Witnessing the effects of six hours of homework after a six hour school day has had my mind churning so much that I cannot sleep. Consider this an open letter to the New Brunswick Department of Education and all educators.
Like the Berlin Wall, homework is a barrier between stagnation and progress. It reinforces many of the hidden messages in the school system:
Hidden messages are being delivered by our educational system to our students each and every day. The basic structure of our schools provides students with powerful lessons that don’t appear in the curriculum. These hidden lessons are unconsciously reinforced by the very nature of the system. Exactly what are they?
They are learning that discovering and creating knowledge is beyond the ability of students and is really none of their business. We have shut students out of virtually every real decision that has an effect on their schools and their learning.
They are learning that the voice of authority is to be trusted and valued more than independent judgment. The hierarchical nature of school puts knowledge in the teacher’s domain.
John Taylor Gatto’s 7-Lesson Schoolteacher essay also elaborates on these underlying messages in public education.
There is no correlation between homework and learning. If succeeding at school is your objective then homework is not necessary to achieve this. As I’ve asked before in this forum, do reasonable amounts of homework contribute to learning? The authors of The Homework Myth, The Case Against Homework and The End of Homework, strongly disagree, and cite several studies to support this position.
I believe that we have arrived at a point in the development of our industrial education system that many of us realise that it is not helping to prepare our children for productive lives, no matter which measure you use. Bill Gates has called for the abolition of schooling as has renowned author Alvin Toffler, who says that we should “Shut down the public education system” now.
After 100 years of schooling, homework has not been proven to improve school performance. Also, school performance shows no correlation to later success in life. Jay Cross has stated that there is no correlation whatsoever between school grades and later success, measured in any terms – financial, status, happiness or some other criterion. The only correlation is between school grades and university grades, two systems closed off from the real world.
David Warlick is speaking today to educators in Fredericton. Obviously, his opinion matters, as he has been invited to speak at the Literacy & Learning in the 21st Century conference. Let me quote from David’s blog:
we have an 18th century form of government depending upon a 19th century industrial model school system to supply a 21st century electorate capable of making the monumental decisions we will face in the coming years.
A recent presentation by Sir Ken Robinson, sums up how inadequate our industrial school system is in addressing the issues that our children will face on graduation. They need to be creative and we are teaching them to do as they are told. Sir Ken states that “we are educating people out of their creative capacities” and that “suddenly degrees aren’t worth anything”. He says that “our education system has mined our minds in the way that we have strip-mined the earth for a particular commodity”. The system is completely inadequate, as Toffler explains:
The public school system is designed to produce a workforce for an economy that will not be there. And therefore, with all the best intentions in the world, we’re stealing the kids’ future.
And this is where I return to homework. It appears that the education system will not change overnight, in spite of its lack of relevance. However, our children need to prepare for THEIR future now. One way to allow them to prepare is to give them back their personal time. The school system has had 100 years and six hours a day to do its job. That is more than enough to achieve its antiquated goals.
Now is the time to abolish homework, and let children, families and communities use that time to prepare for a future where creativity and flexibility will be essential.