In the BBC News article Homework causes family arguments a debate is taking place about the effects of homework on family life. The issue being talked about (i.e. - the effects of homework) is, to my thinking, a symptom of a much larger problem that is pervasive in society...
In its present form, homework is an unhelpful and sometimes distressing extension of the school system into the home.
1) What is the proven value of homework? No one can answer what the true value of homework is. There is no conclusive evidence to prove that doing homework will improve a student's education (and life). There is a fundamental failure to challenge the underlying assumptions upon which the education system is built.
2) What is the underlying strategy for assigning homework?Homework is not a coordinated strategy in education - it is a hodgepodge of assigned work that originates in an uncoordinated manner from a theoretical abstraction we call curriculum. The teacher is as much a victim of this as is the student. No one in the school, except perhaps teachers at the younger levels, know precisely how much work is being assigned to the students on a daily basis. Worse, homework is sometimes an excuse for having students "learn" things that the teacher doesn't have time to teach.
3) How much time in school is enough?If five hours per day (assuming this average is close) of "educational" time for our youth isn't enough in one day, then very simply the education system is a failure. Even for older students, how many hours in one day should they be "educated?" For adults? I can recall being in "training" sessions in which few if any adults could sit through more than an hour without getting itchy (including myself) - yet we expect this of our youth.
4) Are school making excuses? Addressing the need through a "homework club" is illustrative of the education system's inability to question itself and admit a mistake.
5) Are extensions of technology into the home useful? Suggesting that e-Learning has a role to play illustrates a complete lack of understanding of the nature of the problem.
6) Are we obsessed with compressing time? The problem is not limited to schools and children but extends directly into the workplace and adults.
7) When is more of the same better? There is a false assumption that the more time we spend doing something, the better we get at it.
8) Is control of time a key strategy for opression? Our socio-economic system is both excessive and oppressive in terms of the demands it places on our time from childhood through to retirement.
Homework is a symptom of a much more pervasive problem in modern society. We have gone quite mad with respect the self-imposed demands we collectively place on our use of time. Time management often means shoving more and more into less and less. When time management becomes a form of oppression it will naturally have adverse psychological effects and we should not be surprised that a link has correctly been made between homework and anxiety, emotional exhaustion and general unhappiness. And when this happens people are victims within a system that places thoughtless demands on their time. And very often this feeling of anxiety and emotional exhaustion is for work that is dull, unmotivating and often irrelevant.
A very important comment was made to the article that eloquently captures the very essence of the problem, "It seems to me that the education system is stealing our children's childhood and very few are prepared to stand up and question this." The only thing that I would add is that this phenomenon is not limited to children and is just as pervasive in adult life as well. We might consider the notion that not only are we robbing our children of their childhood, but we are also robbing adults of their adulthood and families of their "family-hood."
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