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.
Labels: Book Reviews, parenting