a history class, editing assistance shouldn't be a problem. All good writers have editors to help with mechanics because after looking at a piece for too long, you no longer see the errors.
- Cyndi in Ohio
DEAR ABBY: As a college student, I frequently read papers by students whose grammar training was less rigorous than mine. The university does not consider that cheating, and we are advised by our professors to do so. It is not their job to teach us grammar. They are trying to teach their material.
"Not Fooled" needs to relax, get a better understanding of today's university system, and learn to trust her future stepdaughter while encouraging parent-child communication.
- Hannah in Chicago
DEAR ABBY: I'm a 43-year-old college student. I always send my siblings my essays before I turn them in, not just to proofread, but for their opinions of my writing. My daughter is still in high school, but I hope she continues to seek my opinion on her essays in the future. It has prompted many valuable and intriguing discussions. There's nothing "unhealthy" about an 18- to 22-year-old college student asking her dad to help with a paper. What's unhealthy is a future stepmom taking issue with it. It appears she has some underlying jealousy.
- Mom Graduating with her Kid
DEAR ABBY: Perhaps the daughter is simply making her father feel useful by including him in her life with this simple act. His fiancee should become more involved in the parenting process if she intends to stick her nose there. I can think of worse situations than this example of a parent being a parent. I wish there were more dads like him.
- Rachael in Southwest Georgia
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.