Wednesday, January 24, 2007,11:56 PM
The Homework Myth - Competition
One issue brought up in The Homework Myth was that of competition. The logic usually runs - "kids in Japan do so much more work than kids in the USA, so we need to work our kids harder so we can be better than them.". Kohn points out that such assumptions are generally faulty and are based on cultural myth rather than actually facts (kids in Japan actually do less homework that kids in the USA). But the real issue is that of competition. Why is being #1 such a big deal.? Why does it really matter?

If what we care about is having our country or even just our district or school be #1 then we care more about rank and competition than about understanding and real learning. The real goal of education has been lost. For some reason we get caught up in an intellectual arms race. To beat everyone else we impose more and more "tougher standards" which usually just means more and more time consuming busywork. The drive to be the best clouds judgement to the point that it is generally never questioned why the pissing contest is taking place at all.

Why do we need to teach out kids that they have to be better than people from other countries/races? God doesn't only bless America, we are not the only nation on earth. What is it that we are trying to prove in always having to be #1. I know that's how a lot of governments operate, but I want my child to be a bit more mature and altruistic than that. And does it really matter if kids in other countries do well in school? So what if the cure for cancer comes out of Africa and not the good ole USA - it a freaking cure for cancer!

I found this typical excuse for homework to be the most absurd. Such notions of superiority and competition are not values I want to demonstrate to my child. I want her to respect others and value truth and knowledge wherever it is found. Knowledge is not a scare resource that one must fight for - there is no need to create a false competition in order to obtain it. Cooperation is a much better value in our global economy. So I don't buy the excuses of "tougher standards" so we can kick everyone else's asses.

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posted by Julie at 11:56 PM ¤ Permalink ¤


  • At 1/25/2007 07:38:00 AM, Anonymous kent

    My children have long since past the age when I can make the change in their education. But given this material if my youngsters were of preschool age I would think serious about what their education experience ought to be like. And since the schhool districts that surround us are all obsessed with scores and homework, the option of home schooling would become at a part of the conversation. I confess I have never been a big home schooling fan since the reasons for doing it were always a little off based for me and my house, but this issue raises a legitmate concern which makes home schooling more attractive. Given your little ones are still "little" does this change the options you are considering?

  • At 1/25/2007 08:53:00 AM, Blogger Julie

    Yes it does. We don't know if we're into homeschooling (or unschooling) yet, but we are not fully comfortable with the school options we have. Basically we have test oriented public schools that have fully bought into the "no child left behind" nonsense or private Christian schools that the same as public school except that they mess things up worse by forcing bible memorization for testing and using religious guilt and manipulation to get kids to be compliant when it comes to homework and disciplene. I wish there was a progressive alternative, but that isn't going to happen out here...

  • At 1/25/2007 10:41:00 AM, Blogger gerbmom

    I'm not sure they have totally "bought" into NCLB. They have pretty much been forced into it. The teachers in my school hate NCLB, and teaching to the test. As do the administration. But because they have been forced into this it has neccesarily changed the way the administration instructs the teachers to teach - so they don't lose funding or status. Sad

  • At 1/25/2007 02:51:00 PM, Blogger Julie

    Good point with the "buy into language"... would perhaps a more accurate (albeit controversial) term be "prostituted themselves out"? It's sad when we are forced into doing something we think is wrong because of money.


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