Brat-Pack Parents Strike Back

Brat-Pack Parents Strike Back

By Ruben Navarrette - January 3, 2010

SAN DIEGO -- After recently criticizing bratty students at the University of California for protesting a fee hike because they'd rather have taxpayers subsidize their educations, I should have expected to be attacked by a squadron of helicopter parents.

Those people get their name because they're so eager to protect their offspring against even the mildest insult or inconvenience that they constantly hover over them. They confuse love with smothering and tend to fight their children's battles. They push self-esteem, instead of self-sacrifice. They do all this because they figured out that it's easier to coddle your kids than to actually go to the trouble of rolling up your sleeves and raising them by teaching some values.

Many of them get carried away. Like the parents who -- according to a college dean who used to be director of human resources at a large chemical company -- actually accompanied their son to a job interview. Or the parents who, according to a professor at the same school, called him directly to ask that he approve their daughter's request to transfer to another class because she had a personality conflict with the instructor. These are parents who raised their kids to think of themselves as special and entitled to whatever their hearts desire -- preferably on someone else's dime.

So, how dare some newspaper columnist call their kids "brats" for making a fuss over a tuition increase? The protests erupted after UC regents voted to raise fees by 32 percent to help close a $535 million budget gap. Hundreds demonstrated around the state. At UC Santa Cruz, students occupied a university building for three days, causing $50,000 of damage.

Even so, the parents argued, these students had every right to raise a ruckus. Why, it's just like the 1960s, they said.

Except that trying to establish civil rights or end the war in Vietnam are loftier goals than attempting to avoid having to raise extra cash to cover a fee increase by taking an after-school job, or taking time off, or taking out a loan or doing any number of other things that grown-ups have to do when they run up against adversity because things didn't go according to plan.

Some parents parroted the line there are "no jobs" for their children to take, while others assured me that their kids were already working at these nonexistent jobs. Many claimed their children valued a university education so much that they would be devastated if they had to drop out of school -- just not enough, apparently, to take responsibility for figuring out a way to stay in.

There are always excuses. There are also options. You just have to decide what you're willing to do to get what you want. And no, the answer isn't to take over a university building. Even if it is with the blessing of your parents.

"Things have changed in the pursuit of higher education," wrote one reader. "The competition is greater and the curriculum more rigorous. ... Much more is being required of (today's students) for much less of a payout ... so don't call my kids brats because they feel pressure about their future."

Wrote another: "I have one son who is a junior at UCLA and another who is applying to the UC system this month to be a freshman next year. I'm offended for myself as a parent and for my son as well. ... I think you owe the Twitter generation an apology ... I also would appreciate that you not criticize my generation by claiming we raised entitled little darlings. ... If you have children, you should understand that all mothers and fathers consider their sons and daughters little darlings from the moment they're put into our arms. But these are also smart kids who worked hard to get into the University of California and deserve respect. As do their parents."

And this: "My students both carry a 4.0 GPA at UCLA. Are there any grants or scholarships for them? No, because of their skin color doesn't qualify for them, regardless of how low my income is or their academic achievements. ... You typically write about encouraging more government handouts for illegals and minorities, why not now for UC students?"

It's worse than I thought. Be careful about what you consume in California. The whine is toxic, and it's a vintage that goes back generations.

Copyright 2010, Washington Post Writers Group

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