France and China are considering banning homework, but American elementary and high school students often spend hours on schoolwork each night. American parents have been doing a little studying on their own, and many don’t like what they’re learning.
Oft-cited research by the Indiana University School of Education in Bloomington revealed that there is scant “correlation between time spent on homework and better course grades for math and science students, but a positive relationship between homework time and performance on standardized tests.” Experts argue that the homework foisted on kids is designed mainly to improve test scores, and has little other value.
Less scientific (but more ubiquitous) are the conversations between parents. As a mother of two school-aged kids, my Facebook feed is overrun with gripes from parent-friends outraged by the amount time their kids, often as young as six, spend doing homework. Here’s a small sampling:
"Only one of us cried tonight! Could this be progress? (To be fair, I wanted to cry but managed to just yell instead.)”
"I have seriously sent in notes to the teacher before: 'Sorry, we just didn't get it done tonight/this week. Let me know if there are things he is falling behind on or not understanding.' I realize mine is only in 1st grade and this is not sustainable ... but I think it's always good to stop and think - ‘Wait, now what will actually happen if we just don't do it this time?’”
“Don't do it. Seriously. Civil disobedience. Tonight I tried to convince Ben to refuse to take the MAP tests this week, but he thought I was crazy. Maybe you'll have better luck.”
In these comments, you might detect a sense of shared burden: The parents talk about themselves doing the homework (or arguing about the homework) when another generation of parents may have told their kids to just go do the busywork their teachers assigned. The patron saint of today’s homework-sharing parents might be Karl Taro Greenfeld, who did the same homework as his middle-school daughter for a week and then wrote an article in The Atlantic titled “My Daughter’s Homework is Killing Me.”
It's a great article. Greenfeld zeroes in on a mantra his daughter often invoked to help him finish each night: “Memorization, not rationalization.” But again, note how the headline on Greenfeld's article focuses on the damage to him, not his daughter, who seems to tackle her workload with stoic devotion.
What do you think has changed: The homework, the parents, or both? Tell us in a comment or blog post.