A school in Manhattan just announced they would stop giving homework to kids in kindergarten through fifth grade. The letter home to parents said kids should play instead. And added, “In fact, you may be surprised to learn that there have been a variety of studies conducted on the effects of homework in the elementary grades and not one of them could provide any evidence that directly links traditional homework practices with current, or even future, academic success.”
It is not a new idea that homework has no proven impact on academic success. Time magazine published a cover article on the topic in 1999. The most popular TED talk ever is by Sir Ken Robinson who lists studies that show the detrimental effects of homework.
However it is a new idea to act on this data. And here’s what happened: some parents pulled their kids out of the school to put them in a school that assigns homework. Other parents started assigning their own homework to ensure their kid doesn’t fall behind, another parent said homework is the only way to control his kids.
Parents are scared. They don’t want to take the risk of letting their young kids play. Parents want so much to be seen as good parents, and they are not sure how they would define “good parent” if they were not giving their kid homework. Because if the kids don’t have homework, then the kids aren’t performing above grade level. And if they are not performing above grade level, then what are they doing?
It’s too risky for some parents to cope with.
A recent article in the Economist supports the idea that parents can’t handle the risk that education reform requires.
On this blog we have been talking for years about how terrible school is for boys. But for many people, this is big news. The Economist outlines how kindergarteners are already facing school programs that favor girls, and by the time high school comes, girls are outperforming boys in almost everything. In college, girls get good grades, and boys play video games.
But then something happens: Boys outperform girls at work. Because work requires singular focus, and that is something boys learned from playing video games and it’s something girls practiced NOT doing by excelling in all school subjects put in front of them.
So the Economist sums up the research that video-game-playing boys do better in life than straight-A’s, studying girls. You already knew that, because you read this blog. But my point here is that once again, the research is solid to say that boys do not need to be in school. And in fact, it’s detrimental to them. But parents of boys think it is too risky to remove their boys from school. To say nothing of unlimited video games. Even some of the most risk-tolerant parents have a hard time with unlimited video games.
Yet, here is the Economist with all the data you could need.
The first step, then, is for people to admit that going to school is not rational. It’s fear-based. The institutions that depend on our current education system for survival have resorted to fear tactics to keep parents sending kids to school. And what you show your kid when you send them to school is that you do not have enough trust in their innate ability to learn. You fear they can’t do it outside of school, so you send them there just in case.