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My Daughter’s Homework Is Killing Me
September 19, 2013 9:31 PM   Subscribe

Karl Taro Greenfeld wondered if his daughter had too much homework to do... so, for a week, he did all of it with her, for hours each night. "The school year hasn't been extended. Student-teacher ratios don’t seem to have changed much. No, our children are going to catch up with those East Asian kids on their own damn time."
posted by showbiz_liz (179 comments total) 43 users marked this as a favorite

 
Ugh. This is the exact opposite way to raise an intelligent, educated generation of youngsters.
posted by Rory Marinich at 9:42 PM on September 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


“three important and powerful quotes from the section with 1–2 sentence analyses of its [sic] significance.” What's the "sic" for?
posted by Saxon Kane at 9:45 PM on September 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Should be "their significance"
posted by tigrrrlily at 9:48 PM on September 19, 2013 [13 favorites]


It's almost like America has no idea why it got so successful.

Saxon,

They're saying "this typo was in the original material; we noticed it but did not correct it.
posted by effugas at 9:48 PM on September 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Singular "it" referring to three quotes?
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 9:49 PM on September 19, 2013


Ah thanks. Parsing grammar while high :(
posted by Saxon Kane at 9:50 PM on September 19, 2013 [36 favorites]


Saxon Kane, you and the author of this piece would clearly get along
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:52 PM on September 19, 2013 [7 favorites]


Now try algebra!
posted by desjardins at 9:52 PM on September 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have a friend who is in the process of explaining to her child's teachers that her child will not be doing more than two hours of homework per day, period; that this is ridiculous, that the evidence does not support it leading to better outcomes, and that it is interfering with her child's ability to participate in sports and sleep. Her daughter is a good student in several advanced classes, but my friend has had it with the meaningless busywork. I hope this results in a sea change in her daughter's school, and not an incredible lawsuit.
posted by KathrynT at 9:53 PM on September 19, 2013 [127 favorites]


The thing about the algebra answers being marked wrong because they weren't written in a column sent me straight into an amazing, instant recollection of a kind of rage I hadn't even thought about since I was in high school myself. So little of this is about learning; so much of it is about power.
posted by RogerB at 9:59 PM on September 19, 2013 [143 favorites]


Dear god, I am not looking forward to having to deal with these issues in a decade or so. Utterly insane.
posted by fever-trees at 10:00 PM on September 19, 2013 [6 favorites]


My three year old is in two-days-a-week preschool, and we spent half an hour on homework last night. I shudder to think about ten years from now.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 10:05 PM on September 19, 2013 [7 favorites]


Fundamental problem for modernity #3: You can't quantify quality. Primary solution: Emphasize quantity instead.
posted by jiawen at 10:05 PM on September 19, 2013 [52 favorites]


Yeah this just adds to my "reasons I am glad I am not a teenager today" list.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 10:06 PM on September 19, 2013 [11 favorites]


The thing about the algebra answers being marked wrong because they weren't written in a column sent me straight into an amazing, instant recollection of a kind of rage I hadn't even thought about since I was in high school myself. So little of this is about learning; so much of it is about power.

The teacher has so much marking to do that they can't afford a deviation in the way that the answers appear - not saying it is right, but there is a sort of twisted logic to it.
posted by davey_darling at 10:07 PM on September 19, 2013 [11 favorites]


I read this article today and pondered that if the homework cycle hasn't reversed by the time my kids get to middle school, then I'll swallow my values and pull them out of public school, and put them in some kind of alternative free-range school with no homework. Or move to Scandinavia.
posted by Joh at 10:08 PM on September 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


Well, imagine if after putting in a full day at the office—and school is pretty much what our children do for a job—you had to come home and do another four or so hours of office work. Monday through Friday. Plus Esmee gets homework every weekend. If your job required that kind of work after work, how long would you last?

This is exactly what my thought process was while I was in high school and dealing with a lot of homework. I just didn't feel bad about not doing it all. Additionally, add some of the emotional drama that comes from dealing with a hormonal and existentially anxious peer group, and it was perhaps more exhausting than a job at times.

I felt at the time, and still do, that there really isn't a good reason that the kind of work that needs to be done in the evenings couldn't be incorporated into the ebb and flow of a normal school day. One of the things that I really like about my daughter's current school is that they incorporate the work into the lecture times, with plenty of time to work out examples during the day with immediate teacher feedback. They intentionally keep the take-home very minimal. This undoubtedly leads to more emotionally healthy students. I wonder why this isn't taken more into account. The older I get, the less I really care about how much we are competing with whatever bullshit academic criteria we are using with other countries and which leads to more and more homework, with no one guarding the gate on what exactly gets piled on between classes.

Education matters. But I'm losing my trust in the "system" to really define what that looks like, because I don't think homework has much to do with the success of it, however it is that we define it.
posted by SpacemanStix at 10:10 PM on September 19, 2013 [17 favorites]


The teacher has so much marking to do that they can't afford a deviation in the way that the answers appear - not saying it is right, but there is a sort of twisted logic to it.

Plus, unfortunately, it's a necessary skill. When you answer questions on the state/national tests, you have to follow every single minute instruction and mark the answer in exactly the way you're told. I gotta say, when I read: "There are standardized tests, and everyone—students, teachers, schools—is being evaluated on those tests. I’m not interested in the debates over teaching to the test or No Child Left Behind," I kinda felt like the rest of it was going to be a waste of time. We have massively incentivized rote teaching/teaching to the test and strongly disincentivized anything else. What do people expect?
posted by protocoach at 10:12 PM on September 19, 2013 [18 favorites]


the evidence does not support it leading to better outcomes

This is what really sticks in my craw about homework. The evidence for its use is so, so slim given how much importance is placed on it. The peer-reviewed evidence for it is equivocal, particular, and can only use a very restricted definition of outcome.

Yet it's viewed as some kind of untouchable good. I had virtually no homework in primary that I couldn't do in class or half an hour during the week. In high school I lazily managed my schedule to ensure I never did homework, at home. I just snuck all in, in class. And it was still a waste of time.

I hate homework. I hate worksheets even more. Cookie-cutter bullshit.
posted by smoke at 10:20 PM on September 19, 2013 [11 favorites]


Two words: Home school. This stuff is nuts; it reads more like a production line to nowhere in a factory from hell.
posted by buzzman at 10:20 PM on September 19, 2013 [12 favorites]


Addendum: I can't believe he's letting a thirteen year old stay up that late. Homework or no, shitty parenting right there. There's tonnes of data about how important sleep is for adolescents.
posted by smoke at 10:27 PM on September 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Two more words: School council.

If you care enough about your kids' education to be even vaguely entertaining the possibility of home schooling, you will find that spending a few hours per month in the forum that actually sets school policy is much, much less work. Plus, your sanity will then be benefiting everybody's children.
posted by flabdablet at 10:28 PM on September 19, 2013 [31 favorites]


There's tonnes of data about how important sleep is for adolescents.

If only we had some way of making adolescents pay attention to that. Not much chance while Facebook exists, I fear.
posted by flabdablet at 10:29 PM on September 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Esmee is in the eighth grade at the NYC Lab Middle School for Collaborative Studies, a selective public school in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan.

Oh FFS, elite writer's daughter goes to an elite middle school and he complains about the homework load? Presumably Mr. Greenfeld could enrol her in a Montessori program, but good fucking luck getting into an Ivy League school.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:36 PM on September 19, 2013 [12 favorites]


I love that in the rebuttal piece by a teacher - the argument boils down to "rich kids get cultural advantages poor kids don't; that's why poor kids need homework" with not a frigging skerrick of evidence that homework - Homework FFS! - could possibly address the yawning chasm that exists between rich and poor kids in any culture, let alone America, let alone New York. Almost hilariously naive; talk about begging the question.
posted by smoke at 10:41 PM on September 19, 2013 [26 favorites]


To be honest, the homework load of American children is not a new problem, is it? I mean, I remember being amazed tweny years ago when I realised American primary schools set homework for their pupils, something that in the Netherlands was done only in the last grade and than not much either. It always seemed to me the US had much higher standards to what a high school student was expected to do as homework compared to what I was used to.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:43 PM on September 19, 2013


This sounds like hell. When I was in high school I essentially refused to do homework. I would do it on the bus when I was a freshman or the car when my brother would drive. I would do it sitting on the floor before class, or hastily scribbling down messy answers at my desk in the three minutes before class started. The one thing I absolutely would not do is do it at home. School was awful and terrible enough that I wasn't going to bring that shit home with me.

Reports and lengthy papers and labwork couldn't be done in this fashion, obviously, but those are actually useful and are not necessarily makework. But other types of homework? No, no thank you. I'll take your "homework" under advisement.
posted by Justinian at 10:47 PM on September 19, 2013 [22 favorites]


I was an algebra tutor for middle schoolers in high school. Part of my job was to grade their weekly homework sets. They were fairly long but not unmanageable, and I knew the math like the back of my hand. No problem, I thought. When I started I resolved I wouldn't be one of those pedantic teachers who got all up in arms about formatting deviations. Homework would be about the math, not the formatting.

Then my first week I was confronted with 15 homework sets. All 8-10 pages each. All formatted completely differently, with middle-schooler scrawl crawling up and down and all over the pages, answers hidden somewhere amongst the stream-of-consciousness approach most of them took to math problems. I spent more time trying to decipher their work than actually critiquing their math skills.

After that I implemented rules. Nothing crazy strict, but man, I only had 15 students to worry about. I can't imagine having to do it for multiple classes. I'd probably flip out about columns of numbers too.
posted by schroedinger at 10:47 PM on September 19, 2013 [28 favorites]


My wife and I are both teachers and we have periodic minor disagreements over the homework that our (not yet school aged) kids will have to do.

It's my general feeling that I don't think the kid should be forced to do homework if they can demonstrate understanding of the material. If a kid is acing the tests, I really don't care if he is doing any or all of the homework.

The flip of that is that I also hope to set up a culture of learning in our home where we are generally engaged in learning about the world around us, and I have even been so nerdy as to check out elementary curriculum that could be used to guide our "home schooling" system.

All of this comes with the caveat that we are in Ontario, Canada, and educational outcomes are much different here than in many parts of the U.S.
posted by davey_darling at 10:50 PM on September 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I remember about 10 years ago going back to study full-time while working part-time. That whole thing of not being done when you got home from work, of still having hours of reading and writing and arbitrary things to complete was just so draining. Having always been a bit of a girlie-swot through high school and uni, I suddenly saw the wisdom of just passing. The only thing that really mattered was the bit of paper at the end, not the marks I earned on the way there. I wish I could say that I blew off the homework, but I didn't. I did it all, and studied for all the exams, and felt disappointed if I didn't get high marks. They inculcated me well.

Oh yeah, and group assignments. Oh, the misery. This guy was lucky he didn't have any group assignments to do with his daughter.
posted by Athanassiel at 10:57 PM on September 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Reading all of this I'm rather happy I grew up in a country with a very different school system. Up until I was 16, I was done with school around 1pm and even with a proper long European lunch I managed to be done with my homework around 3pm - at which point I was free to do whatever I wanted. But I do hear from the teachers in my family that this is changing over here, too, these days…
posted by dominik at 11:05 PM on September 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't understand why otherwise reasonable users are making such categorical statements in this thread.

I've definitely had classes in middle and high school that assigned busywork. But the classwork in those classes was busywork too. Much more importantly, there were many classes, like math and science, where I absolutely would not have learned the material without taking time to work through problems on my own at home. Not in a noisy, distracting classroom, but on my own at home.

In fact, I don't remember learning very much in the classroom. In general, I would watch the teacher demonstrate something, form a dim and often partially wrong idea, and then actually learn the material by reading the textbook and doing problems. This applied to English and history and most other classes. I find reading a book in class next to impossible. My attention is easily disrupted. I have a more difficult time thinking straight, following instructions of several steps, and checking for errors. I honestly have no idea how teachers manage to fill up the time, but I do remember being frustrated, anxious, and bored.

It wasn't until college that I finally started to enjoy going to classes. When the instructor isn't obligated to make more than a minimal effort to project authority and dominate the classroom, lectures and seminar discussions become a lot more informative and interesting.

