Last month an 11 year old fifth grader with unusual intelligence wrote an essay that has received national attention. According to a New York Times story headlined “Students Unite Against Homework,” the child’s essay criticized the 143 year old tradition of assigning homework.
Clearly, parents and grandparents are aware of the fast-paced, high-stress lives of many of today’s students. Do they have time for homework? Should they be assigned homework? Is homework a form of slavery?
According to the student’s essay, homework is assigned without the students’ permission and they get punished if they don't do it. Thus, homework is slavery. Slavery was abolished with the passing of the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution on Dec. 6, 1865.
He goes on to say, "Every school in America has been illegally run for the past 143 years. Homework is cruel, inhumane, stressful and unhealthy. It should be outlawed. There is absolutely no reason whatsoever kids should work, and work and work for more than six hours, then come home to do more work.”
He says he is not starting a rebellion against school. School is fine at school. Then he goes on to quote Wikipedia, "Harris Cooper, [the] nation['s] top homework scholar, concluded after a comprehensive review that homework does not improve academic achievement …; kids who do 60 to 90 minutes of homework in middle school and over 2 hours in high school actually score worse [than average on standardized tests]."
His essay quotes the dictionary. "Re-enforcement" is a common excuse for adults to like homework. Let's break it into parts: "Re" is again and "-ment" means the action of. "Enforce" means "to make certain that people obey." This could mean to obey the laws of physics, math or spelling. So obey, in this context, can mean learn. Now, we have "The action of making certain that people learn again." Ouch! Must we learn again something we've learned the same day? What a waste of time and energy.
He outlined an assignment he received one day: Spelling 10x each, Math book 1-15, Writer's Workshop – he had eight spelling words, so 10 x 8 = 80 words for spelling. Next were 15 tough math problems. Then, writing. He had to write three pages on all different things. It was hard to think of what to write with Writer's Block, he said it took all night.
So after all this, I think he’s got a point, but I believe it needs to fall on deft ears.
Homework, appropriately assigned, has benefits.
Unfortunately there appear to be teachers and coaches that use homework as a punishment rather than a learning tool. Those teachers and coaches adversely affect the mental and emotional future of countless kids, but they do not represent the majority in their profession.
Many teachers and coaches devote everything they have to the benefit of their students. To those I take my hat off and give my gratitude for without them we would not be living in the greatest country in the world. If those professional educators feel children need homework, I support their decision.
The student has made some good points in his essay, but I disagree with his findings and dismiss it as adolescent wishful thinking.
If you want to read his essay in full go here; http://www.nydailynews.com/opinions/2009/01/30/2009-01-30_fifthgraders_of_the_nation_unite_against.html
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