Dead Grandmother Syndrome
December 3, 2002 8:29 PM   Subscribe

In England it is called the "Graveyard Grannies'' problem, in France the "Chere Grand'mere," while in Bulgaria it is inexplicably known as "The Toadstool Waxing Plan".

Next week, college students around the world will be taking final exams. Their grandmothers will be dropping like flies."
posted by Wet Spot (15 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
heh heh ha heeeee HAHAHAHAHH WHOOOOOO *snort*
um. sorry about that, perhaps we should alert the office of homeland security? after all, the nation's grandmothers are a valuable resource, a source of love, pies, advice, knitted hand-grenade cozies and the like.
i count myself lucky that both of my grandmothers managed to survive this terrible threat.
oh my goodness! my kid sister is in college, i have to tell her not to take her exams! the carnage could be horrible since she has THREE grandmothers.
*dashes off to telegraph office*
posted by dolface at 8:47 PM on December 3, 2002

"Dude, I'm sorry about your eight grandmothers. They were really cool ladies."

This is pretty funny. I may even forward it to my Lit professor, who was talking about this phenomenon a while ago. That is, if I'm not too wracked by guilt over the tragic death of my..uhh...uncle.
posted by Hildago at 8:48 PM on December 3, 2002

We joke, but it does happen. A close friend's grandfather died before her senior honors oral examinations, which at my college involves external examiners travelling in from around the nation. She had to fly overseas for the funeral; after her return, when everyone else was partying before graduation, she had to take three of the exams by phone and one in person in New York.

She was an A student, though, so an outlier in any case according to the linked research.

Two years and a month prior, my own grandfather passed away. Neither his death nor the memorial coincided with finals, but they were awfully close.

Teachers should be careful but not too skeptical. In my friend's case, she received a somewhat callous response from a few professors. When it isn't a lie, the student needs understanding.
posted by tss at 9:04 PM on December 3, 2002

I did use this excuse once, but it was really a time-shifting issue more than an outright lie. Yay for rationalizations!

And tss, that is a trick, indeed. It's curious how excuse-making can dilute sympathy for really tragic events.
posted by cortex at 9:18 PM on December 3, 2002

i love grannies.
posted by sgt.serenity at 2:26 AM on December 4, 2002

"Only admit orphans to college. This would be a good idea except for the paucity of orphans. "

1. Smallness of number; fewness.
2. Scarcity; dearth: a paucity of natural resources.

New word for today.
posted by DBAPaul at 3:33 AM on December 4, 2002

tss raises a good point. While it beggars belief that so many grandparents could drop dead just before exams or final papers are due, university students are at the age at which their grandparents may start dying. When I was a teaching assistant I saw the grandparent excuse hauled out on more than one occasion -- what I wouldn't have given to know about the linked resources then! -- but I knew then that I wouldn't want to be the one who got stuck dealing with the one time it was for real.
posted by mcwetboy at 3:48 AM on December 4, 2002

I actually had a grandmother pass away during the middle of a semester. I missed a total one days worth of classes for each class I had. One teacher had the nerve to call me out in front of the class and accuse me of being a liar.

While composing myself for a response, it took all my energy from throwing my books in the general direction of her head.
posted by jasonspaceman at 5:09 AM on December 4, 2002

Here in Japan, several elderly people choke to death every New Year's holiday on mochi, gooey pounded rice cakes that figure in many holiday recipes. Death is often avoided when quick-thinking kinfolk jam the vacuum cleaner into grampa's mouth and suck the death cake out of his throat. The technique is actually taught.
posted by planetkyoto at 6:14 AM on December 4, 2002

I like the 2nd link. The others are funny one-joke gags, sure, but instead of just offering a snide attack, the 2nd link adds a specific list of things teachers can do to help students get better at taking exams. I don't think I had a single college prof do more than a handful of the things on that list. Much easier to laugh at stressed students, I guess, especially for folks who almost never have any training themselves in effective teaching.

It's fascinating that the list of helpful hints was published by The Chronicle of Higher Education in 1986, but neither the 1990 nor 2002 snotfests mentioned it.
posted by mediareport at 8:32 AM on December 4, 2002

Oh, btw, Wet Spot, this was a great post. Thanks!
posted by mediareport at 8:33 AM on December 4, 2002

New Year's Death Cake: Osaka speedmetal gurus.
posted by adamgreenfield at 8:36 AM on December 4, 2002

i, for one, welcome our new osakan speedmetal guru overlords....
posted by grabbingsand at 11:55 AM on December 4, 2002

the 2nd link adds a specific list of things teachers can do to help students get better at taking exams. I don't think I had a single college prof do more than a handful of the things on that list.

I suspect that a lot of profs do more than a little of them, if not obviously. Practice/old tests and review sessions are common enough, and it seems that before every test someone asks "So how much does this count again?"

On the other hand, if you do everything the author suggests, the students don't need to go to class or do any reading to pass. All they'll need to do is commit the review materials to short-term memory without any real understanding of what the course was about. What's the point of that?

Much easier to laugh at stressed students, I guess

Not stressed students. They're all stressed.

It's easy to laugh at lying, cheating, dishonorable students, especially ones who don't even know how obvious they're being.

I don't see what the big deal is with dead grandmas, really. Just ask for an obit or a signed note from the funeral director, and some evidence of relationship if she has a different surname. Ditto with a broken-down car: show me a repair bill for something that would keep the car from moving, and not just an oil change or A/C work.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:55 AM on December 4, 2002

Believe it or not, here's an official summary of the "dead grandmother" article from Sociological Abstracts:

After a description of the universal problem of abnormally high absenteeism on exam dates by college students due to supposed deaths in the family (particularly of grandmothers), statistics are presented to demonstrate that this excuse is used by proportionally more "F" than "A" students. Tongue-in-cheek speculation is offered on the disproportionate lack of grandfather deaths & other associated mysteries, eg, the accelerated rate of reported family deaths since 1966 (currently it is more likely for two deaths to occur within a semester). Solutions include: (1) discontinue examinations, (2) recruit only an orphan student body, or (3) insist that students misinform next of kin about any secondary education.

Can you believe they actually paid somebody to summarize that article for the SocAbstracts database?
posted by jonp72 at 4:42 PM on December 4, 2002

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