Regarding the Homework Revolution

October 15, 2011
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Homework: the true enemy of today’s American students. We all loathe it, but deep inside, we know it is good for us. Isn’t it?

A recently published article on (The Homework Revolution) suggests otherwise. It maintains that rather than assign more homework to children, schools across the country should relieve the burden of homework to allow children to focus on “active playtime and proper brain development.” In fact, according to the National Education Association (NEA), students should only have to do homework that amounts to 10 minutes time their grade: for example, first graders should only have ten minutes of homework, second graders should only have twenty, and so on.

I truly found this article, although well written, disappointing. First of all, it was impossible for the writer, who I assume is male from his username, to separate himself from the issue at hand – he is a teenager, after all, and is naturally predisposed against homework. Second of all, his fact references are biased and weak. For example, the NEA’s measure of homework, in minutes, is prone to variation from student to student - not every student is the same, of course, and it takes each student a different amount of time to complete an assignment.

The writer claims that children who live in countries that usually score higher on academic performance tests, like the Czech Republic, Japan, and Denmark, are given less homework than children in the United States. I find these allegations grossly inaccurate; in fact, the Czech Republic and Denmark were behind the United States on the PISA 2009 report; a widely accepted educational ranking system which measures the performance of 65 industrialized countries. The top of the list consists of Shanghai, China, Korea, and Finland, all of which have differently structured educational systems from the United States. None of the numerous articles I have read regarding their successes have discussed a decrease in the amount of homework that was beneficial; in fact, Chinese and Korean students spend a larger percentage of the day doing school-related activities on average.

I also take issue with the author’s speed to point out how one study concluded that more homework does not increase the performance of students. But what the author fails to mention is any sort of report stating that children with less homework do better.

A simple background check on one of the key elements of the author’s argument, the NEA, reveals that the organization has a much more controversial history than its name would suggest. The NEA is not an unbiased group; it is a teacher’s labor union, and its critics have associated it with fighting only for the teachers and ignoring the negative impacts on students. Teachers like the ones quoted in the article have an incentive to reduce homework; it means less time for grading and more to themselves. In a 1999 interview, the conservative Pat Buchanan remarked that “ever since the judges have gotten heavily into education, and the National Education Association has gotten into control of that Department of Education, test scores go down, there’s violence in classroom, things are going wrong". Even the famous Steve Jobs, who passed away recently and was the brilliant CEO of Apple, denounced the NEA for its lack of support for voucher programs, merit pay, and the removal of bad teachers. Most horrifyingly, however, is the NEA’s tolerance for sexually and physically abusive teachers.

But the most compelling argument in the article is the one that states that doing more homework incorrectly will only cement the wrong method in a student’s mind. But not all homework relies on rote memorization; critical thinking skills and references to prior readings are often tested in homework. Only in math will this type of obstacle present itself, and I find it strange that a child, who was obviously not taught the incorrect method in school, complete his or her homework incorrectly without feeling a need to consult a textbook or the Internet for guidance. Even if the student is somehow confident that they are doing things the correct way when they’re not, when they take a test they will find out the truth. It is their own fault if they do not take action afterwards, for a teacher can only help you if you ask for it.

And really, who truly is enough of an idiot to expect that giving more free time to kids would result in them actively participating in more activities? As someone witnesses it firsthand, I know that my peers, and perhaps even myself, would only spend more time indoors playing video games or surfing the Internet. It is an easy task to declare that students with less homework will use their new free time wisely, but it is indeed a much harder one to carry through with it.

In conclusion, I found this article interesting but lacking real substance. Instead, the writer fell back on references and studies that he knew would support and strengthen his beliefs instead of researching what he was talking about at greater length. I suggest that before publishing a misleading article like this, the author do his homework.

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kjeannef said...
Nov. 9, 2011 at 8:21 pm
SaveMyIdentity has made some good points--and made them in a thoughtful and lucid way. Homework would be more useful if (1) teachers looked at it in more than a cursory manner, (2) it was used to reinforce what is taught rather than as busy work, and (3) encouraged students to stretch, take risks, and "go deeper" on their own.
SpaceKing800 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Nov. 9, 2011 at 6:39 pm

I would just like to first start off that, while my username might state otherwise, I am a girl. 

I respect opinions and am glad to have found this. However, do not make assumptions that when I wrote this (which was in 7th grade), I put little into it and did a sparse amount of research. The original article was 8 pages long. Teen Ink had to shorten it in order to publish. 

I am not here to start any fights, but shine some light on the truth of what the Revolution is a... (more »)

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