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Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Some teachers want to ban homework

A growing number of elementary schools and individual teachers throughout the country have a solution to America's downward academic spiral: give the kids more free time by taking away their homework. When the school bell rings to end the day, it's time to play, have more family time, and get more sleep.

A report by Education by the Numbers ranks the United States below the top 25 countries in math and below the top 15 in reading. Some on the left may blame the rankings on our diverse population in poverty, but these numbers took that into account.

Our top students, those in the 90th percentile score an average of 600 in math. In Shanghai, the average student scores an average of 613.

Asia now dominates the top 10 spots in math, reading and science. Asian students get lots of homework. They are also taught to treat their teachers with the utmost respect. Politics doesn't enter the classroom.

Steven Geis, president of the National Elementary School Principals' Association said that parents say their kids' time is monopolized by homework. 

Teachers all over the US are revising their policies to be as effective as possible. At Orchard School in South Burlington, VT Geis has seen a serious spike in anxiety among students recently. They opted to ban homework this school year partially based on the book "The Homework Myth," by Alfie Kohn. He says that homework is all pain and no gain.

Kohn said that "homework might be the greatest extinguisher of curiosity ever invented."

I believe Asian parents and teachers would disagree. Harris Cooper, a professor at Duke University, who has studied the effects of homework for 30 years disagrees. 

Cooper believes all kids should do homework but the type of homework can differ depending upon their developmental level. 

It's kind of like giving your child a 'time out'-- you give him or her one minute for every year of their age, not a half-hour, unless it's your spouse. Homework needs to take age and development into consideration.

Cooper's research found that homework is a lot more effective for middle and high school students than the little urchins. "Homework is like medicine--if you take too little, it does nothing; if you take too much, it can kill you," Cooper told the AP.

He explained that homework teaches kids to learn outside the classroom, which then turns them into lifelong learners while improving independence and time management.

One problem, according to Cooper, is that the resistance to homework comes from the fact that teachers often assign too much and they need to strike a balance between encouraging students to learn outside of school and allow them to pursue other activities.

But in Asia, particularly India, there is an inordinate number of suicides over academic achievement. In 2013 alone, 2471 suicides were attributed to "failure in examination," mostly among people ages 16 - 18. 

So while Asian students may do great academically, they may be doing it at the expense of their mental health, at least to some degree. They may be pushed too hard by teachers and parents who may have exaggerated expectations.

Thus, homework and play needs to be balanced--because play is a young child's work and homework can teach an older child habits that will help them in later life.

Kohn make a decent point, but he's only partially correct.