In Defense of Homework


This image originally appeared on http://killsuperwoman.blogspot.com/2010/10/homework-monster.html; visit the site for an argument against homework.

I’ve been reading quite a few anti-homework articles lately.  Is this something new?  Have I just been missing it?  It seems like in the blink of an eye we went from everyone being pro-flipping the classroom (with its requisite video-watching as homework) to a whole movement of people who are against homework entirely.  There’s even a Facebook group for Teachers and Parents Against Homework!

My head is spinning.  And it got me to thinking: should we get rid of homework?

To summarize the position of those who suggest we should do just that, here are some of the main reasons suggested for getting rid of it:

1. Children should be free to choose what they do in their free time out of school because requiring them to do homework is coercive.

2. Homework infringes on kids’ play time.

3. Adults are not assigned homework as part of their jobs, so why should kids be assigned homework from school?

4. Homework doesn’t improve kids’ performance.

Interesting food for thought.  As someone who has done plenty of homework during the course of my life, there have certainly been assignments of questionable value that I have completed.  But I have trouble with the idea of dispensing with homework completely.  I thought I would explore my own thoughts here about the value of homework, my reaction to some of the anti-homework arguments and ask for your contributions to the conversation as well.

1. I’m a bit confused about the argument that we shouldn’t require homework because it’s coercive for kids.  What about kids who would rather not go to school?  Should we allow them to skip out because it’s coercive as well?  I take issue with this not because I am especially pro-homework, but just because I don’t think it holds water logically.

2. I think it’s true that homework infringes on kids’ play time.  It did for me.  When I was a kid I had to complete my homework before playing.  In other words, I earned my free time by completing my homework.  I don’t really understand what the problem is there.

3. I’m an adult.  I have taken work home from the office innumerable times over the years.  If something needs to get done by a certain deadline then my responsibility is to get it done.  And if it means bringing it home to work on then that’s what it means.  I think that assigning homework projects outside of class that teach kids time management responsibilities is a good thing.  That doesn’t mean they have to be mind-numbing projects that are dead boring.

4. The point that homework doesn’t improve performance is the most compelling anti-homework argument to me.  Okay, truth be told, it’s the ONLY compelling anti-homework argument to me.  Why do it if it doesn’t work?  Outside of teaching kids to be accountable there really is no reason.  But I think there are plenty of directions to go in to improve the homework experience of kids.  What if we:

  • Use teaching methods that produce actionable performance data so that we know what kids have mastered before assigning homework?
  • Assign homework projects that extend what is taught in the classroom?
  • Require that kids apply the skills they learn in class to new environments and settings as homework?
  • Assign reading, writing and projects for which the teacher assigns the category, but the student chooses the particular topic?
  • Give assignments that requires the student to collaborate with a parent, sibling or other family member?

Is the anti-homework movement another “throw the baby out with the bath water” phenomenon?  If particular kinds of homework aren’t effective then we, as an educator community, need to look at that and make adjustments so that the things that we are assigning DO make a difference in learner performance.  But getting rid of homework because it’s potentially aversive or so that kids can play more?  I’m not convinced.

That said, there is ONE way in which I could be convinced to dispense with homework entirely: if classroom teachers could show me performance data that demonstrate that kids have achieved mastery and fluency with the skill sets they need to learn and have achieved that during class time.  If kids have met all of their performance goals during school then I am totally on board with eliminating homework.

But, oddly, many of the anti-homework crusaders are also the anti-measurement crusaders.  And I’m left wondering: how will we produce competent, capable, contributing adults and how will we know we’re on the right track along the way? 

About karen mahon

i am a behavior and learning scientist. i hold an ed.d. in educational psychology and am trained as an instructional designer. i have spent more than 15 years working in education and instructional software design.
This entry was posted in Academics, Learner Behavior, Parenting and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

35 Responses to In Defense of Homework

  1. mmsroccoal says:

    If homework is given just to be given then of course it won’t help achievement. If it is meaningful and differentiated it can be very valuable. Homework at my school and in my district is mandatory. Our school has embraced it and we work extremely hard to make it relevant to each student. We base our homework off of a school wide continuum we have created and focus it on skill building and reading and math strategies. We feel it has been very beneficial to our high number of at-risk students.

