Down With Homework

Our local news KSL posted an article this week, “Utah Teacher: assigned homework does not benefit kids.” The local educator and author Lynn Stoddard was quoted as saying “It’s such a strong myth in our society that teacher assigned homework is good for kids.”  The post went on to list Stoddard’s reasons for his statement, which included:

  • It is an excessive burden on parents.
  • It interferes with family activities.
  • It puts much stress on many students.
  • It makes less time for other beneficial interests.
  • It gives children an aversion to learning.

I’ve read Stoddard’s book, Educating for Human Greatness, and found I agreed with the majority of what he had to say, which is not too surprising in that we are both proponents of student individuality and the huge role of inquiry as a primary tenet of successful education. Stoddard and I are not at all alone in our concerns about homework. Other books that I have read that discuss the negative aspects of homework are Kohn’s The Homework Myth and Kralovec and Buell’s book The End of Homework. I have been fighting homework throughout my career and believe that the vast majority of homework not only does not benefit kids, but is in fact harmful for the entire educational process.

Two of the commonly stated concerns with our children and their education are that children do not get enough exercise and they do not read.  We have children getting up before 6:00 a.m. to catch their school bus; they sit in classrooms until about 3:00; get home at 3:30 or 4:00, if lucky; and then sit down to often hours of homework/busywork.  So when do they get exercise? And who could be surprised that after all those hours of non-individualized, non-personalized “stuff”– much of which requires reading–Johnny doesn’t read for pleasure or read to explore his personal interests?  It’s really not surprising that Johnny doesn’t read and Johnny very possibly is destined to become an adult non-reader.  The value of reading is unquestionable, and creating readers should be, and is, one of the primary objectives of education.  However the system is failing.  The often-ineffective methods being used to teach reading by our educational system is a whole other topic for another day. It’s tragic that the two most positive influences on reading in the United States in the past 40 years have been Sesame Street and Harry Potter. It certainly has not been our curriculum-based, testing-based public education system.

Many of the current educational trends are moving in all the wrong directions. The solution to better education is not more curriculum, longer school days, longer school years, more homework, and more testing.  The solution is smarter school, not more school, and more individualized, brain/child-centered education and parents– parents whose role is reading with their children, exploring with their children, or often even talking with their children, instead of fighting with their children to do their homework.

It appears that we need to fix this broken system.  Down with homework!

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