Why give homework?

Every year at the annual Eagle Society poetry reading a lower school student demonstrates that s/he has spent homework time memorizing Shel Silversteins’s twelve line epic that begins:

Homework, oh homework I hate you, you stink.

I wish I could wash you away in the sink.

If only a bomb would explode you to bits,

Homework oh homework you’re giving me fits.

ASCD has a new book Rethinking Homework by Cathy Vatterot

There’s a really great review of it here.

Alfie Kohn has an article with the same title: Rethinking Homework.

The usual justifications for assigning homework  include the following assumptions:

  1. The role of the school is to extend learning beyond the classroom.
  2. Intellectual activity is intrinsically more valuable than nonintellectual activity.
  3. Homework teaches responsibility.
  4. Lots of homework is a sign of a rigorous curriculum.
  5. Good teachers give homework; good students do their homework.

But…are they true? Are they universally shared? Do they make sense?

Vatterot’s book takes a good look at these assumptions and suggests that a much needed  overhaul of the homework rationale. As the tools for learning change,  the lines between formal and informal learning blur, as family life shifts, and even small children feel the pressure of pace and lack of time it’s time to step back from the homework panic. There isa correlation between homework and achievement but more hours of drudgery does not equal academic rigor. Global competitiveness is not served by giving small children fits.

More poetry though…? Worth a try.

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