Occasionally, I’m forced to defend my position on homework. It’s rarely to another educator these days, but the odd parent raises their concern. And I get it – these new fangled ideas about education are vastly different to the views expressed by teachers when we were at school. We worry that if our children aren’t treated as we were, then they might be negatively impacted. Those of you unsure of where you stand on the homework debate should read the following excerpt from Scientific American:
Against Homework, Scientific American: A child who has been boxed up six hours in school might spend the next four hours in study, but it is impossible to develop the child’s intellect in this way. The laws of nature are inexorable. By dint of great and painful labor, the child may succeed in repeating a lot of words, like a parrot, but, with the power of its brain all exhausted, it is out of the question for it to really master and comprehend its lessons. The effect of the system is to enfeeble the intellect even more than the body. We never see a little girl staggering home under a load of books, or knitting her brow over them at eight o’clock in the evening, without wondering that our citizens do not arm themselves at once with carving knives, pokers, clubs, paving stones or any weapons at hand, and chase out the managers of our common schools, as they would wild beasts that were devouring their children.
This was written in 1860. There’s nothing new about concerns over homework, it’s just that until recently there hasn’t been a ground swell of educators brave enough to do away with it. Homework exists in most classrooms because that’s the way it’s always been done. I often wonder what a school would look like if it were designed by someone with no experience of school?
And I hope we’re not still talking about throwing out standardised tests in 150 years.
Photo Credit: Brian Metcalf : CC2.0