This weekend, my nephew could not fully attend to visiting his grandmother in the hospital because he had very important homework to finish. That’s right, this fourteen year-old high-achieving student needed to color a worksheet of an Aztec God for Social Studies class. Grandma would just have to wait! Coloring is apparently one of those “21st Century Skills” you hear so much about.
Although the positive effects of homework are largely mythical, there is plenty of evidence that is detrimental in countless ways. One under-discussed issue surrounding homework policies is just how much homework is time-wasting crap designed, as John Taylor-Gatto reminds us, to extend the surveillance powers of the school into the personal time and space of children.
Teenagers being asked to spend their non-school hours coloring know that the assignment is ridiculous and may feel the same way about you.
So teachers, why do you do it?
Is the moronic consumption of kids’ time based on a lack of imagination and slavish adherence to someone else’s curriculum or because “the devil made me do it?” The “Flip Wilson defense” is as inexcusable and unconscionable as the “Nuremberg Defense.”
If children cannot count on you to insulate them from the madness of the world, who can they trust?
I also wrote about coloring in high school in the 2003 article, “A Whole Lotta Coloring Going On.”
- The Homework Myth by Alfie Kohn
- The End of Homework: How Homework Disrupts Families, Overburdens Children, and Limits Learning by Etta Kralovek and John Buell
- The Case Against Homework: How Homework Is Hurting Children and What Parents Can Do About It by Sara Bennett and Nancy Kalish
Homework articles by Alfie Kohn:
- “Changing the Homework Default,” Independent School, Winter 2007
- “The Goldilocks Paradox,” American School Board Journal, February 2007
- “Rethinking Homework,” Principal, January-February 2007
- “The Tougher Standards Fad Hits Home,” Rethinking Schools, Fall 2006
- “The Truth About Homework,” Education Week, September 6, 2006
- “Abusing Research: The Study of Homework and Other Examples,” Phi Delta Kappan, September 2006
- “Down with Homework,” Instructor, September 2006
- “Kids May Be Right After All: Homework Stinks,” USA Today, September 14, 2006
- “Interview with Alfie Kohn”, Maclean’s, September 15, 2006
- “Rethinking Homework Surveys,” unpublished, 2009
Veteran educator Gary Stager, Ph.D. is co-author of Invent To Learn — Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom, publisher at Constructing Modern Knowledge Press, and the founder of the Constructing Modern Knowledge summer institute. He led professional development in the world’s first 1:1 laptop schools thirty years ago and designed one of the oldest online graduate school programs. Gary is also the curator of The Seymour Papert archives at DailyPapert.com. Learn more about Gary here.