People go to college for a variety of reasons, as I learned when I taught in several different colleges. The art students were there because of their passion for art. Many community college students attend to get educated in a particular skill such as nursing. But the students I encountered at the state university were often there for their parents’ reasons.
One such young man was enrolled in my English Composition course. He wrote papers that were so dreadful that I asked to speak to him during my office hours. I said that it seemed that he was working to flunk my class. I told him that I spent a great deal of time correcting his writing, but that when he handed back the revised essay the same errors still showed up.
To my amazement, he told me that he was trying to fail my class. Intrigued by his honesty, I asked him why. He said he really wanted to fly a crop duster plane. He had no interest in being in college, but his father told him he had to attend. I asked him if we could make an agreement. I would fail him and he could stop attending class. This would spare me the waste of correcting his writing and spare him the effort of trying to fail. He agreed; I failed him, and I never saw him again.
I still reflect on the folly of demanding that our grown children follow our dreams instead of their own. Perhaps later, when his love of flying waned, he would decide he wanted to study for himself. Perhaps not. But that day that young man met in me an adult who honored his wishes. And I was satisfied that I had heard him.