I suppose what would have worked for me past a certain point would have been to minimize time in the classroom. But since keeping kids indoors and under adult monitoring is a socially important role of primary education, I don't think this would be workable in general. Again, this is a thing that going to college remedied for me completely.

As a sidenote, if I had stayed in the post-Soviet public education system, I would have had just as much homework. I would also have had to attend school during the second shift past some grade (I think 5th or 6th), which was just a thing you did to economize classroom facilities.
posted by Nomyte at 11:35 PM on September 19, 2013 [14 favorites]


that there really isn't a good reason that the kind of work that needs to be done in the evenings couldn't be incorporated into the ebb and flow of a normal school day.

I'm 33 now, so I had my final year of highschool about 15 years ago (shit that was a long time ago).

My school had an expectation, in the final year, that students would do three hours of homework a night. I sure didn't. I got through it in half an hour, tops, because I did most of what I was supposed to do during class time. I never quite understood why the other students didn't do the same - the only thing I can imagine is that they spent too much time slacking off / going slow while in school.

Don't know what it means really, except that it surprised and confused me at the time, and still does today.

But...as for preschoolers being given homework? What the everloving fuck?
posted by Jimbob at 11:45 PM on September 19, 2013 [16 favorites]


My three year old is in two-days-a-week preschool, and we spent half an hour on homework last night.

I'm flabbergasted; as a former K-1-2 teacher, that seems sooo developmentally inappropriate. What is this "homework" that's assigned?
posted by Miko at 11:51 PM on September 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's not really for her: we had to fill out a sheet of paper with our "hopes and dreams" for her so she could bring it back to school, with stickers on it and such. But it turned out be really hard to do!
posted by Elementary Penguin at 11:57 PM on September 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


In Pre-K? Sounds like something rather hard for her to deal with at the level of concrete thinking normal for that age range...and it does sound hard to do, even for the adults.

I spent a long time on a K unit on "dreams" related to a MLK initiative, and most of it was spent differentiating "dreams" of the aspirational kind from "dreams" of the scary or fantastical kind.
posted by Miko at 12:00 AM on September 20, 2013


There was a thing in Ontario when I was in high school that was talking about limiting homework in elementary school to one hour a night. Probably a good idea, don't know if it ever passed. Now, I have ADHD and a learning disability and thus took longer to do my homework then most people, but damn, I remember being crushed by homework. I don't actually remember most of elementary school now, but high school I remember doing homework 5 nights a week, and most of the weekends. Every weekend. And on the Christmas break of course, though not much of it, unless I'd gotten a major project I hadn't had time for.

I still wonder at how I'd be different if I'd spent some of that time out with friends instead of in my room every night, doing homework. I know most of the fact I don't go out is due to my Aspergers, but at the same time things I have a template for, that I've done, are easy to go out to. I just am missing so many templates that it seems you are supposed to get in high school that it is silly.

I took a light course load in grade 12, then did a victory lap (Coming back in grade 13 even though I could have graduated to finish the courses I wanted to university). Cost me an extra year, so I didn't get to uni until 19, but meh. Better then grade 11 when I was so stressed that I'd go for a walk every day listening to Three Days Grace, Our Lady Peace, stuff like that, and thinking about hurting myself. I never did, but god, to this day I can remember how attractive the idea felt, as did the idea of simply not existing anymore.

Seriously: I think I had more homework a lot of high school then I did in university. Yeah.
posted by Canageek at 12:13 AM on September 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's not really for her: we had to fill out a sheet of paper with our "hopes and dreams" for her so she could bring it back to school,

Can I just ask, what are the consequences if the "homework" isn't done? Do they give a 3-year-old a big fat F?
posted by Jimbob at 12:33 AM on September 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


I'm Australian. From my experience (in well-off but not academically selective schools), our homework started with little maths worksheets in first grade, ramped up to take-home projects and book reports before high school, and then built to a hellish crescendo of constant assessments during the Higher School Certificate. (The HSC is used to assign students a percentile ranking for university admissions.)

I pretty much opted out and coasted through by luck of being good at cramming before exams. But I had friends who took advanced subjects that scheduled classes at 7.30am, quit their jobs, quit their sports teams, picked up private tutoring, lost/gained noticeable amounts of weight and were never seen outside of a classroom or library for the better part of a year. This was considered absolutely normal.

Ironically, I have never studied a single uni subject that demanded anything near this level of effort to do well. The HSC seems to be more of a hazing ritual than a genuine preparation for higher education.
posted by jaynewould at 12:35 AM on September 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


From the article: "I’m not interested in the debates over teaching to the test or No Child Left Behind. What I am interested in is what my daughter is doing during those nightly hours between 8 o’clock and midnight, when she finally gets to bed."

Greenfeld may not be interested in the debates over NCLB, but that is precisely what is behind his daughter having so much homework. I really wish parents would stop taking their rage out on teachers and schools and focus it instead on the politicians who make these kinds of decisions in the first place.
posted by zardoz at 12:37 AM on September 20, 2013 [36 favorites]


School is training her well for the inanities of adult life.

Yep, it's sad we don't aim a little higher.
posted by Ned G at 12:40 AM on September 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


Daily homework needs to be converted into school work: Then you go home with no homework except to maybe read something or do part of the work on a long-term assignment. If you screwed up any of the daily assignments, you already know before you go home because you heard the explanations in the afternoon classes, so you can choose to do some extra work at home to make up for it. It would maybe make the school day longer, but your daily work's all done at school with the full resources of the school (teachers, other students, library, etc.) to help you and none of the distractions you might get by leaving school (television, friends beckoning you to go out, unsupportive home environments, etc.).
posted by pracowity at 12:41 AM on September 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


Pracowity: something like this?

On May 27, 1920, a very enthusiastic article describing the working of the Dalton Plan in detail was published in the Times' Educational Supplement. Miss Parkhurst "has given to the secondary school the leisure and culture of the University student; she has uncongested the curriculum; she has abolished the teacher's nightly preparation of classes and the child's nightmare of homework. At the same time the children under her regime cover automatically all the ground prescribed for examinations 'of matriculation standard,' and examination failures among them are nil."
posted by jaynewould at 12:45 AM on September 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


I wrote a bunch and realized that it's redundant to say much more than my oldest daughter and I totally feel this guy's pain.
posted by susanbeeswax at 1:17 AM on September 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Homework already felt like cold oatmeal before I left high-school. I did my own and often helped my younger sister with hers.
Then I had kids, same thing all over again. Until high-school.
Their high school had four longer classes a day. They could get a lot done at school.
Catholic school was a home-work Hell.
My kids generally aced tests. Ebmven essay tests.
I got them help for my one area of real incompetence (math).
I see my grand-children getting a lot of homework.
I don't like homework to this day.
I read a lot, and whatever cultural disadvantages we had from not having money, I made up for by taking my kids to museums, like the Exploratorium in San Francisco, and the really great museums which were available in both San Francisco and Seattle.
I took them to the zoos and aquariums, and the Maritime museum.
Lawrence-Livermore Hall of Science.
They got to meet important scientists sometimes.
I made it fun.
I even used the better department stores as a sort of museum.
That approach is probably more useful than crushing piles of home-work.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 1:52 AM on September 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


I grew up in 1970s rural Australia and had no homework at all in primary school. Then in 1980, when I was 12, my family lived in Hawaii for six months where my dad was a visiting prof, and my 10-year-old brother and I got hours of homework each night; it was nuts. Back in Australia, I was in high school (which started at age 12 for us), where homework had just begun, but it wasn't until I was 14 or 15 that it approached the amount we had in Hawaii (and presumably lagged behind what HI kids of the same age were doing by then). My brother and I have lived and worked all over the world since then, and I doubt that being forced to do homework throughout our pre-teen years would have made that any more possible. It would just have left us with fewer idyllic memories of childhood.

Now my son is in the Scottish education system, and has had homework three nights a week in Primary 1 (aged 5/6) and now four nights a week in Primary 2. Most of it is just writing out lists of words and reading from a reader. It eats into valuable time for playing, being with his sister, learning the drums (his choice, and something he wouldn't even get the chance to start doing at school for another two years), and reading books that he actually wants to read. The worst thing is it turns us into the Homework Police, a role neither of us want.

So we're finding a middle line between Doing It All and doing none of it, and waiting to see what happens. I'm half looking forward to the conversation with his teachers where I mention that I teach at the school of education where they trained and then produce a pile of academic articles about the pointlessness of primary-level homework. A little disingenuous, as I work at the adult-education end of the spectrum, but those degrees have to be good for something - the ones I didn't need primary-school homework to get.
posted by rory at 2:24 AM on September 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


As part of a wider initiative at the school where I work, we eliminated all homework in elementary school. We feel strongly that the evidence is clear that the child's time is better spent playing, socializing with family and sleeping. When we first made this change, many of our parents freaked or on us. We heard things like "If Mt fussy grader doesn't have a couple of hours of homework, what an I paying all this money for" and "how will they survive middle school if they don't have hours or homework now?" A certain number chose not to return. Many parents won't consist our school because of the zero homework policy. Test scores have risen and the patents who did stay sing the praises of no homework. Now we are taking steps to ween middle and high school of homework. It's a real battle. A segment of our students, teachers and parents are very resistant to the idea.

I am a believer though. It's one thing if a kid is working on a school related project outside of school hours because they are excited about it and want to learn more. Most homework doesn't really seem to be an especially better use of time than sleeping or family time.
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:26 AM on September 20, 2013 [14 favorites]


There are some weird things in this article.

Firstly, why is she not starting her homework 'til 8pm? That seems very late when you know you've got 3-4 hours' worth each night. She must have a damned long commute, and/or be doing too many after-school activities, or something.

Also, this:

Esmee has spent her entire life studying American history, with several years on Native Americans, and absolutely nothing on, say, China, Japan, India, England post-1776, France after Lafayette, Germany, Russia, etc.

does not gel, IMO, with this:

If Esmee masters the material covered in her classes, she will emerge as a well-rounded, socially aware citizen, a serious reader with good reasoning capabilities and a decent knowledge of the universe she lives in.

I wouldn't be happy if my child, at 13, had not studied the history of any other country besides her own.
posted by Salamander at 2:33 AM on September 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


(–18m2n)2 (–1/6mn2) to –54m5n4

I don't remember ever seeing an equation quite like this in school. I assume that m and n are variables, but I'm used to x and y.
posted by Ingenting at 2:40 AM on September 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


And this is why, if my wife and I have anything to say about it, no child of ours will ever enroll in a public (or private!) school. We did fine at home, and there's no immediate reason to think that our kids won't too.

Of course, we may not have anything to say about it for a variety of reasons, including the possibility of a special needs kid, or one of us getting hit by a bus, etc., but barring any of that. . .
posted by valkyryn at 3:00 AM on September 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


My son is 3 and gets "homework" from preschool, but it's just a couple of worksheets for tracing the letter of the week and coloring things that start with that letter. I've been laissez-faire about doing it, I'll sit with him for a couple of minutes and point at letters and let him color some stuff, but I don't really care about getting it done. They also send home some cute little mini books for us to read, and he loves those, so we'll read those (plus the half hour of story reading we do at bedtime anyway). I see the preschool homework as just giving an opportunity to some of the kids who might not have a 200+ collection of kids books at home. I'll probably tell his teacher next week that we're not really going to be following protocol on homework. I was a model straight A student in school, it never occurred to me to not do homework, but man, hearing about the work load kids are getting now, I don't know if I can encourage the same behavior in my kid. At the same time, I don't want to make him feel like he's such a special snowflake that the rules don't apply to him.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 3:26 AM on September 20, 2013


What on earth is his daughter doing in the hours between when school gets out and 8pm? And should whatever that is really be prioritized over sleep? There does sound like some bullshit homework being assigned, and too much of it, but memorizing conjugations rather learning the words and the rules? You're just making more work for yourself.
posted by zanni at 3:35 AM on September 20, 2013


Education is up to you. We get the homework done first.

My 2nd-grader learned all kinds of things from an abandoned paving machine yesterday. There were levers and switches and gears and these screws that jacked the thing up and down. He was having a great time wrestling with all of that rusty metal but didn't understand the myriad ways fingers are lost, so I threw a frisbee at his head.

