Thursday, January 10, 2013

Where power should lie

I came across this article, “Utah teacher: assigned homework does not benefit kids.” The article reports on a teacher’s transformation over the course of his career from believing in homework to questioning its value. His points are well taken and worth noting. But let’s consider the question from a different angle, one of power and control.

I’m a clinical psychologist and, over the course of my 35 year career, my thinking has evolved. There are concepts I learned in graduate school I continue to use. There are things I was taught that I have since put aside. I’ve made mistakes along the way, and like Mr. Stoddard, the teacher featured in this article, some of my ideas have dramatically changed.

Yet throughout, my zone of influence was restricted to the places where I worked: hospitals, day hospitals, clinics, and my private office. Beyond that, my client’s retained complete control of what they did in the privacy of their homes. I might offer suggestions, but it was up to them whether to follow my lead or do something else.

The problem with homework is not just that there are differences of opinions or that some teachers truly believe that it is important for students to learn. The problem is that teachers have excessive authority to enforce these points of view.

Homework penalties are severe. In general, a struggling student will not fail for difficulties he has with classroom work. The same student will fail if he does not get his homework done. Similar difficulties – different consequences. This threat of failure looms so large that it forces parents to make decisions that may not follow the best judgments they have. And what do kids need more than authoritative parents, in charge of their homes, who make decisions with their children in mind?

Homework can throw parents into a powerless frenzy. It is not fair, and it is not good for children.


Dr. Kenneth Goldberg, is the author of The Homework Trap: How to Save the Sanity of Parents, Teachers, and Students, published by Wyndmoor Press.

 I recommend giving copies of the book to the teachers at your child's school. Discount purchases are available through Wyndmoor Press. Single copies can be purchased at Amazon.



1 comment:

eigerleadership said...

Very interesting story. This post is great.
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