A school in New South Wales is giving parents the option to excuse their primary school kids from homework. Decades of research that shows homework before sixth grade makes no difference in how well kids do in life. The school in New South Wales points to a recent OECD report showing that kids in private schools do two hours’ more homework each week than their public school peers but their results were are no better once socio-economic advantage was taken into consideration.
One thing homework does accomplish is to teach kids to wait for someone to tell them what to do. In the world of assembly line workers, this is a great skill. But why would parents today want to train their kids to wait for someone to tell them what to do? Those people never get far in the workplace and they wilt as soon as they are laid off once.
Homework takes away time that kids could learn to think independently and keeps the kids under the thumb of the school. Teaching kids they have to do work they don’t like teaches kids to be second-class citizens in the era of job-hopping, knowledge workers.
The real thing homework does is teach kids to give up control. How can teachers get kids who are craving independence to sit still? School turns learning into a matter of obedience, according to Baltimore public school teacher and author Jay Gillen. And homework is an extension of the idea of keeping kids in line, by keeping them busy, by telling them what to do and what to think.
What we should really do is educate for insurgency. We should teach kids how to take control of their learning and, in turn, of their life. This is why it should surprise no one that kids who play video games instead of doing homework do better in adult life. The gamers literally have the control levers in their hand. They determine what happens next. And much more than being good at following commands, learning to take control of your life is the best education you can get.