Friday, March 8, 2013

Child Abuse

A few days ago, I indicated that I was going to begin to comment on homework as a form of child abuse. I shared my thoughts on my blog, and I added child abuse to my Google alerts to see what articles might be in the news where I could comment and include homework in my comments. So far, I haven't found anything worth commenting on, largely because the articles coming back report only on severe cases child abuse, so I'll comment on this lack of content with which to comment.

There are two lessons that I think are worth mentioning. One has to do with child abuse in general. The other has to do with my thoughts that homework is abusive to some children.

In addition to my work with homework, one of my major activities as a clinical psychologist has been to provide evaluations in child protection cases, not for the child protection agency but for the public defender, against child protection authorities. I chose that side largely because it is my observation, following years of increased efforts to protect children, that children, in my opinion, are not one bit safer today than they were in the past. This is an important fact that has gone unnoticed in our efforts to make sure every child is safe. The reason for this is that, in our expansion of child protection efforts, we don't tend to get better at catching and preventing the heinous cases. Rather, we expand the definition of child abuse into areas of flawed parenting, but okay parenting nevertheless. Every time a heart-wrenching case hits the papers, we notch up our efforts, second-guess the authorities, and commit ourselves to tightening our efforts. In the end, nothing really changes for children at risk of being seriously harmed, while troubled and stressed-out families get scrutinized more.

In many ways, what happens to families that get caught under the child protection net is not dissimilar from what happens to families who are homework trapped. Both are getting micromanaged by state agencies (child protection authorities in one case and school officials in the other), and this alters the ways in which loving parents spontaneously care for their children. And in each case, the efforts do not lead to tangible improvements in the child's life. Historically, children are getting abused as much as they ever were, before we poured large amounts of resources into protecting them from their parents, and homework-trapped children are not learning any better than they were before all this pressure came to bear. In fact, homework-trapped children get turned off to school to the detriment of their education, compromising their futures as well.

For more information on Dr. Goldberg's model, read other postings on this blog, visit his website, The Homework Trap, or read his book, The Homework Trap: How to Save the Sanity of Parents, Students and Teachers. 


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