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Should Homework Be Banned?

homework school workA poll of parents in Wales with elementary and middle school-aged children reveals that one in six moms and dads believe their kids should not be assigned homework “because of the need to switch off after a day at school.”  One in five said their children receive too much homework, but 29% think kids are sent home without enough work.

What’s most interesting to me, though, is that 30% of the parents polled describe their child’s homework as “quite boring and repetitive.”  I couldn’t agree more.  I think it’s time homework got banned, but not because kids are doing too much during the day.  Rather, because elementary and middle school kids don’t do enough work in class.

An informal poll of the Strollerderby staff reveals that most of us feel we learned very little during our public school educations.  I don’t remember anything about history (especially military history, ie the dates of wars, etc.), and I don’t know much about science.  In high school, I had an amazing math teacher who worked with me every morning on my “homework,” which became school work, since I did it in her room.  Because of the one-on-one attention she gave me, I was able to process the subject in a way that made sense to me.  And because I understood what I was doing, I was actually interested in it.  So often I think teachers feel bogged down by all the material they have to go through, whether or not students are actually processing the information becomes a secondary concern.  It’s no secret that the testing associated with the No Child Left Behind Act forces schools to cram information down kids’ throats, but are they really learning anything?  And if they’re not learning anything in class, there’s nothing for homework to reinforce.  Homework becomes the learning tool, which I think leaves parents with a skewed burden of responsibility.  (According to the Welsh poll, 44.3% of parents sit with their children to complete the work together.)

Alfie Kohn, who has been described in Time magazine as “perhaps the country’s most outspoken critic of education’s fixation on grades [and] test scores,” is a firm believer that homework should be banned.  He says kids become frustrated and exhausted and could develop a loss of interest in learning when they are bogged down with take-home assignments.  Kohn also notes that “there is absolutely no evidence of any academic benefit from assigning homework in elementary or middle school.”

Kohn is quick to point out that it’s not just parents who don’t like homework; plenty of teachers feel it’s unnecessary, too, but are worried that parents will think “a lack of afterschool assignments reflects an insufficient commitment to academic achievement.”  He says, “Such parents seem to reason that as long as their kids have lots of stuff to do every night, never mind what it is, then learning must be taking place.”  Teachers who would rather not assign homework may worry that their school’s administration will think they’re simply slacking off or don’t want to have to grade papers.

My fellow SD blogger Madeline’s kids attend a charter school with a no homework policy, and she’s thrilled about it.  She says her school believes “home time is family time,” and they simply ask that “starting in 3rd grade, kids read 45 minutes to themselves every night.”  Sounds perfectly reasonable to me.  How about you?  Do you think homework should be banned?

Photo: apdk via Flickr

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