Mothers will do anything to help their kids

This email came to the Melbourne PHP Users Group today:

Hello Ben I am trying to urgently locate someone who could assist my son with a web programming Uni assignment, which needs to be finished by Friday. The person would be well remunerated. I look forward to your reply.


To which I responded:

Hi Annette, As a former University tutor, I’m abhorred by your request. Please don’t take this the wrong way, I’m not trying to be rude or insulting, but your son’s University project is designed to test his ability to meet the requirements of his course, and I cannot condone offering assistance in this regard.

Please note that my views might not reflect those of the Melbourne PHP Users Group, but, as a group that promotes learning, I doubt any member would feel differently.

I wish your son the best of luck with his assignment.

Ben Balbo

Outrageous! Update: 2008-10-16 16:16

Reply from Annette:

Hi Ben, thanks for your email. But, as you should have seen, I was asking for assistance tutoring and mentoring not asking for someone to do his assignment for him. There are times when we all need help, and while he left it a little late to seek assistance, I am trying to help him. Don’t kids get outside tutoring at all ages these days, from primary school to university level…

My Response:

[Re: misunderstanding the request] I’m afraid your original email didn’t carry the sentiment you were striving for. Asking for someone to:

Assist [your] son with a web programming Uni assignment, which needs to be finished by Friday

sounds very different to asking for someone to tutor your son in PHP.

[Re: extra tuition and running out of time]

Absolutely, extra tuition is not uncommon. I think the problem here is the lateness, as you point out. I don’t begrudge you trying to help your son, but if he’s not able to make adequate use of the, in my experience, extremely accommodating support network of his lecturers and tutors and identify issues in his time management then there are larger issues at stake.

University courses are not solely designed to teach skills to students; there is as much of an emphasis on self learning, time management, communication skills, issue resolution, risk analysis, and so on. Universities teach people how to operate in a working environment. Employers consider University degrees to denote a person has the ability to work independently (whether by themselves or in teams) - something that is not assumed of high school graduates that enter the workforce without a degree.

I say all of this not to assume some position of authority or to be condescending, but to hopefully assist your son in completing his degree and benefit to the fullest extent possible. On a more personal note, I didn’t discover or fully comprehend any of this until the final year of my University degree and believe it would have helped me enormously if I had worked on the non-academic skills I should have developed in the previous years.

Regards, Ben Balbo

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