Saturday, January 27, 2007,5:28 PM
The Homework Myth - Better get used to it...
One of the most common rationales given for assigning homework is what Kohn refers to as “BGUTI” – or the “better get used to it” excuse. In this line of thinking the logic is that some jobs require that the employees take work home so we had better get students used to it now. That line has been extended downward with the assumption that since students have homework in high school they had better get used to it in Jr. High, and since they have homework in Jr High they had better get used to it in 1st grade. In fact some of the trendy preparatory preschools are now assigning homework. So while on one hand the purpose is to help prepare the students for life, the logic is a bit flawed.

First this excuse begs the question as to what the purpose of education is at all. Is the purpose really to learn and help kids become life-long learners or is the purpose to accustom students to gratuitous unpleasantness so they can learn to deal with it. By that excuse any number of unpleasant things should be forced upon children just because they might have to deal with them later. How about let’s give our kids a lot of carcinogens because they will be exposed to them sooner or later. Or since one in four women experience sexual abuse, let’s just get it over with when they are kids so they can get used to it.

This excuse for homework makes learning vertical instead of horizontal. Instead of kids learning things that connect them with their world in meaningful ways, all learning becomes just about preparing them for later. Learning is not done for the sake of learning; it is done so that the kids are in some artificial sense ready for the next thing. The moment doesn’t matter, only what is bigger and better.

So when children are pulled away from family time and just being a kid in order to spend hours on homework and we tell them “better get used to it” what message are we sending them? We are telling them that their feeling and objections don’t count. Your unhappiness doesn’t matter. You will have to deal with it sometime, so do what I tell you. We are teaching them that the world is an unpleasant place and that there is nothing they can do about it. You can’t make the world a better place so you had just better get used to it.

That’s not the message I want to send my child. I want her to feel in control of her world. To know that she can work to make things better, that her opinions do matter. What is the point of teaching her that she can help change the big things if she isn’t empowered to change the everyday stuff?

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posted by Julie at 5:28 PM ¤ Permalink ¤


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