    • karen mahon says:

      Ms. Rocco- Thanks for chiming in….there definitely seem to be more anti-homework than pro-homework blog posts out there! Glad to hear from someone who’s using it successfully!

  2. John T. Spencer says:

    I think you’re making a mistake in thinking that it’s something new or trendy or a quick shift from flipping to anti-homework. There is no significant research to suggest that homework has a positive impact.

    So, here are some counter-arguments:

    1. The truth is that it is coercive and invasive. Your point about school is well-taken, but there’s a little more nuance to the argument. Time out of school should be left for parental discretion. If parents want their children to have extra work, it should be no different from extracurricular activities. Time at home should be that: time at home. Let the parents decide.

    2. Kids have already earned the free time by spending six hours in un-free time. Why should free time be “earned?” Why not just let the free time be free time? For what it’s worth, I don’t think homework needs to be a chore a child does in order to “earn” free time. It turns learning into something that is pure drudgery and kills the desire for learning.

    3. Kids are not adults. They don’t drive. They don’t drink. They don’t date. They’re kids. Now, if they need to learn time management, I see the point. However, let that be optional. Let parents opt-in for projects. My kids learn time management by doing piano lessons and sports. I don’t see them needing extra time management lessons. Besides, there is a natural time management element that happens in play. Kids will create their own projects, have fun and begin to learn how to manage what they’ve done.

    4. I don’t have data to prove that abolishing homework “works.” I can say, however, that my students achieve at higher levels, due in large part by the fact that they are not practicing things incorrectly at home, cheating with homework and faking when they are wrong, etc. Homework is often a crutch for teachers who can’t accomplish what they need to in the time they have.

    • karen mahon says:

      Hi John- It seems that the question of “is homework effective” is way too broad to capture meaningful effects. Is that research typically broken out by activity type or skill level of learner or other variables? It seems like some of those variables would be critical in evaluating results.

      I don’t think your first point is a counter-argument so much as just a restatement of the fact that you think homework is coercive. I don’t see how that is a fact as much as your opinion.

      Regarding learning becoming drudgery and kids creating their own projects, you and I have had these disagreements before in other venues. I still stipulate that whether or not learning becomes drudgery is based on the tasks and the instructional method, not whether or not it’s done in or out of the classroom. Plenty of classroom activities can be dull as well. And while you may have a management system in your home that teaches certain skill sets, not all homes do and I don’t think schools should rely on parents to teach things that are well-within the jurisdiction of schools. We’re talking time-management and responsibility, not faith and birth-control.

      It may be true that homework is a “crutch” and I wholeheartedly agree that practicing skills incorrectly can be detrimental.

      • mike says:

        It is clear that no one will change your mind. I am guessing you were good at school and that school made you feel good about yourself because it validated your skill set. You were probably eager to please, detail oriented, naturally compliant and an adult pleaser- all good qualities and truly not meant to insult in any way.
        The hw assignments that I often see are chores. The assignments my kids bring homes are typically a waste of time. I suppose they could be useful/meaningful but by and large they are not, so you are talking about a utopian hw world. We continue with an outdated mode of GIVING an “education” to children under the guise of adults know best because we are the boss.
        i also do not think school teaches responsibility, time management, accountability, or any of those other “Skills” that maturity, parents and real life actually teach. Please read a post I wrote on the “responsibility” topic. http://mechanicalsolidarity.blogspot.com/2012/09/responsibility.html

        • karen mahon says:

          Mike, John and I have had numerous disagreements in the past. I wouldn’t say that “no one” can convince me of the issues that John raised, but so far John has not been able to. I’m not sure what your evaluation of me contributes here. I’m not insulted by the characterization, but I wonder if I should be insulted by your implied point that the reason that I don’t agree with you and John is simply because I was a good student. That seems quite dismissive. By that logic perhaps I should be suggesting that you and John are anti-homework because you were poor students who were non-compliant?