The game was on. You have to stand still while it comes at you. Boy sent disc into the woods and a black weasel-like thing brought it back. We tried to follow it and then spent an hour on the net trying to identify it.

Don't leave that sense of wonder for someone else to enjoy.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 3:48 AM on September 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm going to be the contrarian here and state that the amount (at least 4 hours a night, with multiple long-term projects) and the nature of the homework assigned to me in high school (particularly the problem sets in my math and science courses, the papers that were were assigned in my English and history classes, and the vocab and grammar exercises in my German class) were extremely helpful in preparing me for the level and type of assignments that I experienced in college. I doubt I would have been able to have done so well and learned so much at the university level if I had not had the benefits of both the quality and amount of homework at the high school level that I did have. Homework at the high school and grade school level both reinforced what I was learning in class and, more importantly, taught me how to manage my time. Given how amazingly busy I was (something I don't regret at all - there are only four years and there's just so many opportunities that my university offered outside of classes) and how much more challenging my college classes were in comparison to what I'd experienced previously, on both an intellectual and work load level, I would have failed out the first semester if I had not had the experience of a relatively heavy homework load in high school.

I will say that I've always been a person, even as a kid, who has really loved and enjoyed school and the entire formal educational process. So for people who don't, I understand why homework would be something to dread. But for me, homework has had real and immense benefits in both my work and personal lives.
posted by longdaysjourney at 4:30 AM on September 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think this is the thread where I have to thank my primary school (up to the age of 11 in the UK) headmaster. He was a strict elderly man, or seemed to us, but didn't believe in homework and insisted the teachers didn't set any.

High school: up to about age 14 I usually got a 6/10 or 7/10 in class because I didn't put much effort into homework. Like, some other kids would draw maps and spend ages neatly colouring everything in. I got the answers right, but could never be bothered with that stuff. Age 14-16 was when exams started, I started putting in effort then and got good grades.

I have so much fear for my unborn son. Kids now are graded, assessed, streamed from the earliest ages. I don't know which I fear more, that he'll do badly at this system and lead a life of poverty and insecurity; or that he'll do well at these endless tests of mindless timeserving obedience and live a life without joy or imagination or originality or freedom.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 4:31 AM on September 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


I felt at the time, and still do, that there really isn't a good reason that the kind of work that needs to be done in the evenings couldn't be incorporated into the ebb and flow of a normal school day.

Unless you take into account that the bulk of the "ebb and flow of a normal school day" is probably spent in test prep.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:35 AM on September 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Homework for kindergarteners? Who thought that up, Michael Gove? Seriously, the problem is that the rules are made by people (men mainly) who have no fucknig idea about education and child development, and are forcing things onto our children based on their own personal whimsy.
posted by marienbad at 4:39 AM on September 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is the passage that I found the most dumbfounding:

Back in California, when I raised the issue of too much homework on that e‑mail chain, about half the parents were pleased that someone had brought this up, and many had already spoken to the math teacher about it. Others were eager to approach school officials. But at least one parent didn’t agree, and forwarded the whole exchange to the teacher in question.

As the person who instigated the conversation, I was called in to the vice principal’s office and accused of cyberbullying. I suggested that parents’ meeting to discuss their children’s education was generally a positive thing; we merely chose to have our meeting in cyberspace instead of the school cafeteria.

He disagreed, saying the teacher felt threatened. And he added that students weren’t allowed to cyberbully, so parents should be held to the same standard.


I can't imagine being in Mr. Greenfield's place and surviving that conversation with relationships to school officials intact. Is this a willful mutation of the definition of "cyberbullying" to assuage the feelings of a teacher who can't handle criticism or plain bureaucratic dunderheadedness?
posted by Alison at 4:44 AM on September 20, 2013 [15 favorites]


Class of 1998 here. I remember, especially junior year, doing 5-6 hours of homework a night, on top of school, after school activities and a part time job. I mostly enjoyed it, but I definitely didn't sleep much. Contrary to this article, though, I always knew the translations for the verbs I was conjugating. It was important to me to understand and not just memorize.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 4:49 AM on September 20, 2013


"the math is easier than I thought. We are simplifying equations, which involves reducing (–18m2n)2 (–1/6mn2) to –54m5n4, . . . . I breeze through those 11 equations in about 40 minutes "

It took hm 40 minutes to do that? Seriously?

On Tuesday, he noted that the HW took 3 hours and that his daughter went to bed after 11PM. He notes that she doesn't start the HW until 8PM (presumably not long after dinner). Why does she start so late? Why not start after she gets out of school in the afternoon? I'm sure she's schedule for activities everyday.

I'm sorry, but this guy sounds insufferable. He comes across as the sort of person that thinks that if something is bad from his point of view, then it is clearly and objectively bad, full-stop. If the world doesn't conform to his expectations, then the world must adjust.

He also seems to be doing a horrible job to help educate his daughter rather than teach her disdain for her work.
posted by oddman at 5:04 AM on September 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


and most of it was spent differentiating "dreams" of the aspirational kind from "dreams" of the scary or fantastical kind.

Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream that all people would be allowed to be free. What about your dreams?

I have a dream that: clowns will eat me and then there is some kind of salmon jerky?
posted by curious nu at 5:05 AM on September 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Presumably Mr. Greenfeld could enrol her in a Montessori program, but good fucking luck getting into an Ivy League school.

A friend of mine was in a Montessori program and went to Harvard.
posted by jb at 5:07 AM on September 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


But seriously: he should put his foot down about the sleep with the teachers. But it sounds like his daughter is a striving sort who wants to do well, and will skip sleep for it.
posted by jb at 5:08 AM on September 20, 2013


I have a 14-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son.

The problem I have observed in their public school homework is that, for the most part, the homework is NOT an extension or reinforcement of what was taught in class that day. I am often explaining new concepts to my children at home at 7 or 8pm.

Homework should be a reinforcement of what was learned in school that day and should be minimal. By doing so, a teacher can see from the (minimal!) homework whether the student "got" the concept taught the previous day.
posted by kuanes at 5:10 AM on September 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


I find this article a little, I don't know, disingenuous in places. Granted, my hackles were raised with the "No, our children are going to catch up with those East Asian kids on their own damn time." Yes, stereotypes are good for everyone! Note that his previous sentence mentioned Finland, but then he decided to go for the stereotype.

But there's other stuff. For example, his daughter almost certainly was not handed a list of Spanish verbs and told to memorise the principal parts without any consideration to the meaning of the words. Spend 10 minutes on Duolingo and you know what tener means. No, these will be verbs she's seen in class, that the textbook has used, that she's quite possibly had a vocabulary quiz on (which would have been the time to memorise the principal parts), etc. Maybe there are a few that are fairly obscure in the world of eighth grade Spanish that she's essentially going to have to suck it up and memorise that night, but not the majority.

I think he's also thinking "I'm an adult, this should be easy" and ignoring that you lose the rhythm of doing homework pretty quickly after you stop having it. It's entirely possibly his daughter has unreasonable amounts of homework, but I doubt he's in a position to really judge. This semester, I'm taking two classes with homework for the first time in years--one pass/fail and the other I'm not even taking for a grade (but if I want to learn anything, I had better do the assignments). The amount of stress two homework assignments a week, both of which are substantially easier than homework I had as an undergrad or in my first years of grad school, are causing is astonishing. But I've simply not had that sort of consistent deadline for a couple of years.
posted by hoyland at 5:13 AM on September 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


From the article: Well, imagine if after putting in a full day at the office—and school is pretty much what our children do for a job—you had to come home and do another four or so hours of office work. Monday through Friday. Plus Esmee gets homework every weekend. If your job required that kind of work after work, how long would you last?

I agree that this is not a reasonable load to put on a child. However, if one of your suggested answers is to lengthen the school year or school day, I might point out that the day described above is the reality right now for pretty much every teacher I know.
posted by ZsigE at 5:14 AM on September 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


Lots of homework doesn't narrow the gap between the rich and the poor. It increases it. Kids whose parents aren't fluent in English, or kids whose parents aren't well-educated, or kids whose parents are working so much they don't have time to be home and help with the homework, often don't have anywhere to go when they get stuck. And instead of being a learning opportunity, it's just an exercise in frustration.
posted by Jeanne at 5:17 AM on September 20, 2013 [21 favorites]


Math teacher here. m and n probably are variables. This is good! My students frequently suffer from have what I call an addiction to x. They will use x as the variable even when it makes no sense in the context of the problem. There was recently a trig problem where there were two distinct lengths. A nontrivial number of students labeled both of them x (instead of x&y, a&b, or d1&d2, which all would have worked), and were thus unable to solve the problem.

As for column answers... Not saying this application is right, but, one of the things we have to teach in math class is how to organize complicated calculations. Much of math is communication - translating those ideas that work in your head into words or writing that makes sense to someone else. organization also helps the learner detect their own errors and compare work with others collaboratively.

The most productive lerning time happens in class. Homework can be useful in helping students prepare for the next day's class, so that the productive time is optimized. Reading ahead (even in math!) can be a huge help.
posted by Wulfhere at 5:26 AM on September 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'm surprised the daughter isn't using the homework to get out of whatever she's stuck doing between the hours of 3-8 (or is it 2-8, even?).

Because that was what I always did. "Oh, yeah...I know I need to wash the dishes, but I just have soooooo much homework!" "No, I can't go to church, Mom, it's Wednesday night, and I've got this report to finish!"

(Also? Home schooling is not the panacea it seems like it is. My mother tried it for two years, and it was pretty much just me doing all the work on my own, like the long dark night of eternal homework or something. When your mother needs to give you a spelling test and she doesn't know the words in question, you pretty much know you'd be doing better in a school.)
posted by Katemonkey at 5:32 AM on September 20, 2013


I went to a gifted & talented elementary school, pricey Catholic middle & high schools, and good colleges. I did little to no homework the whole time, turned in the first draft of every paper, and was a National Merit Scholar with good grades. *shrug* I hate homework, and it doesn't help everyone, nor always serve its intended purpose.

My four kids are currently in Kindergarten to ninth grade (no, not all at once), and their homework -- much of it utter rubbish -- makes me cry inside many nights because of its volume and quality.

We're already fighting with the town's school committee over their new (and ridiculous) grading scales, so we don't have time to fight against repetitive, craptacular homework. Yet.
posted by wenestvedt at 5:32 AM on September 20, 2013


I had parents that did not help me with homework (on principle), and were not willing to pay for tutoring. At some point in third or fourth grade (age 9 or so), I pretty much stopped doing homework. I aced the tests. I simply did not turn in any homework. I would even read the textbook, but I refused to put a mark on a worksheet.

I got shitty grades in most classes. I got put in special ed. They took me out of special ed when they saw the books I was reading instead of doing my homework. I only just managed to get a highschool diploma, with a terrible GPA.

Today I am a programmer. I make a good living on my intellect, with a self taught skill. I still don't do homework or worksheets.
posted by idiopath at 5:35 AM on September 20, 2013 [14 favorites]


Furthermore, as compared to people I know who actually did their busywork, I actually enjoy learning and seek out new ideas and skills. I find these things exciting. I think most students are so oppressed by the demeaning pointless worksheets they had to fill out that they are left incapable of finding ideas interesting any more.
posted by idiopath at 5:38 AM on September 20, 2013 [10 favorites]


My son is starting second grade here in Wisconsin. A month in, we've had one homework assignment; he had to write a few sentences about how he got his name. Last year, he had math worksheets, one a week, which took about a half hour. High levels of homework in elementary school are not an American universal. And yes, we have high-stakes standardized tests here.
posted by escabeche at 5:39 AM on September 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, our Rhode Island town adopted new math and ELA curricula this year, called EngageNY, and they seem simply not to be ready for use.

The worksheets have typos -- which makes math problems really hard -- and just the other night we got an email from the 4th grade teacher with some suggestions on how to do that night's work. Of course, at 8:58PM my kid was already in bed, thankyouverymuch, after my wife & I each tried to help. We realized the problem was b0rked, penciled in a note next to the thing, and sent the lad off to brush his teeth.

I have been told that the teachers are feverishly trying to crank out their own worksheets, handouts, and other supporting materials, but I just don't want to believe it's true.

The program is not popular with teachers, either.

