Even Some Grownups Want to Ban Homework
Every culture has a set of beliefs that most people insist are ironclad—even if they aren’t backed up by research and make very little sense. In the United
States, if you swim right after eating a meal, you’ll probably
drown. Reading in a dim room will ruin your eyes. And kids
who eat heaps of sugar will become instantly hyperactive.
Author Alfie Kohn would like to add another item to the
list of myths that need to be debunked: Homework makes
students more successful. Kohn, who writes and speaks
about human behavior, education, and parenting, is an
outspoken critic of homework.
In her post “Not-Live Blogging Alfie Kohn,” Tracy Rosen
relays some of the nuggets Kohn delivered at the Quebec
Provincial Association of Teachers Convention. Kohn says
no research shows any benefit of homework for students
prior to high school. He suggests the reason we put up with
homework is because “we don’t trust children to use their
free time positively, so we make sure they have as little of it
Rosen’s post drew several comments, including this one
from Penny Ryder:
Bravo! Reserve our classes as sites of rich learning (and
not sites of squabbling and discipline related to home-
work done or not) and let evening time be a time to al-
low learning to set.
But there were strong opinions on both sides when the
same topic appeared on Lenore Skenazy’s blog Free-Range
Kids. Her post “Anti-Homework Movement Growing” references a couple from Calgary, Canada, who negotiated a contract with their children’s school to opt out of homework.
Here are some of the 101 comments:
I completely support a homework opt-out clause. It allows families to tailor their free time to the educational
needs of their children. As parents, we know that a teacher faced with a classroom full of children with varying
needs cannot really differentiate. But we can. —J
For my children, schooling and academics is priority
number one. Where we live, there is an intense college-prep drive and I think the competition is healthy. You
want to go Ivy? You need the grades. You want the
grades? You need to turn in the homework. It’s part and
parcel of life that sometimes you just have to suck it up,
deal with the ridiculous policy, and carry on. —Sarah
I would like after-school time to be unencumbered
in large part because I think I can do a better job of
instilling a love of learning and a grasp of more advanced concepts than homework can. As they get
older they need to take a more academic approach to
learning, but at a young age I’d like directed academic
instruction to be limited. —Helen
There are many sixth graders in elementary schools in
my area who are doing algebra. Trust me, they don’t
learn that primarily from “play.” They don’t learn how
to read a novel and write a one- or two-page paper
from “play.” Elementary school age kids mostly learn
from being taught. —Sky
While parents and teachers debate this topic on the sidelines, here’s a comment from a member of the group that
pioneered the no-homework movement—students.
On the blog Pre Calc Math Reflections, Caity writes:
I don’t think there are enough hours in the day to balance math homework with the homework of other
classes as well as extra curricular activities, which I
participate in, or a part-time job, which I also have. I
myself am up until midnight often just trying to get
my homework done. So yes, we do have too much
homework, but how could we fix it?
Free-Range Kids, “Anti-Homework Movement Growing”: http://
Leading from the Heart, “Not-Live Blogging Alfie Kohn”: http://leading
Pre Calc Math Reflections, “Homework Ban”: http://grade12mathz.
Diana Fingal is the senior editor for L&L. She has been writing for and editing periodicals for more than 20 years.