          That said, I thought I was pretty clear in my post about under what circumstances I could be convinced. I am actually not married to giving homework; I just don’t happen to agree with many of the reasons given for eliminating it.

          Perhaps you read the first comment in response to this post, from Ms. Rocco. You also may have seen a response from JL about teaching kids how to do homework. Based on what they said it doesn’t sound like I am talking about a utopian world. But even if i was, I think it’s important to be aspirational about education. If we are dissatisfied with the status quo of what schools teach, why not figure out what we think it ought to be and work toward that? Do you think schools DO NOT teach responsibility, time management, etc. or do you think schools SHOULD NOT teach those things? The two are quite different and suggest different solutions.

          Thanks for suggesting the reading on your blog. I’ll definitely take a look.

          • mike says:

            I certainly didn’t mean to insult at all. I have this conversation with many, and when I have the conversation most will say that they liked school and that they liked planning things out, doing their work and earning their points. I eventually get out of them that school made them feel good about themselves. I am sorry if I lumped you in with them. That was ignorant of me.
            You would be safe to say I was not a good student. I squeaked into a state school through their summer program. I dropped out because parties were not a class. Then I grew up, knew that school had to be on my path to get what I wanted. Went back to school and played the game of college so I could get the piece of paper that said I could teach. Started teaching and realized college taught me nothing I needed to know. I learned on the job with good models to follow. College caused me to have to jump through hoops for no apparent reason but to get the certificate. (I also deemed college easy)
            I have also rarely see a person, who has thought long and hard about a topic, change their mind- Perhaps I am using too small of a sample size.
            Yes, I think school does not teach responsibility. I think we give students many opportunities to show that they do not care about what we want them to care about. If a student isn’t doing homework whose fault is it?

            • karen mahon says:

              Mike, thanks for the response. When I was a student I was good at some things, less so at others. I was a lazy undergraduate and it was only when I got to my senior year of undergrad that I enrolled in courses in the Experimental Analysis of Behavior and found the discipline that I still adhere to today.

              What I understand now, that I didn’t understand as a student, is that my “inability to do calculus” had an awful lot to do with the way that subject was taught. Lecture and practicing problems. And I hated it. How might that have been different if I had used, for example, an individualized, adaptive, computer-based calculus instruction program? We’ll never know, of course, but my belief is that, given an effective program, I would have minimally learned the required performances, and perhaps not ended up hating calculus.

              It’s interesting that you say that college didn’t teach you anything and had such a poor school experience yourself and yet you are a school administrator (do I have that right?). How did that happen? How did you retain your faith in the “system?”

              • Mike says:

                Actually, I lie. I learned a great deal in college. I just don’t remember learning anything of value in the classes. I learned a lot by being exposed to different people that had different life experiences than I did. Talking, debating, and philosophizing with peers late at night in the dorm common areas- that is where I learned the most.
                I went into teaching because I wanted to coach. I love working with kids and I love helping them become successful. (My idea of “successful” has nothing to do with grades). School was just the avenue that seemed to get me to be able to coach and work with kids. I went into admin because people kept encouraging me to do so- telling me that I would be good at it etc…
                It is when I got a broader picture of things that I started wondering why we do most of the things that we do in public ed. I am still amazed that many do not see the utter ridiculousness in much of what we would call “common practice.” Why do we rotate kids from class to class as if they were on a conveyor belt and they needed individual compartments filled (here is your history, now here is your English etc…). We mostly grade compliance. We mostly seek adult convenience, We mostly teach kids to be good at school (teaching note taking, study habits, MLA format- all skills you need in school and rarely any where else)
                I am surprised that you want homeschooling to be regulated- our regulations are killing us. Our data mostly seems to measure the parents income. High income equals high test scores.