Oh, also, it cost nothing, versus pricier products. :7(
posted by wenestvedt at 5:40 AM on September 20, 2013


Could there be a correlation between the amount of homework and teachers' rankings/ school funding? Nah. (It's all one big "competitive" mess, anymore.)
posted by Benny Andajetz at 5:41 AM on September 20, 2013


Also, I teach math, and it runs counter to my experience to say that you can learn math without working problems. Of course there are good problems and there are stupid problems. But if a kid is beating beaten down by an hour of stupid algebra homework, the problem is not that it's an hour so much as that it's stupid.
posted by escabeche at 5:44 AM on September 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


My son's 12. For the last 4-5 years, the mantra of his schools has been "if you have to spend more than an hour on one subject of homework, have your parent write a note that you just couldn't get it done, and we'll understand."

Between that and their handling of bullying issues, I am oh so very happy we're in the district that we're in.
posted by Lucinda at 5:49 AM on September 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


My district has limited the amount of a student's grade that can come from homework because parents were just doing the homework FOR the kids; the grade limit has the side effect of reducing the quantity of homework to a more manageable level.

I'm not sure this is the best theoretical solution to either problem (parents doing homework, too much homework), but in practice it has actually worked out pretty well.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:51 AM on September 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


One assignment had her calculating the area and perimeter of a series of shapes so complex that my wife, who trained as an architect in the Netherlands, spent half an hour on it before coming up with the right answers. The problem was not the complexity of the work, it was the amount of calculating required. The measurements included numbers like 78 13/64, and all this multiplying and dividing was to be done without a calculator.

Right, see, like this! As he says, that it took his wife a half hour is no problem. The problem is the extensive drilling in pencil-and-paper computation. Now I am an old-fashioned dude who thinks kids ought to have multiplication tables in muscle memory and have strong fluency in mental calculation, including estimation. But what you do in the homework is just the opposite -- that's where you give them problems where the computations are complicated enough that any normal person, including a mathematician like me, would use a machine to do them, and you let them use or for that matter insist that they use the machine for that, because then they learn how to use the machines that help you do math.

I think Greenfield lets the words "homework" and "busywork" slip back and forth between each other and that's bad. Nobody thinks kids should be forced to do lots of busywork just for the hell of it. But homework shouldn't be busywork.
posted by escabeche at 5:51 AM on September 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I can't imagine being in Mr. Greenfield's place and surviving that conversation with relationships to school officials intact. Is this a willful mutation of the definition of "cyberbullying" to assuage the feelings of a teacher who can't handle criticism or plain bureaucratic dunderheadedness?

The most important lesson in this whole affair is probably for the classroom teacher and it concerns the nature of what "BCC" means in an email application. That is something that should be taught at school
posted by rongorongo at 5:53 AM on September 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


The most time I've spent on homework was when I was in 7th and 8th grade, splitting my day between 2 very different schools in a mainstreaming program. It was utterly soul crushing, and I got detention (TWICE! So not like me) for not completing a insipid project-- it was "color in the veins and the arteries". I just couldn't bring myself to look at it over 2003's thanksgiving break.

Of course the rationalization by the PTBs was that "it would prepare me for high school" and then I rarely spent over 2 hours on homework while taking college-level classes. My high school homework was mainly paper writing. Such a relief.
posted by lineofsight at 5:57 AM on September 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


When people have asked "what is she doing until 8pm", my guess would be "school lets out around 4pm, she has a sport or an extracurricular until ~5:30, transit home, dinner" with an extra half hour or forty-five minutes in there to decompress.

I'm in school again right now and I do my homework (one class at the moment) right after work, at work, because it's the quietest place available. By the time I've put in a couple of hours of homework, traveled home and got dinner on the table, it's 7:30. I am not surprised at all that if the kid has an extracurricular in there plus transit (when I was in junior high, my bus ride was almost an hour each way because we were the next to last stop) it's no surprise that she's not starting until 8pm.

Would this really be better if she raced home, started her homework at 5pm, took twenty minutes for dinner and was done by 9:30pm? Sure, she'd get more sleep, but that's no kind of life.

And I add that if you're a rich kid (like her) you're under a lot of pressure to have lots of extracurriculars. You have to build up for your college applications.

All this is, of course, a crisis of capitalism - we've cut the social safety net and there aren't even enough jobs to pacify the middle classes. But we have no political theory or system for ordinary people to discuss and refine what they actually want and then act to get it, so it all comes out in "ZOMG little Clarissa Honor Snow-Phelps had better do her five hours a night plus two sports, student government and volunteering or she'll end up doing medical coding if that hasn't been automated already".
posted by Frowner at 6:12 AM on September 20, 2013 [19 favorites]


Also, I teach math, and it runs counter to my experience to say that you can learn math without working problems. Of course there are good problems and there are stupid problems. But if a kid is beating beaten down by an hour of stupid algebra homework, the problem is not that it's an hour so much as that it's stupid.

I agree. I had an absolutely awful time in high school with math, but the one thing that saved my ass was the volumes and volumes of practice sets that we were assigned. To move onto higher concepts in math, you can't just understand the foundational topics, but be good at them. How is a student going to keep up in algebra if they don't know the times tables by rote? How is a student going to do calculus if they can't do algebra quickly and in their sleep?

When designed correctly right, homework is like practicing a musical instrument. You have to put in the work. I can't imagine many of the people here would say that one could learn to play an instrument by just going to the lessons.

Homework sucks, but that's more of a scheduling issue than an educational one.

(There is also the idea that homework is part of the larger purpose of schooling, which is to teach people how to be responsible and how to accomplish things.)
posted by gjc at 6:16 AM on September 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I add too that the business about "rich kids get enrichment at home so poor kids need a lot of homework to catch up" is....well, that's rich. I don't know a lot of actually poor kids who get a lot of homework that is actually expected to be done, because their schools are chaos, they don't have enough books and there aren't enough teachers. No, it's "everyone whose home environment is somewhat stable and whose schools are somewhat staffed - and who thus has some hope of getting into a line of work that isn't lumpenproletarian - is doing tons of work regardless of the level of enrichment at home".

It reminds me of Adorno and all that "authoritarian personality" stuff. Watch out - we're going to have a generation of fascists at the helm in another twenty years because of the vile and pervasive ideology of the education system.
posted by Frowner at 6:17 AM on September 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


Well, imagine if after putting in a full day at the office—and school is pretty much what our children do for a job—you had to come home and do another four or so hours of office work. Monday through Friday. Plus Esmee gets homework every weekend. If your job required that kind of work after work, how long would you last?

Did he really just write that with a straight face? Without even a nod to the fact that teachers experience that *all the time*, and maybe - juuust maybe - that might have something to do with how they think about homework?

That's amazing.
posted by mediareport at 6:32 AM on September 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


What a joy it's going to be to live in a world run by the kids who were tormented in this fashion.
posted by Scram at 6:35 AM on September 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


When people have asked "what is she doing until 8pm", my guess would be "school lets out around 4pm, she has a sport or an extracurricular until ~5:30, transit home, dinner" with an extra half hour or forty-five minutes in there to decompress.

That seems like a scheduling problem. I can only go off of my experience, but in high school, the class schedule was 7:50am to 2pm. The buses left at 2:15, but there was a second round of buses that ran around 4pm for the kids in clubs and athletics. The idea being that every kid should be able to get home around 5 for dinnertime with the family.

The downside of that schedule was that the actual schoolday was fairly hectic. Three minutes between classes, lunch was only 20 minutes. You were forced to plan ahead.

If schools are extending their days until 4pm, they better be incorporating more study/library time for the students, or they are just doing them a disservice.
posted by gjc at 6:36 AM on September 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


What on earth is his daughter doing in the hours between when school gets out and 8pm? And should whatever that is really be prioritized over sleep?

For me it was drama club and ballet classes (often both on the same evening), and the reason I prioritized them over sleep is because they were the only things I actually enjoyed during high school. If my parents had taken them away from me because "well, you've got 4 hours of homework, so I guess you just have to do that and then go to sleep," I would have been even more miserable.
posted by naoko at 6:37 AM on September 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


What a joy it's going to be to live in a world run by the kids who were tormented in this fashion.

As the linked article explains, homework goes in cycles. At every moment for at least the past 50 years you've been living in a world run by people a large portion of whom got lots of homework when they were kids.
posted by escabeche at 6:38 AM on September 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Can Emotional Intelligence Be Taught? "If everybody knows that test scores and grades aren't the keys to success, how do we teach, and measure, the things that are?"
As the children formed a circle, Wade asked the 5-year-olds to think about "anything happening at home, or at school, that's a problem, that you want to share." He repeated his invitation twice, in a lulling voice, until a small, round-faced boy in a white shirt and blue cardigan raised his hand. Blinking back tears, he whispered, "My mom does not like me." The problem, he said, was that he played too much on his mother's iPhone. "She screams me out every day," he added, sounding wretched...
a crisis of capitalism

-For-profit colleges: "what happens when we are unwilling to adequately fund public higher education"
-Inside HBS: "kill, f^^k or marry"
-Imagine a Better World
posted by kliuless at 6:42 AM on September 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


To be honest, the homework load of American children is not a new problem, is it?

Nope. I was struggling through hours of homework in the 80s.

Part of it is there are 6-7 different classes a kid goes to daily, and many of them feel the need to assign homework.
posted by Foosnark at 6:51 AM on September 20, 2013


I took algebra and geometry from W.D. Hardy at North High School in Phoenix. He was an awesome teacher, and he had the right attitude about homework, "Spend 15 minutes on the problems, if it takes you longer, you're doing it wrong. Stop. I don't want you reinforcing what you don't know."

When I taught, I followed the same rule.

I have a friend who teaches Physics at a local university. He says that the kids that show up to his classroom can only study what will be asked on the test and have NO ability to read for comprehension or to write coherently.

So whatever it is that these kids are being prepared for, it ain't college and it ain't life.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:54 AM on September 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


Wenestvedt, I'm surprised to read that Rhode Island is using New York's Common Core modules.

I've written some stories about it and the modules do appear difficult. Several teachers here on Long Island spent a full week this summer just learning how to teach the modules.

I think the Common Core standards might be good in the long run but the conversion is difficult and the freakout from people in all directions has been awful. When the test results came back in New York, the decline in scores from last year was horrible but then the numbers really shouldn't be compared. There was a rally at one point to object to the standards and one mother was weeping," how do you tell your third grader that she's not college material?" Of course, the tests do no such thing. But NY imposed the standards before the curriculum had been fully implemented, with predictable results. And when these tests are imposed on top of others, such as the Regents, and then the PSAT and all the other tests kids take, it's a wonder any of them can think straight.
posted by etaoin at 6:57 AM on September 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Did he really just write that with a straight face? Without even a nod to the fact that teachers experience that *all the time*, and maybe - juuust maybe - that might have something to do with how they think about homework?

Teachers also shouldn't be taking stacks of work home. It's a fucked up system. How about no one (including the teacher) goes home until the day's work is done? Set that as the goal and then figure out a way to create a sane level of work for students and teachers.
posted by pracowity at 6:59 AM on September 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


Student teacher ratios in public schools *have* reduced significantly over time. From 22.3 to 15.4 over span 1970 to 2009.
posted by gyp casino at 7:05 AM on September 20, 2013


So whatever it is that these kids are being prepared for, it ain't college and it ain't life.

I dunno -- these kids, that is the kids in the article, that is kids at a specialized NYC high school where the parents are people like Karl Taro Greenfield, are indeed probably headed towards jobs where they are going to work all day and then come home and have dinner and then work for another three or four hours and go to bed, and work on weekends too. So maybe it's getting those kids ready for their lives. Like I said, the story he tells about his kids would not be an accurate story about non-magnet public school in Wisconsin, from what I've experienced.
posted by escabeche at 7:07 AM on September 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


In highschool I probably did 30% of the homework assigned to me. Maybe a bit more, but I honestly didn't do much. Partially that's because we were assigned a whole bunch of it and I simply didn't want to do it. Lazy and stubborn I am.

Which is great, worked fine for high school. I still got good grades and even enjoyed the classroom time in school. Problem was that it gave me shit study habits for college. Not doing the homework is fine when you're in class from 8 to 3:30 everyday. Not so much when you have 3 hours of class a week and the rest of it is supposed to be self directed.

