That’s a trick question. Homework is an awful idea.
Not only have take-home assignments been proven useless (here’s where I’d cite the appropriate studies if I weren’t in Rolling Stone mode), they’re contributing to the breakdown of the family. At least of my family.
Get within a five-mile radius of our place on most weeknights and listen for an indignant howl. That’s the sound of our eighth-grader railing against his teachers and the American education system in general. (His weekend rants center more on The Man.)
“They’re not in there!” he’ll yell, flinging his history textbook on the couch and slamming his spiral closed. “None of the words are in the book! This is so stupid!” Crumpled alongside him, invariably, is a handout entitled “Terms You Absolutely, Positively WILL Find in the Book.”
My son has a wee bit of trouble focusing. But still. He makes a valid point. This is stupid.
Parents have a tacit understanding with the school system: You keep our kids out of our hair for eight hours a day, and we won’t ask any questions. Common Core? Sure, whatever. Standardized testing? As long as my children don’t come home early.
Reams of meaningless activities designed to “reinforce skills” that must be completed once we’ve all clocked out for the evening? J’accuse, Frederick County Public Schools. J’accuse!
Now, if you’re one of those lucky moms or dads with kids who love all things classroom-related so much that they actually play school, move along. There’s nothing to see here.
If, on the other hand, you birthed the Omen, you understand.
When 9 p.m. rolls around, the only place I want to be is on the couch with a book. In a perfect world, the kids would be in bed asleep. In my world, at least one of them is frantically Googling the noble gases while shrieking about the tyranny of middle school.
It’s usually a minute or two later that he mentions the foam board and stencils required to complete the assignment. (By this point, I’m keying “retroactive birth control” into Bing.)
Now, some experts still insist that homework plays a vital role—that it compels students to take what they’ve learned in the classroom and apply it to tasks done outside of school; that it nudges them toward a deeper understanding of the material being taught and promotes self-reliance.
There’s a reason nobody invites experts to dinner.
There’s also a reason why the concept of homework is fundamentally flawed. Think about it. Do waiters practice reciting the day’s specials after they punch out? Do actuaries spend their free hours handicapping the neighbors’ chances of being eaten by Pomeranians? Methinks not.
So give kids a break. (And by “give kids a break,” I mean, “give parents a break.”) Abolish the worksheets. Just say no to mind-numbing, off-duty tasks.
And if you hear anything about that retroactive birth control? You know where to find me.
[Illustration by Matt Mignanelli.]