I have been listening to the calls for greatly reduced homework throughout ed news and blogs, thinking long and hard about my traditions and experiences. The major arguments I am hearing go like this:
- Research says homework is counter-productive
- Kids these days are too busy
- Homework impedes family time
- Homework makes kids hate school
Here are my questions.
- Does the research conclude all homework is counter-productive? I do not teach reading, but I would have to see a ton more research to be convinced that young students who spend 10-minutes per grade level reinforcing some basics like reading and number sense are disadvantaged over students who go home and play video games. On the other hand, if a teacher does not have time to judiciously select productive assignments, I would agree that teacher should not carelessly dole out boredom.
- What are kids so busy doing that they should not have to work as hard as kids in other countries on academics? If those who would argue our kids should have more time to play sports and dance can come up with a way to fill US tech jobs with US citizens, I might be more open to that.
- Is/are “family time” and “homework time” mutually exclusive? I am deeply concerned about what is happening there because I believe in the importance of the family unit. If a teacher is carelessly doling out boredom and parents’ frustration is turning their children against academics, then a conversation should be had.
- Does all homework elicit ill feelings? In my practice, I find that when parents and students clearly understand the reason for and value of the homework, all are much more willing to pursue it with quality effort. I do not believe Americans are incapable of foregoing immediate gratification for ultimate benefit, but it is up to the educators to clearly communicate the need for the work.
I can already visualize my colleagues who teach statistics pulling their hair out as US ignorance of correlation vs. causation continues to flourish. I worry about the deeper issue. Most of us still get warm fuzzies singing “God Bless America,” but the words did not evolve from a sense of entitlement. Our freedom and blessings have been purchased with the blood of thousands. I would not believe for a second that we and our children are entitled to our freedoms and blessings without some hard work and inconvenience.