Thankfully I didn't drop out of college or anything due to my questionable study methods. But I certainly felt the pinch that high school didn't quite prepare me for taking homework/selfdirected study seriously.
posted by Carillon at 7:15 AM on September 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


"I won't enroll my kid in public school because of this!"

Really? Because of a blog post? First of all, up until about third grade, no teacher expects students to complete the assigned "homework". Parents will outright tell the teacher that they won't be, and this is par for the course. If you sweat about this, you are a noob, but it's OK, you'll figure it out.

Second, nothing about this blog post is even remotely akin to the reality in most public schools. He deliberately put his daughter in a high intensity learning environment. Pick one, dude, learning or sports? Otherwise compromise and balance it out at a normal school.

Some of you are handwringing about homework, and you don't even have any kids in school. Please, stop. It will be OK. I have 3 kids from 3rd to 9th, one of them is in Early College. It will be OK, trust me.
posted by Brocktoon at 7:22 AM on September 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Let me preface this by saying that I was someone who earned good to better than average grades in both high school and college, often without ever cracking the spine of the book. Learning always came naturally to me, but homework never did.

But here's what I always took away from school and college: it's a place to learn to jump through hoops. The scientific method for me was always: 1) identify which hoops need jumping through, 2) jump through appropriate hoops, 3) not worry about the rest.

In that sense, formatting the algebraic answer with a geometric line is just the same hoop you jump through when you have to format your TPS cover sheet with a specific naming convention, and save it to a specific folder on a specific network drive... or whatever.

So regardless of how stupidly mundane that line is, that's the bit of "real world" knowledge that will serve you well after you've forgotten how to do a quadratic equation, or how electrons are in a given chemical solution, or how many battles Napoleon lost before he starting holding pickles inside his uniform while posing for paintings... or whatever the heck they're teaching/not teaching kids in school these days.

tl;dr: learning to draw that line, and doing it even though it doesn't make sense, is teaching that kid and preparing them for the "real world" more than the math next to it ever will.
posted by Blue_Villain at 7:22 AM on September 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think a lot of parents end up homeschooling their kids because they are already doing so much of their education in the exhausted hours between dinner and bedtime while struggling with homework. At least a homeschooled kid can get a full night of sleep.

But of course if both of them work, and the kid is too young to stay at home, it's impossible for lots of reasons. And so kids fail, get discouraged, and burn out.

We have lucked into a Montessori-type school situation for our kid at low cost, and I do mean lucked into it. But if it stops working, we were about ready to homeschool anyway. 4 worksheets 2x a week for a first grader is ridiculous, especially since our kid was breezing through them but also getting burnt out by the busywork aspect of them.

And the truth is, we don't want to have to do either of these things. School is a public good, dammit, and every kid should have free access to it. But after too many meetings with exhausted, defeated teachers and a complete backwardness that comes from our dumbfuck state school board, we had no sense that this was a battle we could win.
posted by emjaybee at 7:29 AM on September 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I went to a high school that ranked students, or at least all of the students who earned a GPA of 3.2? 3.4? or higher, which frequently worked out to maybe 40-60% of the students in a class. The rankings would be posted after each quarter outside of the school office. I always saw students copying homework. I had it ingrained in my head that cheating was wrong so I never copied homework. Granted, the reason I did not have straight As was not exclusively because I refused to cheat. But I don't think I ever was on the list of ranked students. It bummed me out a little because I knew that I was smarter than some of the students who were ranked and I thought I worked hard and I did tons of extracurricular stuff. But I don't think I ever had a 3.4+ GPA.
posted by kat518 at 7:35 AM on September 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Student teacher ratios in public schools *have* reduced significantly over time. From 22.3 to 15.4 over span 1970 to 2009.

Given the numbers there, and how infrequently (ie "never") I saw a classroom with 22 students when I graduated in 1988 (thinking about it average must have been about 35, but some of that is just because Florida sucks), I expect that a lot of the increase in the number of teachers has gone to special ed. Which is probably a good thing given how underserved kids with special-ed needs had been, but it doesn't really say much about the circumstances that the typical/average student who's not in special ed and (mostly) not in honors/AP/IB courses are in.

I would be very surprised if the class size the average student finds themselves in (this isn't measured anywhere I'm aware of) has decreased over time. I'd be a little surprised if it hasn't increased.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:37 AM on September 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


jaynewould: Before you get all excited about The Dalton Plan, please know that Dalton kids have a shitload of homework, just like everyone else in NYC. It's all very nice in the Wikipedia entry, but Dalton doesn't really work that way IRL.
posted by The Bellman at 7:38 AM on September 20, 2013


Twenty+ years ago when my two youngest sons were in high school I lived a few miles south of Ithaca across the road from a family that had 16 children- it was a religious thing.

The mother was my age, and we shared the same first name, Mary. Both of us had working husbands. Both of us lived in three-bedroom houses.

I was a grad student at the local big university. My husband had graduate degrees from the same place. We had hundreds of books and a computer. When my kids needed help with homework they knew they could get help from me or their step-father for any subject. If they needed to go 5 miles downtown to the public library one of us could drive them or we let them use one of our two cars. They could also use the university library.

The other Mary cared about her kids just as much as I did but she couldn't have offered them much help with homework as she'd only finished high school. Besides, caring for the younger children and housework- cooking, cleaning, washing- took up all of her energy. Her older kids helped out a lot, so they didn't have as much time to do their homework as mine did. They also did not have anywhere quiet to do their schoolwork, did not have a houseful of books, did not have a computer. Mr. Across-the-road-Mary worked two jobs to support his family so the van, their family's only vehicle, was not available for trips to the library.

Homework just adds another level of difficulty for those kids who weren't lucky enough to be born to educated parents. It should either be abolished, or it should all be completed during an extended day at school, with help from older students, paraprofessionals, volunteers.
posted by mareli at 7:40 AM on September 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Homework just adds another level of difficulty for those kids who weren't lucky enough to be born to educated parents

While I agree with you, it is not the teacher's fault that this family had 16 children.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:53 AM on September 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I am still bitter about how I got the least amount of sleep when I needed it the most in high school. I had to get up at about 6 am to make it to school by 7:30 am, and was up until 11 pm to fit in all of my homework and extracurriculars. Could I have gone to sleep earlier if I cut out my two hours or so of me-time where I watched TV or messed around on the internet? Sure, but it would have gotten pretty soul-crushing to be all work and no play. What really grates is that I was perpetually running on a sleep debt of 4-6 hours during high school. I generally got a solid 8-9 hours a night in college, and it's astonishing how much better I felt and how my sleep improved.

Even more annoying, the 4 hours of homework a night did nothing to prepare me for college. I always tell people that I didn't work nearly as hard in college as I did in high school, and I got the same grades, and they're surprised. But it shouldn't be surprising! There's no goddamn homework in college if you're a liberal arts major! I did my reading, I took/reviewed my notes, and I wrote my papers, and wonder of wonders, I still had more than enough time for a part time job, a social life, and 8 hours of sleep a night.
posted by yasaman at 7:55 AM on September 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


Is this a willful mutation of the definition of "cyberbullying" to assuage the feelings of a teacher who can't handle criticism or plain bureaucratic dunderheadedness?

Schools lost their ability to deal with context and nuance when the Zero Tolerance Era kicked in. ("Cloud in Sky Looks Like Gun; Eight Students Suspended for Noticing.") Likely the school's working definition of "cyberbullying" is "saying things online that make someone feel bad".
posted by Lazlo Nibble at 7:58 AM on September 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am still bitter about how I got the least amount of sleep when I needed it the most in high school. I had to get up at about 6 am to make it to school by 7:30 am

It always felt so wrong to me that school started at 7:40, and ended at 3:20. Why didn't it start at 8:00 and get done by 3:00? I mean, didn't most people get to work by 8:00? That bus stop before the sun got up during the dead of winter in the midwest made me more bitter than just about anything in my childhood.
posted by SpacemanStix at 8:00 AM on September 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


But if you have to be at work at 8, you might have to drop your kid off at 7:30-ish, and why not put that time to use instead of having the kid sitting around doing nothing?
posted by desjardins at 8:04 AM on September 20, 2013


oh, I see you mentioned buses, but obviously not everyone takes them.
posted by desjardins at 8:05 AM on September 20, 2013


This is being done to children. They don't have a say in their world. No union, no vote, no voice. As a kid, if you got a crappy teacher for a year, life just sucked. Often, the initial teaching of the material was weak, so the homework didn't make sense. Not only is it a PITA for a teacher to grade a pile of homework, but the teacher may not have the time to assess where the kids are weak, so it never gets corrected.

Now we've got teaching to tests, school policy dictated by politicians, and a Puritanical notion of making children work more and more. It doesn't seem terribly effective.
posted by theora55 at 8:12 AM on September 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


While I agree with you, it is not the teacher's fault that this family had 16 children.

Leaving aside questions of why people have a certain number of children (sixteen wasn't mentioned, right?) which is a very complex question and IMO more trouble to try to "regulate" than it can possibly be worth....

...those kids didn't choose to be born into a family with many siblings and not enough money. Why should the kids be penalized? Kids should have help bouncing back from their parents' bad decisions, not get sunk deeper in the mire because of them.

And what about outcomes? A society where we're all like "we shouldn't have to fix your parents' stupid childrearing decisions" is going to be a society where a lot more people have a lot more problems over time, and we're all going to have to live with that.

And for that matter, I wish I had had some outside help with some of my parents' more eccentric decisions - and my parents were good, loving ones who provided quite a lot of enriching experiences. They just weren't perfect every time! A lot of kids are going to need some support - because the family actually isn't an island/self sufficient network.
posted by Frowner at 8:14 AM on September 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


There's no goddamn homework in college if you're a liberal arts major!

Really depends on where you go and what your major was. Mine was poly sci at a well-known liberal arts university near Boston and we were as busy with coursework as people majoring in the hard sciences.
posted by longdaysjourney at 8:14 AM on September 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


...those kids didn't choose to be born into a family with many siblings and not enough money. Why should the kids be penalized? Kids should have help bouncing back from their parents' bad decisions, not get sunk deeper in the mire because of them.

Right of course, but it's a balancing act. You could make the argument that someone with 15 young siblings has NO time for homework. And that certainly doesn't help the class learn, either.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:15 AM on September 20, 2013


I'm surprised at how little actual work the girl had and how long it took her to do it.
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 8:21 AM on September 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


When I started teaching at the college level, instead of being satisfied with the two-week cram session on pedagogy we got as grad students at my university, I read a bunch of books on various pedagogical philosophies. And hit on the Summerhill and Sudbury models. It had the side effect of completely ruining me for most office jobs, but I can't help but read something like this and have a particularly anarchistic response: the root of the problem here is that the lives of these children, their interests, and most of all their happiness aren't valued. There is no time for passion, for hobbies, for reading books you love and inventing elaborate paracosms--things that are very important, developmentally, at 13, even if they're not valued by our society.

Of course, I suspect my political and philosophical leanings have always been like this. A few months ago, I was going through my high school notebooks and found a summer reading "journal" on A Tale of Two Cities. In the middle of some really dry analysis, I suddenly diverged on a long tangent. It's like there was a blue screen of death in my brain. I just couldn't do it anymore. This is what I wrote.

The teacher's response? "See me." I had no memory of any of this as an adult. My teacher gave me a second assignment. She had me write at length about my objections to summer reading. I imagine this was meant to be a punishment, but I'm sure fifteen-year-old kid-me reveled in it. I had strong feelings and wanted to talk about them (not something often encouraged in my public school).

The resultant essay was mostly about educational and class differences in my high school. The kids who were put in remedial, general ed and college prep class were given no summer homework. Those students, I thought, were far less likely to do any reading on their own. In contrast, I'd been given thousands of pages of summer reading from fifth grade on, because I was an honors student. Most of it was very dry and had little relevance to my own life. And it had the side effect of stopping my reading progress completely. In normal circumstances, I read a book a week--then and now. But because I had to slog through Dickens that summer, my reading ground to a halt.