    • karen mahon says:

      one other note, John. you are right that i had NO idea that this was such a big matter of debate and had been going on for a while. when i wrote this post i picked it up because i had seen several blog posts on it within the past week. but seeing the replies here got me to dig into it further and see more of the debates. did not expect this to set off such a maelstrom of activity!

  3. John T. Spencer says:

    Second thought:

    Many of us who are “anti-measurement” are not anti-measurement at all. We simply disagree with the metrics and how they are used. Standards-based grading with authentic assessments can give us results that are more valid and more reliable than standardized tests. However, whenever we mention alternative methods of testing, people who demand “real” science (often in the behavioral sciences) are quick dismiss these and stick with kill-and-drill tests as the sole measure of academic achievement.

    • karen mahon says:

      John, I have to tell you that I’m really surprised by this comment. I have said repeatedly in other discussions you and I have had that I am in favor of performance-based assessment, not multiple-choice choice exams. I have also said that we need not to confuse “standardization” with the method of evaluation. I think you must not know very many behavioral scientists or you would know that we are most interested in measuring RELEVANT behavior. And I don’t know any behavioral scientist who thinks multiple choice questions are the most relevant way of measuring learning. But standardized (i.e., consistent) tests can easily be performance-based. And to my knowledge, performance-based tests ARE authentic assessments. What we “real” scientists demand is performance data based on definitions that are observable and measurable and tests that are conducted in a manner that can be replicated. I think you’re mixing up the two issues.

  4. JL says:

    The homework issue is complex. Morningside assigns almost no homework. And when it does, it is only after the kids have been explicitly taught how to do homework. The kids there make exceptional gains.

    Kids need to be taught how to do homework. Many struggle, get it done, but learn very little. Another, major issue for high performing kid in particular, is that homework takes up almost their time. Kids are often up to 2 or 3 AM daily finishing homework. They get about 4 hours sleep a night. Try taking 5 AP courses and keeping up. I know, my kids went through it. One has no choice, that is what is required and the competition is fierce. There is little family time, and it is not pleasant. It can only change if the schools change it.

    • karen mahon says:

      Joe, I think you raise a good point with the Morningside example. Morningside can demonstrate that kids make exceptional gains because they take tons of performance data. When and if they assign homework, they teach kids to do it so that they can be less concerned about kids practicing improperly. I think both of those things are spot on.

      Regarding the late nights of AP, no question that it is brutal. Do you think that it would be possible to develop individualized instructional software that could provide AP instruction? I wonder if that could make the process more efficient and effective than so many hours of homework?

  5. doug1943 says:

    Now if we can only convince the Chinese to follow this line of thinking ….

  6. Some thoughts:
    1. I guess I just don’t see traditional school as the only pathway to a successful future. Look at all the kids who don’t want to go to school and are homeschooled. Do you see a problem with homeschooling? Why can’t families choose what is best for their children? Who are we, as educators, to tell a family what they should do with their evenings, weekends, and vacations? I’d rather have my daughter doing her 4H work, writing her books for fun, and reading for fun than doing the homework her teacher assigns. I believe that is my right.

    2. You don’t see a problem with kids who have so much homework they lose sleep because they have sports practice, hobbies, and/or jobs/chores to do? You don’t see a problem with kids who spend so much time doing homework they don’t get to be kids? I do. Not all kids do their homework quickly and not all homework is worth their time, imho.

    3. I still think that it is different for an adult who has a job, either their chosen passion or at least a paycheck, that they decide to take work home. Those who work in a job that they love will most likely not mind taking work home. I don’t see too many McDonald’s cooks and cashiers taking work home (I only used those as examples of jobs people have that is just a paycheck). I think Dan Pink’s work on motivation can help with this aspect. If the homework is exciting or compelling or interesting then maybe more kids will do it.

