The Toronto committee formed to reassess homework unanimously passed the proposed new policy. The proposal will be put to a vote before the entire School Board on April 16.
Frank Bruni, a parent who has been a driving force for change, made a presentation in support of the proposed policy at the Committee meeting. Here’s what he said:
by Frank Bruni
Albert Einstein said, “Teaching should be such that what is offered is perceived as a valuable gift and not as a hard duty” yet every day children across Toronto are burdened with excessive amounts of homework; causing the gift we wish to give them to be perceived as punishment.
As an executive recruiter I have seen first hand the effects of our 24/7 always on society, where adults work long into the night and working on the weekend is commonplace. So when we talk about reducing the amount of homework many adults scratch their heads and say that we are not preparing our children for the future that they will face.
Yet we know from research, some of which was used to produce the report before you, that this kind of workload, this kind of lifestyle is harmful, for both adults and children. We know that the incidence of childhood obesity and childhood diabetes is on the rise and the T.D.S.B.’s own research shows student stress alarmingly high. Indeed, a federal report in 2006 suggested that this is the first generation of children who can expect a shorter life expectancy than their parents.
So if we can’t change our own frenetic lifestyle, we at least owe it to our children to change theirs. It’s always been a mystery to me why adults these days seem hell-bend to deny their children the kind of childhood we had.
When we talk about homework we typically discuss the length of time that should be allotted. This is a valuable discussion to be sure, but I have always felt that homework should be considered in the context of a child’s entire day. That is, the total number of hours daily that a child spends on education. When we do that I believe it gives us a better perspective and puts the discussion of homework in is proper context.
The Toronto District School Board is charged with developing policies to insure consistency in how education is delivered to all students.
Nowhere is that consistency more important than with the issue of homework. Because of its broad implications on student health and its impact on the quality of family life homework stands alone as an issue of exceptional significance for all student’s, parents, and teachers.
There are many opinions about homework, some based on fact and research, and some based on emotion and gut instinct. That is why, in its wisdom, the T.D.S.B caused a study to be done by staff so that any change to homework policy would be grounded in the best possible research and also reflects the wishes of students, parents, and teachers. That is the report before you.
I am here to support the report and to urge this committee to pass it and put it in front of the entire board. More importantly; however, I am urging all trustees to support its adoption as policy.
The proposed new policy represents a significant step forward in insuring that student’s homework commitments are consistent with a balanced lifestyle and a strong family life.
I know that there are some trustee’s uncomfortable with homework reform. They may feel that it represents interference in the classroom. This view; however, is not consistent with data collected at the public consultations. Indeed the public consultations revealed strong support for homework reform among teachers. The head of the elementary teachers union has endorsed the report calling it “a step in the right direction”
Trustees can vote in favour of this new policy confident that it represents the best thinking available and is supported by the broadest number of stakeholders possible. Indeed it would be counterintuitive not follow its recommendations when that is what the board asked for.
In conclusion, let me say that I believe that professor Einstein was right. Let’s make Toronto the most progressive school system in North America on homework reform, an example for other jurisdictions to follow.
I urge you to support the report and to vote in favour of the new policy on homework.