Schools want to punish parents for not doing their homework.
The assignment not being performed is child rearing, a task for which the parents can be said to have implicitly volunteered. At a few American schools and in England's government education department, the hope is to make parents legally responsible for the misbehavior of their children.
In many cases, Miss Manners is shocked to learn, parents don't even "turn in" the results of whatever desultory work they may have been doing at home. Failure to enforce the child's showing up at school runs afoul of truancy laws, providing a case for bringing legal action. But current thinking goes beyond that to the notion that the parent must produce the child in a state and attitude conducive to learning.
Nobody stoops to call the training involved etiquette, for fear of setting off uncontrollable childish giggles, but that is what it is. The ability to sit still for short periods of time, listen to what other people say and refrain from hitting as a first line of argument are manners that must be learned before one is in a state to learn anything else.
The presumption Miss Manners hears is that parents who neglect this homework have the same excuses as students who don't do theirs: They forgot, they had too much else to do, they didn't feel well, they had personal troubles, they didn't understand the assignment, they thought they had more time left in which to do it.
Yet she has noticed another reason. Some parents are doing other people's homework instead.
These parents would be outraged if they were considered neglectful. Why, there isn't anything they don't do for their children, including the children's homework.
That is to say, they help with the homework, as a good parent should. But sometimes this goes beyond curtailing other activities so there is plenty of time for the child to get the work done, discussing ideas, explaining principles and insisting that the child go back and check or redo it.
Sometimes it means showing by example, which is to say actually doing the examples or the writing, or at least correcting what has been done before it is handed in.
If the purpose is to educate the child, this does teach the convenience of passing off someone else's work as your own. So, if the purpose is also to improve the child's chances of getting into college, it had better not be a school with a strict code of honor. Or one in which the child will need the skills that lower schoolteachers failed to stress because the homework demonstrated he had already mastered them.
Worse, it may distract the parent from doing the parental homework of teaching the behavior needed to get along in school and elsewhere in the outside world. That's a harder task, and Miss Manners understands why they are shirking it or expecting it to be taught entirely in school, but sympathizes with the schools' determination not to let them get away with it.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: What is the proper time period for the cashing of gift checks?
Should the recipient cash the check immediately, thus keeping the gift giver's records in order? Or hold onto the check until a time when the money can be spent as desired and not lost in a checking account to bills or other household expenditures?
GENTLE READER: You should cash the check with the same immediacy that you write your letter of thanks to your benefactor. That is to say, directly after receiving the present.
Just as you want to save your benefactor annoyance, Miss Manners is trying to save you annoyance. As it is unthinkable that you would totally ignore the present until you happen to have a successful shopping trip, you would be obliged to write a second letter to explain the use of the check when it is cashed.