    4. Your ideas for making homework more relevant are interesting. Are you referring to kids in K-8 or high school and beyond? I just find Alfie Kohn’s research to be reason enough to question the tradition of homework. I don’t believe in doing something just because it’s always been done that way. That is dangerous thinking.

    I guess thinking of doing away with homework as throwing the baby out with the bathwater is the difference between seeing education reform as something to be done here and there versus those of us calling for education to be revamped completely to catch up to the 21st century. And by ed reform I certainly don’t mean with Arne Duncan and Bill Gates are proposing.

    And thanks for linking to my homework post! :)

    • karen mahon says:

      Thanks for the reply, Alfonso. Let me take your items one-by-one.

      1. I don’t have a fundamental problem with homeschooling, but I do think it should be regulated and that home-schooled kids should be required to demonstrate the same minimum skills that kids who attend school do. I think that parents choose plenty of things for their own kids, but no, I don’t think it should be left up to the parents to choose what is “best” for their kids in terms of schooling. If all parents were equally qualified to do that, perhaps I would feel differently. But the job of schools, in my opinion, is to teach kids what they will need to be functioning and contributing adults in our society. If some parents want to go above and beyond what schools teach, that’s great. But leaving those decisions up to parents would do a HUGE number of kids an enormous disservice. As a society we’ve decided that school is compulsory. Moreover, we know that education is one of the best predictors of later success. And I wonder, if parents treat assigned homework as unimportant, what are they modeling for their children?

      2. If homework is taking this long and keeping kids from sleeping, etc., the I would have to look at the work itself and see if we could determine a more effective/efficient way of doing it. This is where I think the issues are getting confused. Sure, who could disagree that kids should have a balance of homework, chores, play, etc.? To me, if homework is taking HOURS to complete then we need to question why that is. Does the student have the necessary skills to do the work? Has the student already mastered the work and is just spinning his wheels completing additional “practice problems” unnecessarily? Both? Neither? Is it truly just an enormous amount of work, as JL described for AP courses, and that’s what the kids and their parents signed up for when they decided to take advanced classes? All of these are different scenarios and I just don’t think we should use an axe instead of a chisel when we examine the question of time spent on homework.

      3. I agree with you that the two are fundamentally different. I raised this only as a response to the argument of some “anti-homework” folks that I included in my original post, “3. Adults are not assigned homework as part of their jobs, so why should kids be assigned homework from school?”, which I think is a ridiculous argument. I was just following the logic by asking if adults DO have homework as part of their jobs would it them make homework for kids okay? Bringing work home and doing homework need to be substantiated by their function.

      4. My suggestions are for learners in general, at any age. I’m sure you won’t be surprised to learn that I am not a disciple of Alfie Kohn. I find much of his interpretation of research to be misleading. But I won’t go into detail with that here…I will just refer you to Dan Willingham’s article: Alfie Kohn Is Bad for You and Dangerous For Your Children, http://www.britannica.com/blogs/2009/02/alfie-kohn-is-bad-for-you-and-dangerous-for-your-children/. Dan pretty much sums up my opinion as well, except for the part where he says that behaviorism had its heyday 50 years ago. There are plenty of us, including me, who are still part of a large, vibrant community of behavior analysts. And I don’t believe in doing something “because it’s always been done that way” either, so you and I agree on that.

      I’m all for changing something that isn’t working. I just believe that we need to be taking relevant data so that we have some basis for deciding what works and what doesn’t. Clearly the initiatives that Arne Duncan and Bill Gates are involved in have not “solved the problem” of education, but what I like about them is that they are at least requiring measurement. If they’re not the right measures then we can adjust that as we go along.

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  8. Brett Clark says:

    I appreciate your post and I understand people’s concerns. It was hard for me to walk away from homework as a classroom teacher. I’ve blogged recently about my kids’ school that assigns little to no homework. I also blogged about a survey I sent out to get people’s thought’s on homework. I just think there are better ways to do this. For me it boils down to this, I want my kids to be students at school and kids at home. I want the same thing for me as well. I know as adults we sometimes have to take our work home. However, how many families how been destroyed by people who can’t let go of their work when they get home. What a great lesson to teach our students, that when you are at home, be home.