Many of the other students got around this by purchasing Cliffs Notes for every assignment. I refused to do that. I wanted to have real, honest interactions with literature. I didn't want to merely learn how to game the system. But our teachers didn't want real, honest reactions to literature. They didn't even want me to, say, explore the historical context of the book so I could understand its importance even while having the personal reaction of revulsion. They just wanted me to regurgitate plot points and talk about symbolism to prove that I'd read it. This all seemed antithetical to learning to me. It still does.

My teacher's only response was "the parents' of honors students have requested that we give them summer reading." Well, then.

My husband and I have talked a lot about the life we want for our kids, now that we're expecting one. There are decent public schools in our area but I'm really concerned with my childrens' passions not being respected or tended to. My husband is concerned, though. At ten, he says, he just would have played video games all day, given the option. I can't help but wonder, "So?" I played video games, too. I mucked around in the backyard and played with Lego and made up stories. I watched television. All of these proved to be incredibly relevant to my life and career as an author. The things I wanted to do then were important--the books I wanted to read, important, too.

"We can't all be authors," my husband says, and I've watched him struggle with this. He's a guy that really should be an author, too. He used to romance me with short stories. They were better than mine. But he keeps telling himself he needs to do something useful. Fix vacuums. Enter data. It's his choice, but I can't think that his writing would be of more use and greater good to the world. I can't help but think that we should abolish work, for all of us, not only thirteen year olds. I can't help but think what we really need to do is to value our play.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:36 AM on September 20, 2013 [24 favorites]


school lets out around 4pm, she has a sport or an extracurricular until ~5:30

When did this happen? In the 80s, even my high school only got out at 3:15; sports were done by 5.
posted by Melismata at 8:38 AM on September 20, 2013


MeFi ate my comment...

Stuff like this gives me a knot in my gut. Why should kids have to, basically, work nearly a full adult workday and have hours of homework at night? Worse are the other options mentioned, seemingly, favorably, in the subtitle: extended school days/school years...

I ended up a professor, so I suppose I did alright academically...but, God, I hated school with a fiery passion. A boring, stilted, suffocating waste of time, IMO. I loved reading and loved learning, but hated school...perhaps I'm atypical...but I don't think so. I seemed to learn less in school than I did on my own...and that was pre-interwebs. The thought of pilling on even more soul-crushing, largely fruitless work...it's just horrifying to me. Especially if the preponderance of evidence really does indicate that homework is ineffective. In that case, it's just torture.

If you wanted young me to learn in school, here's an absolutely guaranteed way to do it: tell me, at the beginning of the summer (or the school year) what I had to learn in order to "graduate" from that grade and then not have to go to school anymore that year. I'd have been finished, every year, no later than Christmas break.

Almost more alarming, though, is the Fascistic, irrational, angrifying misuse of anti-bullying laws to squash...well, not even criticism so much as any discussion of school policy whatsoever. They should have taken that to court and gotten someone fired over it. That is utterly insane.
posted by Fists O'Fury at 8:40 AM on September 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


Student teacher ratios in public schools *have* reduced significantly over time. From 22.3 to 15.4 over span 1970 to 2009.

Yeah, like ROU_Xenophobe, I strongly suspect those very general numbers are obscuring what's happening in specific classrooms. It's kind of a specialty of administrators to fudge things like that. I'd be very surprised to find a majority of freshman classes at local high schools with 15 students for one teacher. I'm open to the idea, but I'd be very surprised.
posted by mediareport at 8:41 AM on September 20, 2013


I am still bitter about how I got the least amount of sleep when I needed it the most in high school. I had to get up at about 6 am to make it to school by 7:30 am, and was up until 11 pm to fit in all of my homework and extracurriculars. Could I have gone to sleep earlier if I cut out my two hours or so of me-time where I watched TV or messed around on the internet? Sure, but it would have gotten pretty soul-crushing to be all work and no play. What really grates is that I was perpetually running on a sleep debt of 4-6 hours during high school. I generally got a solid 8-9 hours a night in college, and it's astonishing how much better I felt and how my sleep improved.

Oh, and yeah, in high school the last bell was at 6:45. As an adult I've concluded that I probably have a some sort of sleep phrase syndrome. I don't feel rested at "normal" adult hours, but feel fine if I sleep from, say, 1-9 and have spent most of my adult life seeking jobs that let me do that. When I think of high school, every memory is sort of washed with grey. A sleepy haze. I have no idea how I was at all functional.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:41 AM on September 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Actually there was a study published recently that recommended a later start for High School. Couple that with the body of evidence against homework, and my anecdotal evidence (my kids have done much better on standardized tests since we put them in a school that steadfastly avoids teaching to the test), and you have a powerful prescription for improving American education.
posted by Mister_A at 8:44 AM on September 20, 2013


But if you have to be at work at 8, you might have to drop your kid off at 7:30-ish, and why not put that time to use instead of having the kid sitting around doing nothing?

It never dawned on me before, but that was probably a big reason for this.

In terms of getting out at 3:20, though, I was pretty sure that every movie that I saw about school, kids got out when the bell rang at 3:00. For some reasons, 20 extra minutes was torture. That was almost a couple of extra hours a week!
posted by SpacemanStix at 8:46 AM on September 20, 2013


Our high school was 7:30 am - 2:00 pm. Great for most people. Unfortunately, I lived 45 minutes away, and had to be up to get on the bus by 5:45.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:47 AM on September 20, 2013


Actually there was a study published recently that recommended a later start for High School. Couple that with the body of evidence against homework, and my anecdotal evidence (my kids have done much better on standardized tests since we put them in a school that steadfastly avoids teaching to the test), and you have a powerful prescription for improving American education.

And yet the schools in my local district have the youngest elementary school students start at 9, the upper elementary at 8:30, the middle school at 8, and the high school at 7:30. I really, really can't figure that one out. Don't most little kids get up at, like, dawn?
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:49 AM on September 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


Even more annoying, the 4 hours of homework a night did nothing to prepare me for college. I always tell people that I didn't work nearly as hard in college as I did in high school, and I got the same grades, and they're surprised.

Same here. In high school I had seven classes a day- what were they... English, Latin, math, science, history, and two extracurriculars. (Most students had only six classes, but as an 'advanced' student I was required to show up for 'zero period' advanced English class, which started an hour before the regular school day.) I basically always had math, Latin and English homework, often science and history homework (generally reading the textbook or studying for a text), and then, since my main extracurricular was art, I often had art projects to work on as well. I also worked two or three days a week.

College was ABSOLUTELY NOTHING like that. Rather than seven classes which each met for five hours a week, you'd have five classes which met for three hours a week. So, I went from 35-hour weeks (pre-homework) to 15-hour weeks! And the work wasn't really "harder," it was just more focused on writing and analysis and less on problem sets. The same amount of studying per test, but fewer tests. It was so much easier. I also worked in college, twice as many hours, but I got more sleep and had more of a social life by a LONG shot.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:51 AM on September 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


My brother, who teaches high school in the Las Vegas area, said that, at one school, a lot of the older kids he was teaching would go to school from 8-2:30/3, and then they could pick up a full swing shift at a casino to help support their families.
posted by Katemonkey at 8:51 AM on September 20, 2013


Don't most little kids get up at, like, dawn?

And at 2:30 for three glasses of water. There were times that I wanted to drop them off somewhere that early.
posted by SpacemanStix at 8:51 AM on September 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


But because I had to slog through Dickens that summer, my reading ground to a halt.

Yeah, the year they started assigning Dickens was the year that I started getting really, really high.
posted by elizardbits at 8:56 AM on September 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


etaoin: Wenestvedt, I'm surprised to read that Rhode Island is using New York's Common Core modules.

Believe me, so were we when school started! After the first week, we got a cheery email from the Superintendent, telling everyone how awesome it was going to be, too.

The whole issue of teachers writing up their own materials flies in the face of our town's current push to standardize all grades & rubrics, but bringing that up gets quashed. To me it is reminiscent of open source software, where all the users are encourage to contribute back to the project (and documentation always comes last).
posted by wenestvedt at 9:00 AM on September 20, 2013


Regarding bell times, my daughter's elementary school goes from 9:10 to 3:40. She has to be on the bus at 8:45, she gets off it at 4:15. The junior high goes from 8:05 to 2:40. The high school goes from 7:20 to 1:55. Every Wednesday school lets out early; 2:05 for the elementary school, 1:05 for the junior high, 12:40 for the high school. This seems like madness to me, frankly!

As for what this kid is doing after school? My guess is she's in after-school care because both her parents work. If you get picked up from daycare at 6:00, eat dinner at 7. . . you're going to be starting your homework at 8.
posted by KathrynT at 9:02 AM on September 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


WRT swapping start times, many of us pointed out two things when it was discussed in my town this year:
  1. Letting teens start school later doesn't automatically mean they will get any more sleep, or even stay in bed later. (Our oldest considers Bathroom Priority Access to be an inalienable perquisite of age, and still gets up early to enjoy it.)
  2. Sending younger kids home before high schoolers get there is a problem for families where the older kids take care of the younger kids until the parent(s) get home from work.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:09 AM on September 20, 2013


Speaking as a sociologist who studies work and family, I want to give a reality check for those who think American high school students finish their days at 3:00 or even 2:00 and should do their homework then . . . The American school day was established around the presumption that children would have a stay-at-home parent (mom) available to supervise children in the afternoons. Today, in the majority of two-parent families, both parents work. Thus, a majority of younger children spend their afternoons in after-school programs, most of which involve structured programming rather than unstructured time in which children can do what they wish. So when these children arrive home somewhere between 5:30 and 7:00 with their parents, they have had an adult-length day full of activities and are already very tired when they are facing their homework burden. Further, they have had very little time to do whatever they wish.

By the time children enter high school, in my own youth they were considered old enough to get home themselves and stay there unsupervised, but standards of parenting expectations have changed, and many parents, professionals, and state authorities consider leaving a 15-year-old unsupervised inappropriate. Furthermore, as attending college has come to be seen more and more as a necessity rather than an option, and the competition for entry into more elite schools has risen, a much wider swath of young people are urged by parents and teachers and school counselors to engage in multiple extracurricular activities to fill out their "resume" for college applications. So older children participate in a variety of afterschool activities that are deemed a necessity, to keep them under supervision until parents arrive home, and to give them collegebound credentials.

In some families, there is a stay-at-home parent who can allow children the option to avoid running on the afterschool treadmill of activities. But consider how many children are living with one parent (from birth or after a divorce), or have two parents who both must work by financial necessity, or have parents with professional careers for which they trained long and hard, in which they would suffer career-spanning losses if they took some years off to parent full-time.

Simply assuming that children or their parents "choose" to delay homework until the evenings seems disconnected from the reality of contemporary family and work patterns.
posted by DrMew at 9:15 AM on September 20, 2013 [27 favorites]


Man, I used to sleep until the last possible minute before high school. Like, I walked (we were lucky enough to live two blocks from school) and I'd wake up fifteen minutes before the bell and eat an apple on the way. If your kid happens to be an early riser, good on you, but teens really do need to sleep longer and most will naturally fall into a pattern of later nights and mornings than adults and younger kids.

As for logistical problems, sure, that's the root of it. But that arises out of the cross purposes of public schooling. Is school meant to be a place where kids learn and thrive, or is it meant to be free childcare for parents who work all day? Both, and that's kind of a problem, because it's really hard to achieve both of those things.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:16 AM on September 20, 2013


All of these comments remind me of how I have lived most of my life in school and in work as a dissembler. In school I pretended to care about the assignments, only really getting into a few of them, the rest of the time I was occupied with my own favorite writers, artists, and obsessions.

Work is much like that as well, but at least I get paid for it.

The idea of an education or a career that is actually absorbing and rewarding the majority of the time is foreign to most people, and that's a lot of our problem.
posted by emjaybee at 9:19 AM on September 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


many parents, professionals, and state authorities consider leaving a 15-year-old unsupervised inappropriate.

That's crazy. Back in the 70s/80s, 12-year-olds were considered not only old enough to be left to their own, but old enough to be babysitters.
posted by bonehead at 9:19 AM on September 20, 2013 [15 favorites]


I was a latchkey kid from 3rd grade on (age 9). Had neighbors down the street if I forgot my key or had an emergency. Never felt too worried, the parents would be home by 5:30 most days. I don't think I even had to call my mom.

