Thursday, March 1, 2012

Homework in the News March 1, 2012

I read this opinion piece on bullying by Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times today. Although it has nothing directly to do with homework, it got me thinking about whether kids are the only bullies other kids have to deal with. What about bullying over homework from teachers and parents (under pressure from teachers). So here is my comment:

It is very current to focus on the problems of students being bullied by other students. For sure, this is a serious problem and one worth addressing. But I think there is another form of bullying we have not sufficiently tackled and that is the bullying by teachers, and reluctantly by parents, of students who are "born that way," just a different way than is discussed in this commentary. These children are born to have trouble processing verbal information and born to write poorly, slowly, and with difficulty. They do okay in school, but are then sent home with assignments to do that they don't understand, have been unable to write down clearly from the board in their assignment books, and when they come home, even if they understand the assignment, they can't get them done in a reasonable amount of time. These kids are "bullied" every day in school for not getting their work done, as if they really had a choice to do it all. Their parents are brought in to create a "full court press," to make them comply. It is an educational system-wide bullying that is no less damaging to those kids than the child-directed bullying we're up in arms about. Let's look at ourselves, as adults, at the same time we look at kids who can be cruel to other kids. 

I like this piece. The author talks about giving more control to kids. I certainly think we should listen to kids more. When a kid says "I can't do the homework," we tend to slot him into the rebellious, unmotivated category without taking his statement seriously.  I talk a lot about giving more power to parents, particularly for the younger child. But as kids grow up, there should be a smooth transition between parents having the say to kids having the say, and not one that magically takes place when the child reaches 18 years of age. In general, top down thinking, which is what goes on now with homework, is part of the problem.

I picked this blog to comment on largely because it is in the Philadelphia Inquirer and this is where I live. The author talks about parents taking charge and setting rules so that children can do their homework without technological  distractions.  I'm all for that, but let's also give parents more authority in making those rules. The author talks about letting the child have a break and then going back to work. How about letting the child have an end time, when that child can take a break but not have to go back, even if everything is not done?

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