The Cult(ure) of Homework

Posted: May 15, 2014 in Education Reformation
Tags: , , ,

As a kid, what kinds of things do you want to do? Probably eat, sleep, playing games (Video or physical), make messes, and be loud. Our parents teach us constructive ways to make a mess (Art) and constructive ways to be loud (As a drummer, I can confirm this, haha). They teach us to play games, teach us mind games to help remember how or when to do things. And then they feed us and put us to bed. If, and when, we do something wrong, we’re disciplined. We should all be turning out pretty great, right? Yet we don’t. Why? All of these things are creative, and school sucks the creativity out of us. In math, there might be more than one way to do things, but you have to do it the same exact way as the teacher, in order to not get a bad grade. In English, you have to write and rewrite papers in the same format, the same pattern, over and over, in order to not get a bad grade. We’re not allowed humanity because the average student spends 3-15 hours of homework. And why? You guessed it. In order to not get a bad grade. 

We started out without a lot of homework. We, with an almost unanimous decision, decided homework until 3rd grade was not allowed, and we preferred if there were no homework until 7th grade. Homework, as we know it, started out in our country as a way to compete with Russia in the Cold War era, as adults were worried that their kids would not be adequately prepared for the future, as technology and society had begun to evolve rapidly. After periods of fluctuation, we have settled once again on heavy amounts of homework, and it has yet to be adequately challenged. Why is this, though?

“Moralistic Views: Who We Believe Students Are… … Idle hands are the devil’s workshop, and therefore children should not be idle. This philosophy assumes not only that children don’t want to learn but also that learning is inherently distasteful.

“The Puritan Work Ethic: Who We Want Students to Be… …’Get busy!’ The tenets of the puritan work ethic most evident in homework culture are the following:Hard work is good for you regardless of the pointlessness of the task. Hard works builds character. Hard work is painful; suffering is virtuous… …The premise of Corno and Xu’s article is that “homework is the quintessential job of childhood”—as though children need a job. Which begs the question: Is our job as educators to produce learners or workers?”

“Behaviorism: How We Think We Can Control Students… …No philosophy is more firmly rooted in education than behaviorism. The idea that behavior can be controlled by rewards and punishment is so embedded in the day-to-day practices of school, one rarely even notices it (Kohn, 1999). Discipline, grades, attendance policies, honor rolls, and even the way teachers use praise and disapproval—all reflect this philosophy that behavior can be controlled by external stimuli. So it’s no surprise that teachers believe rewards and punishments are the way to makestudents do homework. When punishments don’t work, teachers often increase the punishment, as if more of the same will accomplish the goal.”

This whole idea that homework is required is completely flawed. Some homework? Sure. If you just need the students to read something occasionally, or to look something up, or just give themselves background knowledge. That’s totally fine. But 1-3 hours a night? 4-15 a night? That’s insane. That’s inhumane. That’s not what school should be. “People don’t go to school to learn. They go to get good grades, which brings them to college, which brings them the high-paying job, which brings them happiness, so they think.” (Pope, 2001, p. 4)

“The premise of Corno and Xu’s article is that ‘homework is the quintessential job of childhood’—as though children need a job. Which begs the question: Is our job as educators to produce learners? Or workers?

“Membership.” The Cult(ure) of Homework. Web. 13 May 2014. <http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/108071/chapters/The-Cult(ure)-of-Homework.aspx&gt;.

 

 

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