In my last post, I considered banning homework on weekends.
And then today, I read a recent article in Ed, the magazine of the Harvard Graduate School of Education. The debate on homework — always a controversial topic — is getting more and more heated.
On one side are the anti-homeworkers like Alfie Kohn, who say that homework amounts to busywork. Kohn says that homework is the way schools prepare children for factory work. He decries the homework-every-night model:
“The point of departure seems to be, ‘We’ve decided ahead of time that children will have to do something every night (or several times a week)
Other anti-homeworkers complain that their children deserve more free time after school. One mother in California went so far as to say:
“In closing, I just want to say that I had more free time at Harvard Law School than my son has in middle school, and that is not in the best interests of our children.”
On the other hand, pro-homeworkers think that American youth do not spend enough time on their academic pursuits. One parent on the Race to Nowhere blog wrote:
Any pursuit of excellence, be it in sports, the arts, or academics, requires hard work. That our culture finds it okay for kids to spend hours a day in a sport but not equal time on academics is part of the problem.”
Some schools are considering changes to homework. One elementary school principal in Maryland eliminated homework and substituted 30 minutes a night of reading (which I think is great — and which I consider homework).
Over the summer, Los Angeles Unified School District approved a policy decreasing homework but quickly reversed its decision.
In fact, amid all the opposing viewpoints, some people, like Harvard professor Howard Gardner, realize the real truth about homework. Gardner says:
“America and Americans lurch between too little homework in many of our schools to an excess of homework in our most competitive environments.”
In my urban public school, the real problem is too little homework, not too much. Weekends, in particular, are a No Homework Zone. Maybe assigning homework isn’t the perfect solution, but we do need to figure out ways to extend the academic day and to promote student thinking and skill building.
What do you think?