The Homework Myth Article

The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing

Alfie Kohn, Author . Da Capo $24 (250p) ISBN 978-0-7382-1085-8

Education watchdog and author Kohn (No Contest: The Case Against Competition ) questions why teachers and parents continue to insist on overloading kids with homework when there are no definitive studies proving its overall learning benefits. Indeed, argues Kohn persuasively, homework can be detrimental to children 's development by robbing families of quality evening time together and not allowing a kid time simply to be a kid. Americans in general advocate a tough-going approach to education and push teachers to give more drudgery nightly as a way of "building character." Yet Kohn shows that doing forced busywork only turns kids off to school and kills intellectual and creative curiosity. The American insistence on producing good worker bees "by sheer force or cleverness," notes Kohn, "reflects a stunning ignorance about how human beings function in the real world." Kohn pursues six reasons why homework is still so widely accepted despite the evidence against it, including the emphasis on competitiveness and "tougher standards" and a basic distrust of children and how they would fill their time otherwise if not doing busywork. There aren't enough case studies in Kohn's work, but Kohn sounds an important note: parents need to ask more challenging questions of teachers and institutions. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 07/31/2006
Release date: 08/01/2006

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“Parents take note: this is a stinging jeremiad against the assignment of homework, which the author, a prominent educator, convincingly argues is a wasteful, unimaginative, and pedagogically bankrupt practice that initiates kids into a soul-sucking rat race long before their time.”

–Atlantic Monthly

“The Homework Myth should be required reading for every teacher, principal, and school district head in the country. . . . Kohn cites plenty of research to back up his thesis. None of it shows the slightest connection between homework and independent thinking. Kohn argues that homework is a burden to children, and, not surprisingly, their parents. . . . It’s hard not to see his point. Or wish that we could find other ways to measure intelligence and nurture the curious minds of children.”

–Boston Globe

“Alfie Kohn . . . has made a convincing case against homework . . . . This book is typical of his work. It is engaging, informative, and exudes the passion that drives him to write. It is a well-researched volume with more than 300 references. Kohn has never been better at challenging the status quo and declaring that the emperor has no clothes.”

–Kappa Delta Pi Record

“Kohn takes many of the things we assume about homework and shreds them, showing over and over how little research there is to back up all the accepted theories. . . . [He] chip[s] away at the conventional thinking that homework improves achievement, that homework improves grades, that homework builds character and all the other things we’ve heard about it since we were doing it . . . Worse, [it] may have the adverse effect of dulling a child’s interest in learning altogether.

“‘Some parents seem to figure that as long as their kids have lots of stuff to do every night, never mind what it is, then learning must be taking place.’ That statement, early in the book, is the one that will keep parents reading the rest of the book. And hopefully, teachers, too. Because, in the end, what Kohn wants parents and teachers to do, if nothing else, is think about this homework issue. Really think. And then talk about it among themselves. And, ultimately, take that conversation to the principal and the district level. And that may be the crucial thing parents and teachers take away from the book: Challenge the status quo.”

–San Diego Union Tribune

“Like all Kohn’s books, The Homework Myth provokes thought and encourages activism. But best of all, it brings back the now almost forgotten question: ‘What is good for the child?'”

–Our Schools / Our Selves

“Powerful and thought-provoking.”

–Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

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