Sunday, November 7, 2010

Why Homework Is Bad

Hey, what a great topic for an initial post!  Here's the deal.  I've been a high school teacher for twelve years.  In those twelve years, I've experienced a lot of crap.  Our entire education system is founded on some pretty stupid ideas.  Today's convention we uncritically accept: homework.

My daughter is a kindergartner.   She routinely has homework.  Kindergarten.  homework.  What the Hell does she need homework for?  Is our school system trying to condition children to accept the idea that their entire lives should revolve around school?  At the high school level, I see kids routinely spending several hours per night laboring away.  Each of their six teachers feel it is their duty to assign at least a hour of homework every night. 

I recently read an article by Alfie Kohn (http://www.alfiekohn.org/teaching/edweek/homework.htm).  It perfectly outlines my own objections to homework.  For brevity, I won't rehash Alfie's arguments.  I'll focus on this one issue.

As teachers, are we really doing such a shitty job in the classroom that we need to supplement our lessons with a load of added crap?  Our ultimate goal should be to efficiently and effectively teach what has to be taught within the time frame of our schedule.  If we need more time, something is wrong.  Maybe we're making our lessons unnecessarily complex.  Maybe we're expecting our kids to do too much.  Maybe we're using teaching methods that are ineffective. Maybe we should look for a simpler solution.

Alfie does a great job of outlining the rationale against homework.  I think this is a perfect example of an ineffective institution we willingly and uncritically accept because it has always been done that way. 

Thoughts?

3 comments:

  1. I absolutely agree with this. I find that with my children (ranging in ages 6-17), the homework they bring home is what I would call "busywork". I have never understood why, after spending 8 hours at school, our children need to come home to spend 1-2 hours doing "busywork". In my opinion, the family is what suffers. How are children supposed to build relationships with their parents, when they are isolated in their rooms trying to get their "busywork" done. When my husband comes home from work, he leaves work behind. He focuses on our family. Our children should be able to do the same.

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  2. Agreed... I've had to learn three different approaches to math, english (oh, excuse me... Language Arts), and almost every other subject that my three children have studied because they come home with little to no understanding of how to complete the work. A lesson is taught, but the practice is assigned to be completed when there's no teacher around to reinforce the lesson or answer questions. So who's doing the teaching? Me!

    I believe in teaching my own children. If the system will only accept the answers and results using specific techniques, how does that benefit my children if they cannot get help from the person who requires the results?

    but, as your site clearly identifies, the problem goes so much deeper....

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  3. More than once I've penned a letter to my kids' teachers regarding homework, but thus far have too chicken to send it. My elementary and middle school kids spend *hours* each night doing homework. In my opinion, they should do school at school and family at home (let families be families, maybe?). One of these days, I'll send that letter.

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