Tuesday, January 30, 2007,11:30 AM
The Homework Myth - Equal Opportunity Learning
In my continuing posting on Alfie Kohn’s The Homework Myth, I want to explore one more reason Kohn gives for why homework is bad. He of course explores a variety of more reasons, but these are the ones that stood out to me. I plan to also post a summary of his suggestions for how to improve homework if it must be given.

Kohn argues that for teachers to rely on homework to teach students widens the gap between the haves and the have nots. Disadvantaged students don’t have the same resources and home aid as middle class students. In many cases parents are expected to check over the student’s homework and are often sent notes home if they fail to catch a mistake. This had led many parents to have to spend much of their evenings relearning things in exactly the system their child’s teacher (that year) wants them to do things. Since it is up to them to make sure that the homework is correct, many parents have opted to give their kids a life and do their homework for them. While this of course doesn’t lead to any real learning on the child’s part, it does guarantee them the reward of a good grade. Since good grades are often valued over learning, this system isn’t often challenged.

But what about the students who don’t have educated parents with lots of free time at home? Who don’t have a way to get to the library or access to the internet? Who don’t have the extra cash to make the diorama that will meet expectations? And so forth. Kohn insists that if teachers are set on still assigning that sort of homework, they must assure that all students are provided with equal resources to complete those assignments. The school or community must provide before and afterschool learning/resource centers where the students have access to the same equipment and help that less disadvantaged students have.

Providing equal resources will not solve all the issues or eliminate equality, but it can help prevent the gap from widening any further. But it will take examining expectations, creative planning, and more caring allocation of money in order to provide equal opportunity learning. Basically it will take hard work. Are teachers, administrators, and tax payers willing to help prevent continuing economic (and hence usually racial) inequality or do they just want to maintain the status quo (discriminatory system) because it requires less work?

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posted by Julie at 11:30 AM ¤ Permalink ¤


  • At 1/30/2007 01:28:00 PM, Blogger gerbmom

    ...and what about cultural differences? - for example in Mexico all teaching is done in school. Learning is for school. Home is for other things... So now when these children come to the US there is a huge gulf between our expectation and theirs. We fight this all the time in our district. It's not just socioeconomic - it's cultural.

  • At 1/30/2007 02:34:00 PM, Blogger Mike Clawson

    American schools ought to be that way too, IMO.

  • At 1/30/2007 02:46:00 PM, Blogger Julie

    And apparently in Japan (the place I was always told we had to beat since they work so much harder than we do...) school is for learning and home is for life...

  • At 1/30/2007 04:43:00 PM, Blogger gerbmom

    yeah, that was the point I was trying to make - but it sorta came across backwards. I was trying to point out another facet of why homework doesn't work.....
    and after watching yet another meltdown last night I would be thrilled to NEVER see another homework assignment again. Especially for the children that go above and beyond in their work. Teachers give way more work than neccessary to overcompensate for the fact that most kids only do 25 - 50% of it.
    Plus - they must assume that their class is the only - or only important- class that each child has....
    Shoot - don't get me started on this homework thing. I already have a heck of a headache and it's been a long day. %)


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