    I also want to respond to the quote below:

    “It seems like in the blink of an eye we went from everyone being pro-flipping the classroom (with its requisite video-watching as homework) to a whole movement of people who are against homework entirely.”

    If you look at my website you will find that I am a proponent of the flipped classroom and a proponent of abolishing homework. It is true that the traditional flipped classroom requires homework. However, the flipped classroom has already evolved into a place where homework is not required. I flipped my classroom and required no homework. I gave my students access to videos but they watched the videos when needed. So, they could watch them in class if they wanted to. If they wanted to watch the videos at home, they could. However, it was all about choice.

    Education Dreamer

    • karen mahon says:

      Thanks, Brett, for the comment. Believe it or not, I’m not attached to homework. What I’m attached to is effective instruction that produces measurable, meaningful, performance outcomes in kids. If those are achieved in the classroom with no homework, great. If they’re achieved with homework, that’s also fine with me. That doesn’t mean that I’m advocating extreme levels of homework. It means that I’m a functionalist, so I’m interested in what works and the data that prove it works. If a school is so effective during the school day that it’s a no-brainer that the kids don’t need homework, no one will be happier than I!

      So here is my ideal homework statement:
      “We don’t give homework because these performance data show that our kids have already mastered these learning objectives.”

      I think that’s more defensible position than some of the ones I listed in my original post.

      As for the “blink of an eye” statement that I made, that was my perception when I wrote the post, but I’ve done a bunch of reading on the subject since then and it’s clear that the homework thing is a longstanding argument (of which I was blissfully unaware!). If you’re not requiring kids to watch the videos at home, is it really still a “flipped” classroom?

      • Brett Clark says:

        I get that question a lot when I mention the idea that you can flip without homework. I think it’s more of a “flip” of ownership of learning. I work with teachers all the time who want students to own their learning but yet continue to spoon feed them information. For me, “flipping” allowed me to place personalized information at my students’ fingertips. Then they had access to it when they needed it. In my traditional classroom I was telling my students what to learn, when to learn, and how to learn. In my flipped classroom they were telling me what they needed, when they needed, and how they wanted to learn it.

        I also don’t think flipping is for everyone. It has to make sense for you and your students.

  9. dlaufenberg says:

    After reading through the comments, I am left feeling like asking the question… how many hours of a child’s waking day should be prescribed institutional learning? As a kid who was exactly as Mike described – I didn’t love homework at all. As a child I had chores (of the real deal farm type) before and after school, played 3 sports and was in the band and choir… and at 16 got a part-time job. (and walked uphill both ways to school ;-) The fact that I was able to manage my work, within the school day was a HUGE bonus toward pursuing all the other things I was interested in. Recently a friend of mine asked me if I thought I had missed out being in a rural community without access to AP courses and I could honestly say, no. Who I am is a factor of not only having a solid education (not exemplary, but solid), but also of a wealth of outside interests that enriched my life then and now.

    And I second that Alfie Kohn has much to say on the topic in Rethinking Homework – http://www.alfiekohn.org/teaching/rethinkinghomework.htm

    We frequently revisited the question at my school about what was reasonable to expect. Even with awesome, engaging, age appropriate, whizbang coolness to go home and consume or create… how much is enough?

  10. Shannon Lyon says:

    I tell my high school English students on the first day, “You give 100% when you walk through the classroom door for the entire hour and a half block, and you have NO homework.” I go on to explain that there will be big projects that will have to be attempted at home and there will be things they may not finish in class, but I promise if I see their mastery in class there is no reason to send work home just for the sake of work. The kids buy into the “no homework” deal and I use it from time to time when they seem to be waning. I remind them of our deal and tell them I’m seeing “eighty percent” or so. I just had so many experiences with endless grammar worksheets and unnecessary homework in my school days. The funny thing is, we do big projects throughout the semester and they are doing work at home, but we don’t do “homework.”