I'd love to give my kid that freedom, but man, the looks I get from other people when I mention it, you'd think I was teaching him to juggle chainsaws.
posted by emjaybee at 9:22 AM on September 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


We were latchkey from the time we were 9, 6 and 3. I was in charge of my younger siblings. Nothing bad ever happened.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:23 AM on September 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


It always felt so wrong to me that school started at 7:40, and ended at 3:20. Why didn't it start at 8:00 and get done by 3:00? I mean, didn't most people get to work by 8:00? That bus stop before the sun got up during the dead of winter in the midwest made me more bitter than just about anything in my childhood.

School districts with a lot of busing often arrange their schedules so the buses are not out and about during 'commuting hours'.
posted by madajb at 9:23 AM on September 20, 2013


The worst things that ever happened during my tenure as a latchkey kid were a few fights about internet (my teenage sister couldn't use simultaneously the phone while I was on AOL), and that time that I ruined the microwave by forgetting to put water in my ramen before cooking it. Whoops.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:26 AM on September 20, 2013


When did this happen? In the 80s, even my high school only got out at 3:15; sports were done by 5.

Because of the limited amount of playing fields available in my district, sports are often scheduled far later than I would think appropriate for kids.

They are, of course, voluntary, so presumably other parents have a different take on it than I do.
posted by madajb at 9:32 AM on September 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


The thing that annoyed my parents most when we were latch-key kids was unsupervised baking.

My mom had gone back to work when my brothers went into grade 1, and part of the deal was that she didn't bake from scratch anymore. So, by grade three or four we three boys all learned how to bake (aka make a store-bought mix). This worked great for everyone while we were pre-teens. However, I have yet to meet anything, save perhaps a bored labrador retriever, which can out-consume a teenage boy.

Mom and Dad would frequently arrive home during our teenage years to a house smelling of cake or chocolate chip cookies, only to find that we'd consumed them most before dinner, with little left for dessert. To his credit, Dad only really lost it once, the time my brothers had each made a batch of Tollhouse cookies, only to have eaten them all before anyone else got home. Patience of saints.
posted by bonehead at 9:39 AM on September 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


3-4: transportation from school to Activity of the Day. (Mandatory most days, if you want to get into a good college.)
4-5:30: Activity of the Day.
5:30-6: transportation home.
6-7: dinner.
7-7:30: clean up after dinner.
7:30-8: 1 TV show.

See? Easy. And that's with exactly half an hour of unsupervised leisure time in the entire day. And as for why it takes them so long: because they're kids and exhausted! Of course it wouldn't take them this long if they did it at, say, 10 in the morning. I remember in high school, even if I started at 4:00 right when I got home, I'd already been up running around for about 10 hours and even getting my books out and looking at the problems already felt like more than I could handle. Which, of course, led to procrastination.
posted by ostro at 9:50 AM on September 20, 2013


Also, it's a little twisted how we expect that any available leisure time in a kid's day should be available for sacrifice to homework and/or sleep, isn't it? Don't they exist for more than that?

And boy, does the clueless-teachers bit ring true. So many teachers seem to have this belief that, because an hour of homework a night is a reasonable amount for a kid to have, it's OK for them to assign an hour of homework a night. Do they not realize that the kid's other three or four teachers that day are all doing the same thing?
posted by ostro at 9:56 AM on September 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


gyp casino: "Student teacher ratios in public schools *have* reduced significantly over time. From 22.3 to 15.4 over span 1970 to 2009."

A lot of that reduction is due to increasing special ed demands. You'll have artificially low high school student/teacher ratios, for example, because while you've got 28 kids in remedial English, you've got 8 in the ELL immersion program, 5 in the autism classroom, and 11 in AP Chemistry. So you'll come out with a smaller average class size, but the "average" class or the "standard" class has actually probably increased in size (to the maximum allowed under the contract), while you have very small AP, foreign language, special ed, and ELL classrooms.

mediareport: "It's kind of a specialty of administrators to fudge things like that."

It's not an administrative fudge; it's how the state and feds require the data reported. There are extensive standardized forms relating to various kinds of funding and accreditation. If you read the full report for the accreditation of any particular school district, which will be like 300 pages long, there's probably a table that lists the size of all 4th-grade classrooms in the district so you can see that most kids are in 26-person classrooms, special ed has several 12-person classrooms, the deaf classroom has 7 students and two teachers, the severe-and-profound students have 1 teacher and 4 aides for 4 students, etc. But the "summary" report just lists average class size or students per FTE teacher, and that's generally what is released in the statewide "report cards" for schools, and generally what the press reports, and generally what's easily available on the web from the state boards.

We're totally open with parents about this. "This says your class sizes are down to an average of 12 but my child has 30 students in her math class!" "Well, the increase in teachers is almost all to special ed. Little bit to small classes in upper-level foreign language and AP classes. But yeah, those new teachers aren't going to reduce class sizes for regular students, they're going to meet our legal requirements in special ed."

KathrynT: " Every Wednesday school lets out early; 2:05 for the elementary school, 1:05 for the junior high, 12:40 for the high school. This seems like madness to me, frankly!"

This is to meet various NCLB continuing education requirements or collaboration-time requirements for teachers. We had it in our district for two years before we were able to renegotiate the union contract to include more teacher continuing ed and planning time with less impact on student classroom hours. But you do have to pay teachers to be at work more hours. So it's easier in a lot of districts to let students out early on Wednesdays (always Wednesdays!) and do the teacher stuff then ... because it's actually pretty easy to release students early and still have it "count" as a full day under state law, but really really tough to keep teachers longer.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:59 AM on September 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


The thing that annoyed my parents most when we were latch-key kids was unsupervised baking.

Mine too.

Mom and Dad would frequently arrive home during our teenage years to a house smelling of cake or chocolate chip cookies. . .

That's. . . . that's not what we meant by baking.
posted by The Bellman at 10:36 AM on September 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


I was a lich key kid and the biggest issue we faced were my eldritch powers over hordes of the undead.
posted by elizardbits at 10:50 AM on September 20, 2013 [16 favorites]


"beaten down by an hour of stupid algebra homework, the problem is not that it's an hour so much as that it's stupid."

Teachers often seem to forget their class isn't the only one the student has. If every teach thinks an hour isn't too much, then the kid is going to have 4-6 hours of homework.
posted by spaltavian at 10:52 AM on September 20, 2013


It's depressing to see so many people willing to say "it's because her school finishes at 4pm, duh, and isn't it terrible that it starts at 3am as well?" without making even the slightest effort to check if that is true. For those interested in a reality-based discussion, here are the actual school hours:

Monday – Friday
8:00 am - 2:20 pm

Tuesday-Thursday, extended school (whatever that is) goes until 3pm.
posted by jacalata at 11:16 AM on September 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


There's no goddamn homework in college if you're a liberal arts major! I did my reading, I took/reviewed my notes, and I wrote my papers

The first and third of these things are, in fact, homework.
posted by escabeche at 11:30 AM on September 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


Me and my stepdaughter worked for almost two hours on "sight words" and writing for a test this Friday. It was insane and we were both exhausted with each other by the end. I see the value in doing this together but we had just spent thirty minutes doing three unrelated worksheets. 2 1/2 hours of homework for a first grader?
posted by Our Ship Of The Imagination! at 11:50 AM on September 20, 2013


The first and third of these things are, in fact, homework

I should have clarified that college-level homework is generally not busywork-homework, which seems like the most common high school homework. My high school homework was generally of the regurgitate-what-you-just-read type, so it would be not uncommon to spend two hours writing out terms and outlining essays for one class. That kind of work is not entirely without value, but when you add it on top of the math problem sets, the science lab reports, the take-home essays, the textbook reading, the practice tests...it adds up, and it's a lot of work to do every day. The coursework for my full-time, 14 unit class load in college probably took half to a third of the amount of time I spent on homework in high school, just because I didn't have an endless series of various assignments that had to be turned in every day.

I don't know, maybe I shouldn't knock all that homework so much, because I did end up being better disciplined with my time management in college than I might have been otherwise. But high school homework was still an order of magnitude away from my experience of college coursework, and I went to a well-ranked university with a reputation for academic rigor. Maybe my experience was atypical (I know STEM majors certainly still had a lot of time-consuming work to do).
posted by yasaman at 11:55 AM on September 20, 2013


The idea of an education or a career that is actually absorbing and rewarding the majority of the time is foreign to most people, and that's a lot of our problem.

I've often wondered if this is because the world is generally run by people who are/were absorbed by their careers and educations, and so they expect everyone else will be, or ideally should be, the same.
posted by breakin' the law at 12:05 PM on September 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


There's no goddamn homework in college if you're a liberal arts major!

Whew - speak for yourself, there. I'm an English and education major - I have read and written staggering amounts of material, all outside class time.

like ROU_Xenophobe, I strongly suspect those very general numbers are obscuring what's happening in specific classrooms.

I think the only way you could arrive at this number would be to throw in all the added support staff schools have brought in over the past few decades - student:teacher ratio might be nice and low, but I doubt class size has seen a commensurate decline. We have, however, added loads of aids, speech and occupational therapists, reading and language specialists, etc., who add to the faculty numbers but don't reduce total class size. Eyerows McGee outlined this in detail.

And yet the schools in my local district have the youngest elementary school students start at 9, the upper elementary at 8:30, the middle school at 8, and the high school at 7:30. I really, really can't figure that one out. Don't most little kids get up at, like, dawn?

This is on purpose. It goes back quite some time, to a time when the presumption was that older kids could be available to take care of younger ones (and even walk them home, when you could walk from your schools). It's stayed that way because we've built so much other infrastructure around it - particularly, intramural sports and the associated transportation schedules, but also, parents' commuting arrangements and workdays.
posted by Miko at 12:42 PM on September 20, 2013


In a society as competitive as ours has become since 1980, great success comes not from meeting any objective standard of performance, but from beating the competition, no matter how great the net cost of the competition to the competitors as a whole might turn out to be, and in many cases, regardless of the fact that the contest itself harms even the winners.

Yes, of course all this homework is bad for our kids' health and adjustment, and often poisons their natural love of learning for life, thereby compromising the vitality and creativity our entire society, but there are only so many slots at the Ivies.

In the context of a single school or classroom, adherence to an ethic of extreme competition would seem to require, for any given child, that his or her parents favor the maximum amount of homework their child can bear, because that's a win for their child over any other child who can't bear it, and may actually knock that other child right out of the competition altogether-- and no matter how good your kid is, being the best in a graduating class is important in the struggle for college admissions, because Harvard probably won't take two.
posted by jamjam at 12:49 PM on September 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Eight hours for work, eight hours for sleep, eight hours for what we will.

It's probably a good thing that I'm not a parent, cause I would totally push my kids to lead a strike over their abusive workplace conditions.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 1:10 PM on September 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


many parents, professionals, and state authorities consider leaving a 15-year-old unsupervised inappropriate

That's bonkers, and doing a quick Google suggests no state law or suggested guidelines backing this up. The strictest limitation I can find still is only for 13 and under. Unless you are leaving them overnight, I am not buying that this is "considered inappropriate". Got anything to back this up?
posted by tavella at 3:01 PM on September 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


The guy who taught trig and calculus in my high school had regular sessions in class where we worked on problem sets: in-class homework. This was very helpful, as students could get help on problems that they could not do, and the teacher could see what was not getting across to people and re-explain it. It was, I think, much more educational than piling on more problems to do at home.
posted by thelonius at 3:48 PM on September 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


The vast majority of any country doesn't go to elite universities, and they have perfectly fine lives. Some even get into elite universities for grad school after goofing off all through high school (ie NOT doing much homework) and then working hard at a mediocre undergrad university - which is still less work than what the little girl in the article is doing.
posted by jb at 4:18 PM on September 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I consider myself really lucky to have gone to a series of city schools in variously crappy areas of a city that at the time was at the forefront of a state that was the #1 state for education for years and years.

We not only had some in class homework time, we had in class quiet reading time, which meant that when I finished The Sun Also Rises on class two of nine classes of reading time, I got to read whatever I wanted until class eight, then re-read the book. 259 pages.

What's happening here is that we're building a nation of people who are going to think that rote memorization is learning. When it usually isn't.

