We let our kids down by giving them too much homework
Homework – it is the bane of every child’s life. We all remember the misery. After a long, tiring day at school, the doorbell rings, and then there’s the wonderful relief of home and freedom. Not so fast – the boring drudgery of homework has to come first.
In) understanding, verbal reasoning and long separations that eat up hours that could be spent on something far more fun. On some days, when there were a lot of tasks to do, you were practically not done by bedtime. The alarm clock rang the next morning, and the whole education circus started all over again.
Then as now, most kids just kept going, accepting homework as a fact of life, a tedious daily task that had to be done. But today there is a growing movement to do away with homework altogether.
President Michael D. Higgins is the latest public figure to criticize the practice. In an interview with RTÉ’s News2Day children’s news programme, he said that “school time is a learning experience and school should end and people should be able to use their time for other creative things”.
A subsequent poll of the President’s remarks found that the overwhelming majority of respondents supported his stance.
British TV presenter Kirstie Allsopp has also spoken out on the matter, urging parents to ditch the homework and do something less boring instead.
Last weekend, she tweeted, “When you wake up this morning as a parent of elementary school kids and you think, ‘Should we do the homework today or tomorrow?’ Not. Find a book, snuggle up and read together, or watch Winterwatch, or cook something while the kids do all the weighing and chopping.”
As Allsopp pointed out, “Following a recipe is reading, math, science, and fine motor skills all rolled into one activity.” But whether most teachers would accept making double choc-chip brownies as a worthy substitute for homework is another question entirely.
Who knows, maybe they would—especially if the brownies could be taken to school and subjected to a thorough taste test. After all, I suspect that the endless hours that teachers spend grading and correcting homework are almost as drudgery on them as they are on the children themselves.
After Allsopp’s intervention, Jennifer Horgan, a Cork secondary school teacher, broke cover to support the cause.
Going further than Allsopp, Horgan called homework an “attack on childhood.” She said she rarely sets homework herself because she feels it is unnecessary, and only advises it when a student needs extra help, or before an exam. She added that it’s “crazy” to do homework for five-year-olds.
“Childhood is the only time in our lives when we don’t have responsibilities,” Horgan said. “It’s precious time and it should be protected. When it comes to homework, you have no evidence of kids working outside of school. The only positive research they’ve found is that it encourages discipline.”
There is also a risk that children from wealthy families will outperform those from less wealthy families simply because they may have better working conditions, which hardly seems fair. In that respect, it’s a bit like mandatory branded school uniforms — an insidious way of categorizing youth into a rigid socioeconomic hierarchy.
So is homework an anachronism, a return to outdated educational practice that serves no other purpose than the enforcement of control and the deepening of existing inequalities? Is the move to ban it an open and closed (spring) case?
Last year, author and former teacher Jay Caspian Kang wrote a thoughtful defense of the value of homework in The New York Times Magazine. He said that kids – of all backgrounds – need to learn how to practice things, repeating them over and over, relentlessly, until they finally perfect them. And as Kang points out, “most teachers know that it’s very difficult to make progress within the classroom, regardless of a student’s background.”
A total homework ban would probably be no better than the situation we currently have, where extracurricular work is often assigned out of routine, because it is expected, rather than because it serves any real academic purpose.
The answer must lie in a balance between the two. Schools should give homework assignments infrequently and selectively, and only when really necessary, whether to reinforce a particular section of learning or to provide additional help in understanding a problem.
Otherwise, it’s a waste of everyone’s time: students, parents – and teachers.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/we-are-failing-our-kids-by-giving-them-too-much-homework-42315355.html We let our kids down by giving them too much homework