Articles are available for reprint as long as the author is acknowledged: Domenick J. Maglio Ph.D.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Demoting Homework

Our culture is in a constant state of flux. Eggs, beef, coffee, coconut and chocolate were staples in our diet then they were bad for us. Now they are back being good for our health. Pharmacological companies push a particular miracle drug only to replace it with a different one as soon as it kills a number of people. Heroes of the past such as Christopher Columbus, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, General MacArthur and even Santa Claus have lost their glow in an environment prone to revision. Now the virtues of homework are being undermined.

“Cultural facts” rapidly change in our nation depending on the agenda of the group in power. Even after a Duke University review by Harris Cooper of sixty research studies on homework between 1987 and 2003 "concluded that homework does have a positive effect on student achievement".

Yet many experts are espousing in the media that homework should be decreased. The reasoning is that students are under immense stress from school, extra-curricular activities and maintaining relationships. The additional pressure of homework would only overwhelm them and their parents. According to this reasoning it makes sense not to add homework.

This sells well with harried parents. Getting a child to do homework is much more difficult than chauffeuring him from one activity to another. Marginalizing homework allows modern parents to maintain their hectic, materialistic lifestyle without guilt.

Unbelievably these anti-homework experts have the audacity to cite this Duke University study to defend their counter intuitive position that homework is bad not only for the stress produced but for academic success.

The title of the Duke study is “Homework Helps Students in School: As Long As There Is Not Too Much”. These experts emphasize the “too much” making all homework tainted.

Too much homework is undoubtedly bad but so can too little homework be detrimental. It is the amount of homework that is the question not eliminating it all together. The “too much” argument is a juvenile means of dismissing the benefits of supplementing learning at school.

Homework is necessary in the learning process. It assists in making certain educational processes automatic in reading, writing and math. It is necessary in the memorizing of important facts. The more a student studies the better he does.

“With only rare exception the relationship between the amount of homework students do and their achievement outcomes were found to be positive and statistically significant,” according to the Duke University study.

Giving too much homework to very young students who need to get out and play after school and irrelevant homework to older students are glaring causes of the “rare exceptions”.

The Duke study suggests the ten-minute rule for each grade. A third grader should be expected to do about 30 minutes of homework. The time needed and value of the homework depends on material studied at home and the maturity of the student. A high school student should want to and be required to do more homework than a student in elementary school.

Parents need to use their common sense and their own life experience when listening to so- called “educational experts”. Homework should not be a torture for their child or for them. The parent should not do their children’s homework for them to make the children’s and the parent’s life easier. It is the child’s work not the parent’s. Once the child sees it as his responsibility it will become a source of personal pride and accomplishment.

Guilt on the part of the parent for the child’s unwillingness to do his homework will disappear when they accept the child is able to do it on his own just as they did when they were his age.

The child’s acceptance of the importance of diligent and timely completion of his homework takes effort. The parent should monitor that the child is concentrating and completing the assignment by having him in eyesight instead of letting him go to his electronically enhanced bedroom. The game of spending hours doing a half-hour task can be eliminated by stopping the child after a reasonable length of time. The consequences for the child at home for not doing his best will make the game a losing one for the child. The child’s study habits will shortly improve relieving the guilt and pressure on the parents as well as on the child.

Let us reject pseudo-scientific lies that homework is no longer significant in education. Promoting meaningful homework, not demoting it, will lead to higher achievement and academic success.



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