Except for times tables. Understanding the granularity of math is arguably the most important thing you can take out of primary school. Next is probably social skills.
posted by Sphinx at 6:08 PM on September 20, 2013


I do not understand why parents are helping with homework. I don't mean this as snark, but genuinely as a question. My mother was overinvolved in every iota of my life until I split for college 1,800 miles away, but homework, no, that was my responsibility and my problem. If I couldn't do it, I had to ask the teacher. Else how will the child learn?
posted by skbw at 9:04 PM on September 20, 2013


I do not understand why parents are helping with homework. I don't mean this as snark, but genuinely as a question. My mother was overinvolved in every iota of my life until I split for college 1,800 miles away, but homework, no, that was my responsibility and my problem. If I couldn't do it, I had to ask the teacher. Else how will the child learn?

Well, if you read the examples above, you will see that the schools have increased it so much that the kids need help just to finish it all.

Case in point. My former boss had a 9-year-old daughter in school, and her assignment was to build a model, of, I think, a ziggurat. This was not an end-of-term, special report assignment. This was part of her weekly homework. She had about four days to do it, along with her other homework and any extracurricular obligations.

Like you, I expressed incredulity that he was helping her build it when I heard about it; the point of homework is supposed to be that kids can do it with a little effort. But when he explained the deadlines she was under--at NINE--I was flabbergasted and understood completely. She could not possibly get it done without help. I'm not sure, on that deadline, I wouldn't need help to build a goddamn ziggurat model.

And all the parents, afraid to rock the boat or have their kid be that One Kid with a crappy project, thereby damaging their futures and discouraging them, were doing the same.

This was one of the better schools in the state, mind you.
posted by emjaybee at 10:37 PM on September 20, 2013


It is absolutely true that here in Korea students in middle school and high school spend utterly ludicrous numbers of hours studying at school, in private after-hours cram schools, and at home. It is not unusual for a high school student to be getting 4 or 5 hours sleep a night for the last couple of years before that all-important, life-course-setting university entrance exam, with the whole of the rest of the day given over to studying.

This makes for spectacularly successful students by the standards of most other countries, kids who can run academic rings around the products of the American or Canadian education systems, say, and this is something that is well-recognized. But it also makes for terribly stunted people. And the kids who are just flat-out broken by the level of competition, well, they tend to be swept under the yellow linoleum.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:58 PM on September 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


"This makes for spectacularly successful students by the standards of most other countries, kids who can run academic rings around the products of the American or Canadian education systems, say, and this is something that is well-recognized. But it also makes for terribly stunted people. And the kids who are just flat-out broken by the level of competition, well, they tend to be swept under the yellow linoleum."

I noticed the same thing in Taiwan. There's a lot of 填鴨式 "stuffed duck style" learning, where students get something down well enough to regurgitate it onto the test and then never remember it again. Quite frequently, friends and students would tell me that they'd learned X in high school but then completely forgotten it. As in, the point was very directly to remember it well enough for the test but not to actually learn it in any way. A very problematic model to follow! And of course the whole testing culture leads to incredibly high levels of stress in high school and lots of problems stemming from that (low self-esteem, suicide, lack of development, etc.). It's a terrible model to follow, really, but it's one of the biggest objects of worship for the cult of the quantifiable.
posted by jiawen at 3:16 AM on September 21, 2013


It's depressing to see so many people willing to say "it's because her school finishes at 4pm, duh, and isn't it terrible that it starts at 3am as well?" without making even the slightest effort to check if that is true. For those interested in a reality-based discussion, here are the actual school hours:

Monday – Friday
8:00 am - 2:20 pm
Tuesday-Thursday, extended school (whatever that is) goes until 3pm.
posted by jacalata at 11:16 AM on September 20 [1 favorite +] [!]


Right, so why are people confidently positing hypothetical scenarios in which she finishes at 4 and then spends an hour in transit to after-school activities every single day, and so on?

I mean, I get it: kids have to do something besides finish school and rush straight home to do homework. But if, as the article implies, you've created a schedule where she never starts homework 'til 8 pm, there's something else gone awry.
posted by Salamander at 7:06 AM on September 21, 2013


About school hours:
My daughter's high school did indeed have its first class at 7:40; the classes were done by 2-ish. That left room for travel to sports events and the killer, marching band, which practiced every night during football season from 6 to 9 p.m. Which is insane. If the kids did sports, they could be out til 8 or 9, depending on travel.
posted by etaoin at 7:46 AM on September 21, 2013


I'm so bewildered by the school hours being batted around in this thread. There are American schools that really start out before 8am and are finished by 2pm? It seems so alien to me. If that's the setup then why do you have school lunches and not school breakfasts? Wouldn't it make more sense to end the day an hour early than to serve the kids lunch and then send them straight home? Or does lunch fall in the middle of the school day instead? And if that's the case, then how do the kids cope with normal lunch hours at weekends if they're used to eating by ten?

I assume the difference all stems from the fact you have school buses and we don't. Trying to keep the buses out of commuter traffic is the only explanation given so far that makes any sense of these crazy hours.
posted by the latin mouse at 10:08 AM on September 21, 2013


To answer your questions:

1. We have school breakfasts and school lunches.
2. Many lower-income students depend on the reduced-cost breakfasts and lunches for food; sending them home without lunch means they go hungry.
3. Keeping the buses out of traffic is one concern, but another is being able to use the same buses for the entire school system. The way it works now is that the school buses get (in my district) the high school students to school by 7:10, then turn around and collect the junior high students to get them to school by 7:55, then turn around and get the elementary school students to school by 9:00. Given the physical size of our district and the number of students (about 50,000), this spacing is necessary.

Fortunately, we live close enough to the high school that my kids will be able to walk there, it's less than a mile away. (The elementary school is slightly closer, but sending a 7-year-old out walking through the neighborhood is really different than sending a 15-year old, particularly considering that there's one intersection that's not crosswalked.)

Ugh, looking at the bell schedule, I just realized that if my kid takes any "zero period" electives in high school, she'll need to be awake, fed, and ready to learn by 6:15 AM. That seems untenable.
posted by KathrynT at 10:26 AM on September 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


> To be honest, the homework load of American children is not a new problem, is it? I mean, I remember being amazed tweny years ago when I realised American primary schools set homework for their pupils, something that in the Netherlands was done only in the last grade and than not much either

When I went to an international elementary school in Finland in the 1970s, kids got homework only if their parents requested it; as I recall, it was only Americans who did.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:20 PM on September 21, 2013


I didn't grow up in the US but I do live here now.

I work with my local public schools system, and I don't know if you guys agree, but what weirds me out to no end is the fact that the humongous pile of homework is ONE PART of the ridiculousness we demand of children here.

If you have any plans of going to university, you are also expected to do sports, be in one non-sporty extracurricular team/club, freaking volunteer when you are a little bit older (I love how volunteering is kind of an obligation and by love I mean hate), at least around here you are also expected to be active in church AND of course have lots of friends and fun times! (when? dunno.) And don't even DARE think you can actually enjoy your summer! Summer school for you! And of course, if the university you are aiming for (in 7th grade) is 1% more selective than the average school, then you better start working on your Pulitzer and your Olympic medals and your successful non-profit organization right now, slacker!

I don't understand how more kids don't go Jack Torrance on us more often.

Seriously, what happened to fucking around? Why are people so obsessed with being productive here? And these kids will go to college and get jobs and not take lunch breaks and work a gazillion hours a week and check their emails during time off and go back to work the day after having a baby.

Is this the direction we want to go???
posted by Tarumba at 5:35 PM on September 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


There are American schools that really start out before 8am and are finished by 2pm?

My high school's first class started at 7:17 and the last class let out at 1:55. Then I went to work at 3.
posted by spaltavian at 6:38 PM on September 21, 2013


Agreed 1000% Tarumba! It's insanity. I am seriously serious that I may move my kids back to Europe when they are older, in order to escape this insanity. But its wrong that everyone else's kids doesn't have a way to opt-out.
posted by Joh at 7:10 PM on September 21, 2013


My district has investigated starting elementary school earlier and high school later, as the studies suggest is a better system, and the deal-breaker is that parents don't want 6-year-olds waiting for the bus in the pre-dawn darkness in winter, but they're okay with high school students doing that. Especially in areas with ice and snow, there's a lot of concern about smaller children being alongside the road in the very early, dark hours when a car might slip on the ice and when sidewalks have not been cleared.

There is data suggesting this is an actual problem (not a parent-imaginary-panic problem), although one that it's possible to mitigate. But parents are totally unwilling to consider sending small children out to the bus stop before dawn. We investigate the option every time we change bus schedules or bell schedules, and it's just a complete non-starter because of that.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:13 PM on September 21, 2013


I got most of my homework done either during class or in the nooks and crannies of the day. The really sneaky ones got you at the end of the day on Friday.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:52 PM on September 21, 2013


I just talked to a bunch of our neighborhood kids and parents about this, as we stood around while the kids played with the neighbor's new puppy. From the parents: the expectation in our elementary school (which goes to sixth grade) is that the child's total homework load will never exceed 10 minutes per grade level per day; so, from 10 minutes a day in 1st grade up to a maximum of an hour a day in 6th grade, inclusive of reading time. If the kids can't get the homework done in that amount of time, they're to draw a line at the point at which they stopped working, and only the part above the line will be graded. If the student regularly can't finish their homework in the expected amount of time, then the parents, teacher, and student look for other solutions.

From the kids, this was borne out -- the sixth grader said she had somewhere between twenty and thirty minutes of homework a day, "depending on how hard the math is," and then her fourth-grade sister said "Oh, wait, do you mean reading time too?" and I said yes and she said "Oh then I usually have maybe fifteen or twenty minutes of reading too. Maybe 45 minutes a day? But if it takes us more than an hour we're supposed to stop and just draw a line so they can see how far we got."

I'm pretty pleased. This seems eminently reasonable. I didn't get to talk to the high school student though, he was off being cool.
posted by KathrynT at 7:56 PM on September 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


If you have any plans of going to university, you are also expected to do sports, be in one non-sporty extracurricular team/club, freaking volunteer when you are a little bit older ...

That's if you want to be accepted into an elite US university, or get special scholarships.

To get into many universities, all you have to do in graduate high school, and even that is sometimes negotiable (one major Canadian uni runs a special program for mature students without a diploma to qualify for entering). And those degrees are still perfectly acceptable degrees and open up a lot of employment opportunities.
posted by jb at 12:40 AM on September 22, 2013


But the "summary" report just lists average class size or students per FTE teacher, and that's generally what is released in the statewide "report cards" for schools, and generally what the press reports, and generally what's easily available on the web from the state boards.

We're totally open with parents about this.


Thanks for that, Eyebrows McGhee; I apologize for implying all administrators are dishonest about class size numbers, and note that your smart point supports my clumsily made one: gyp casino's link to extremely general stats about reductions in class size is almost certainly misleading.
posted by mediareport at 10:40 AM on September 22, 2013


To get into many universities, all you have to do in graduate high school

The only way to do this around here is community college, and community college is widely seen as a less-than-ideal alternative by the parents I work with.

The workaholic vibe I get from my interns and volunteers, who are in their early 20's and have not been to an elite university.
posted by Tarumba at 7:48 PM on September 22, 2013


The only way to do this around here is community college, and community college is widely seen as a less-than-ideal alternative by the parents I work with.

You know, I started out with 2 years at a community college, went on to a 4 year liberal arts college, graduated, started working, and today I work on even par with many graduates of Ivy League and elite liberal arts colleges and am going to graduate school now in an Ivy League program. It's not really like you have to follow the ironclad path that many parents seem to think you do (just because they did, or were told they should have).

I am a workaholic, raised in kind of a scrappy meritocratic fighting manner, and that helped. At the same time, these paths are most certainly not mutually exclusive, nor determinants of lifelong trajectory.
posted by Miko at 8:09 PM on September 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Whenever I read articles like this my honest reaction is always split around evenly between "of course having that much homework is plainly unreasonable and benefits kids with better home environments to the extent it benefits everyone" and "what a god damn whiner." I guess that's because there's something about having had to go through something stressful and unpleasant that makes you want to ensure other people aren't "getting away" with anything. Wonder how much that voice is driving the conversation, maybe covertly?
posted by en forme de poire at 5:01 PM on October 8, 2013


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