NYTimes - The Ethicist - Addresses Librarians 'Helping' Kids with their Homework

kctipton writes "Here's the lastest 'The Ethicist' column as found in today's NYTimes. One of the posed questions has to do with being a librarian dunned to help with homework.

I am a reference librarian with a public library. Almost daily, parents ask for help with a child's school assignment. Sometimes the child accompanies the parent, but more frequently the parent comes to the library alone. I believe that it is unethical for a parent to basically do a child's homework, and I do not like aiding and abetting it. What should I do?

and the start of the reply:

Parents who do their children's work certainly are behaving badly, both ethically (by making their kids something akin to plagiarists) and pedagogically (by depriving them of a chance to learn to do research). Neither of these transgressions, however, is sufficient for you to withhold your services.

There's more that I didn't quote, so go read it!"

Comments

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

Suspense

Parents who do their children's work certainly are behaving badly, both ethically (by making their kids something akin to plagiarists) and pedagogically (by depriving them of a chance to learn to do research). Neither of these transgressions, however, is sufficient for you to withhold your services.

I'm not registering for the NYT. I would be curious to find out why. If people want information I will give it to them, but tell me why my professional code mandates that I should bust my ass to help some lazy parent's lazy kid learn to become lazy and dumb. Especially when there are those who are not. Fire away.

Re:Suspense

The answer goes on to say, "It is a librarian's duty to provide people with the information they request, not to judge the uses to which that information will be put (short of a serious imminent threat to another person, like a child's requesting the Oxford English Dictionary to clobber a sibling)."

The rest of the answer (to paraphrase) is that the librarian doesn't have to stay silent, that he or she can voice disapproval in a tactful manner or ask the library administration to contact the school district and remind the school district that kids need to be taught to do their homework themselves.

All of this (the answer, that is) seems completely beside the point to me. The librarian is not supposed to withhold services, and that I agree with. But the librarian is supposed to also do all of the other things above AND still do his or her job? Where is the parent's responsibility in all of this?

Re:Suspense

I don't think the librarian should "voice disapproval." That is expressing a moral judgment of a patron's reference request. What if the request is on something more controversial, e.g. abortion, gay rights, ANWAR, etc.?By the same token, it would be okay to say, "Gee, I could fulfill your information needs better if the person who is actually writing the paper was here."

Re:Suspense

I've done this. It is a pet peeve when parents do their children's work, and while I do my best to give a complete answer, it is often very clear that the parent doesn't truly know the entire assigment. If the child is there I make a point of asking him/her for details. Surprisingly, some parents get mad if you address their child for clarification. If the child is not there, I let the parent know that it would be easier to talk to the child. It doesn't always work, but it is worth a try.

Re:Suspense

GrumpyOldMan said:

"I'm not registering for the NYT."

You don't have to.

Re:Suspense

Parents' responsibilties? The Ethicist received a letter from a librarian, and he was responding to a librarian.

I bet if a parent had asked he/she would have gotten an earful about how it's cheating the kid for the parent to be doing such work for them.

Syndicate content