In November, education reporter Jay Mathews criticized The Case Against Homework in The Washington Post, stating, “I was surprised to find these good people trying to get away with hyperbole and incomplete data unworthy of them.” He devotes a good part of that article to arguing that school children these days do no more homework than they ever did, and that homework overload is not a problem.
I don’t mind a little criticism and I love a healthy debate, but I was disappointed when a reader alerted me to Mathews’ own hyperbole in a second article, also in The Washington Post, titled “When Is Homework Too Much? When It Cuts Into TV Time?” There, Mathews invites his readers to tell him whether he’s out of touch (email jay mathews), or whether TV watching is good for children, the premise, according to Mathews, of The Case Against Homework
The person who told me about Mathews’ most recent article wrote to him:
Dear Mr. Mathews,
Did you do your homework? I think if you had read The Case Against Homework, from which you quoted, you would not have framed the issue as a question of homework vs. TV time. The book makes many valid arguments for reducing the homework load of our students. I donâ€™t think TV time is one of them. My daughter is a freshman in high school. All of her academic courses are Honors classes. She gets 5-6 hours of homework per school night and about the same amount on the weekends. This doesnâ€™t allow much time for anything else during the school week. She watches very little TV and finds that she has too little time for practicing her guitar, playing after-school sports or reading for pleasure. She often has to stay up late to finish homework, causing her to get inadequate rest. The parent of a classmate of hers has told me that her daughter brings her homework to the dinner table because she doesnâ€™t even have time to break for dinner. In past years, our family has had to cut short planned holiday trips due to the overload of homework. Weâ€™ve considered transferring her out of the Honors courses so that she can have some balance in her life, but she enjoys the interaction and the lively debates with the very engaged students that are in these classes.
Students shouldnâ€™t have to choose between a rigorous course load and everything else. There should be time after school to pursue other interests and there should be family time. Each school or school system should adopt a homework policy. Students would be well-served by a homework policy that balances their academic needs with their outside interests, their family commitments and good old-fashioned â€œdown timeâ€? – and I donâ€™t mean TV!–C.P., Silver Springs, Maryland
Thanks for sticking up for me, C.P.