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  13. Kay says:

    Had to chime in on this one. My daughter is in second grade and we are often spending up to two hours per night on homework. My child is not struggling with the content- but she has many frustrations with the amount of work that is sent home. I feel that she is gradually, becoming more focused on “just getting it done”, to the point where many of her answers are not correct or have sloppy printing. She often breaks down in tears after longer HW sessions. She arrives home at 4 PM and is permitted to have one half hour to relax before we start the HW. Dinner is one hour, bedtime and bath rituals are one hour. She has a 1.5 hour Religious Ed Class one day per week and a 1.5 hour Dance Class one day per week as well. I do not feel that 2 after school activities per week are excessive. The days that my daughter has her activities are expecially brutal….we are at the point where we must have our poor child do her reading assignments in the car- with a flashlight as we transport her to and from her activities. We had to give up my child’s much loved swim class because of the excessive HW. I feel that even ONE hour of HW for a second grader is too much…TWO hours is even worse! Our “family time” is being affected, my daughter is less motivated for School, and we are becoming more and more frustrated as well. We also have a younger child who has special needs and has three 45 min, early evening therapy sessions per week. We did quite well with balancing the needs of both of our children the past few years. The drastic increase in HW has caused additional stress for our family…there often seems to be not enough time to complete it, but we do push forward…..while we witness our daughter’s frustrations increase. Feels like we are losing the “motivated child” that we experienced in Kindy and First Grade- and this is concerning.

  14. karen mahon says:

    Kay, I totally agree that 2 hours’ worth of homework for an eight year old is excessive. Wonder why the teacher assigns so much. Have you explored that? Seems strange for second grade!

    • Paul says:

      It only gets worse. The curious kid that you have will slowly but surely be snuffed out and replaced with a kid who does his chores (HW) complies, and understands who the bosses are (the adults). Curiosity is not needed. What your kid wants to do/learn does not apply here. Sorry, this is school and this is the way it is.

      • karen mahon says:

        Paul, I’ve heard this perspective before and I think it pretty well represents the position of the anti-homework folks. My issue is that I think the way you state it is a bit extreme. Let’s not confuse adults who are “the bosses” with adults who are bullies and too authoritative. The fact is that good parents and teachers have been collaborating with kids to decide on the rules, the guidelines, the way to incorporate kids’ interests in the classroom, and the way that kids spend their “free” time at home. But parents’ and teachers’ jobs are still to be parents and teachers. And it’s still their job to guide and grow kids into productive, responsible citizens. I think it’s crazy to suggest that being a curious kid and being a kid who does his homework and complies are mutually exclusive. It’s just way too black and white.

        • Paul says:

          Spin it how you would like. Of course a kid can do his chores and still be curious, and of course one of the chores can spark an interest. However, letting kids decide how to learn something is quite different than letting a kid decide what to learn. In the end there exists a curriculum that must be followed and the students are there to receive the curriculum. By and large, the kids that come from households where productive responsible people live…grow kids that are responsible and productive- due to school or in spite of school or both? Who knows?

          • karen mahon says:

            So, Paul, are you saying that kids shouldn’t go to school? That there shouldn’t be an organized curriculum? That there shouldn’t be a core set of academic skills that all kids should be required to learn?

            • Paul says:

              I am saying that school needs to look completely different, and the biggest reason we need kids to go to school is because parents work. The curriculum should be exponentially smaller and the list of things kids should be required to “learn” should be much different. I understand that is like me telling a person in the early 19th century that women can vote- people probably had the same type of gasp when they heard such things.
              What do we know about learning? Kids are people. People learn what they want to learn. Why do shows like “are you smarter than a 5th grader” exist? Because all those things we “learned” back in the day and the things kids are still “learning”….do not matter.

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