Homework ban’s long-term consequences for students & society

Credit Microsoft.

Credit Microsoft.

Some progressively oriented parents must think they can have their cake and eat it too. They want basic math facts and skills sets returned to the math curriculum, while simultaneously wanting a ban on homework. As Sarah Boesveld wrote in the National Post on September 5th, 2014, “there is a growing sensitivity to parent preference for work getting done at school.” (H/T newswatchcanada.ca)

Yet, a parent in Alberta, Dr. Nhung Tran-Davies, has a petition going at Change.org, as well as discussions with Alberta’s Education Minister to include basic math skills with the discovery emphasis. Similarly, a retired teacher in Ontario, Teresa Murray, is encouraging parents to sign a “bring back basic math skills petition.” Which makes me wonder if the thousands of parents signing these petitions realize that homework is needed to consolidate those very same basic skills?

The problem, apparently is that families are busy and parents are tired after working all day. I understand. As the saying goes, been there and done that. But, isn’t preparing our kids for the world of work our responsibility as well? School is either important or it isn’t. There are simply some basic skills that children and youth need time to learn.

I mean, think about the repetition of skills you went through to learn to drive and the point of consolidation when you didn’t have to think about the mechanics of driving or the rules of the road anymore. That process couldn’t be rushed. You simply had to drive as often as you could to get to that point.

True, I don’t agree with giving Grades 1, 2 and 3 homework with the expectation that the parents need to teach their kids new skills. That’s a teacher’s job. However, I do agree that, no matter what the age of the child, they should do some reading and calculating at home, even if it is on a multiplication computer game. Such repetition would, in fact, be particularly important for kids who are struggling academically.

Interestingly, David Martin, a Calgary teacher quoted in the Boesveld article,  believes by removing homework he has reduced the drop-out rate in his classes. Of course, keeping young people engaged in learning is a good thing. But, what does making a course so easy students won’t drop out actually teach a young person?  In my opinion, it demonstrates that when things get tough, you can simply quit or expect modifications.

The crux of the matter is that there will definitely be long-term consequences for Canadian society a decade or two from now if a homework ban becomes the norm because a whole cohort of children will not know how to deal with the kind of challenging workload they will have to face in all post-secondary programs and employment.

In other words, contrary to Martin’s non-sequitur, that one of his former students claimed he aced his university math class because of the no homework rule in high school, university and college professors and employers will not likely revise their courses or job tasks to make things easier. I have taught university and can verify that three hours a week of lecture and seminar is not enough time for university students to get their assignments done.

Rather, post-secondary teachers and employers will expect their students and employees to know how to spell and do basic calculations without a calculator, as well as how to be self-directed, motivated and organized to get their work done and on time. That, I am afraid, is the reality parents face today, no matter what their line of work, and so will their children!

Something to think about.

6 thoughts on “Homework ban’s long-term consequences for students & society

  1. if a child is intelligent and the teacher capable of imparting the information to said student, then no, homework is not needed. now show me how often that scenario exists.

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  2. Old White Guy — I agree with you. The learning process is the same no matter how intelligent a child — with new information added to existing knowledge and skills. When I was in private practice I often was asked to work with children who had been “identified” as gifted and were behind. They were behind because too many incorrect assumptions were made.

    That said, as I implied in my post, I am against homework that is simply busy work or work the teacher should be doing. But, some work to reinforce what was learned at school would help the child grasp a skill. Plus, practising basic skills at home is good, like the times tables and oral adding and subtracting. For example, learning tricks to add a column — when you are adding 9, using 10 and subtracting one. So, in your head you would say 12 plus 9 = 12 + 10 = 22 minus one = 21.

    It seems to me that since the unions have taken over education, it is all about doing less work. Fewer report cards/progress reports, no hall or recess supervision, fewer or no extra-curricular activities, now no homework. Countries like China and Japan are going to be away ahead of our future generations because they teach their kids how to work hard.

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  3. From my experience I found that a lot of homework was simply offloading by the teachers. They didn’t want to spend the time or make the effort so we parents were forced to teach the children. Sometimes it worked to the children’s benefit because too often the teachers lacked competency in the material they were supposed to be teaching. Our oldest son’s teacher was at a complete loss when asked to teach conics to a grade 12 class.

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  4. Joe — I have a Ph.D and good in statistics. Yet I would not be able to teach conics either. Analytic geometry just wasn’t my thing.

    Teachers today, and even back in 1972 when I was first hired at the elementary level, are specialists. In other words, they can’t teach everything — which is particularly the case in high school. At both levels, I was an art and English specialist. In fact, high school teachers need only two specialty subjects and it would depend on whether you are teaching general math or advanced math, as to whether you would introduce conic sections.

    For those who are interested, here is Wikipedia on conic sections.

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  5. The use of homework, besides imparting specific knowledge, provides a base for family interaction. This family interaction is or could be the strongest support a person receives at the person most retentive age.

    As always the success or failure lays within the details. Petition rarely provide an accurate picture of social awareness or interest unless there has been significant preparation of information. Cheers;

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  6. “Provides a base for family interaction.” Yes Michael, homework can to that if planned to do that.

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