Quebec Newspaper Writes Editorial Against Homework

Quebec’s largest English language weekly newspaper, The Suburban published an anti-homework editorial at the end of August:

Too much homework

As kids go back to school, we need to pay attention to a growing movement among parents and educators calling on homework to be severely reduced. We think they are right.

Childhood is a time for growth and education is an important part of that. But so is being a child. Enjoying your youth and family. School hours have expanded over the years to the point that many school days end at five instead of three. Almost weekly tests in one subject or another are being the norm in many schools. Homework assigned, or studies expected, reach two to three hours a night. It is far too much.

Kids and families need to decompress at the end of a day. Kids need time to be kids and families need time to be families. It can’t just be school, rush home and grab a quick dinner, and back to the books. Monastic existences do no one any good.

We need to ask why this is happening. We all know about the explosion of information. But we have to ask about what happened to the three Rs, reading, writing and arithmetic. We know more is now required. But two hours of homework a night for primary school kids who need their parents to help them is over the top.

We need to examine just how good the “pedagogie” is coming out of Quebec. We also have to look at whether things like not having enough English textbooks is one of the reasons for so much homework on the English side, although in all fairness the problem is just as acute on the French side. We need to look at the qualifications of teachers as well.

Just yesterday, a Montreal newspaper reported that there is such a drastic shortage of teachers that some schools are hiring teachers — and there are almost a hundred — who only have a high school or Cegep diploma. If lack of teachers and large class sizes are problems, then we have to ask the provincial government to make teaching a more attractive profession. Stressing kids and parents is not the answer.

Teachers are professionals. As professionals they are tasked with imparting knowledge to children during a given part of the day. They are also public servants. As such we have a legitimate right to ask why are they not completing their tasks in the appointed time and “offloading” their work onto families?

If Quebec is throwing too much information into the pedagogy, let’s cut it. If the use of homework and weekly exams is some kind of shock treatment by teachers to concentrate the minds and sphincters of students, let’s stop it.

Several years ago two Penn State researchers conducted an international study and found that instead of improving educational achievement, increases in homework may actually undercut teaching effectiveness and worsen disparities in student learning. The study found that most teachers are not making efficient use of homework, according to David P. Baker, professor of education and sociology. They assign homework mostly as drill, to improve memorization of material either in math, science or the humanities. While drills and repetitive exercises have their place in schooling, homework may not be that place.

Just last year, after a parental outcry, the Toronto District School Board decided to study the issue of homework. Reduced it. And the results are having a significantly positive impact on students’ performances.

So how much is enough? Hard to say. But how about two hours total for the week and an additional hour for the weekend. There is a phrase chiseled into the wall of one of McGill’s libraries. “The quiet and still air of delightful studies…” Studies should be delightful, not draconian, from grade school to high school as well.

14 thoughts on “Quebec Newspaper Writes Editorial Against Homework

  1. You hear that rumble? I hope and pray that’s a tidal wave of parental opposition to homework brewing. It’s an idea whose time has come.

    A one panel cartoon appeared outside my daughter’s class this week. Mom and Dad standing by the kitchen table with three children looking to be 5, 3 and 1 sitting at the kitchen table working on writing letters, cutting construction paper, and playing with blocks respectively. Mom says to Dad, “It’s never to early to instill good homework habits”. This along with the two sided sheet from the teacher yesterday about homework expectations, heralds in Grade 3. I knew it was coming. Curriculum night isn’t for a couple of weeks so I’m going to write a two page rebuttal first and hopefully get some discussion of it on curriculum night. Nothing nasty….just the facts and my expectations, all written in the most pleasant and reasonable terms, just like the teacher’s was. “Grade 3 is a heavy year because of homework”………WHY Why WHy should it be anything but what it was last year? She’s not entering college…or even high school, or even middle school. She’s 8 and entering Grade 3.

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  2. Don’t get me started, PsychMomo. And Obama’s speech? Full disclosure, I voted for him, so I’m not the conservative opposition here. But…he had a message for parents. Included was make sure they do their homework. We just cannot escape it.

    I like Obama, in general. But…even he cannot seem to get how condescending and patronizing his message to parents is. Because it implies that most of us don’t instill values and morals and a good work ethic and goal setting and dreaming of a destiny. Yes, I know, many parents are AWOL. But at least give credit to those of us who ARE involved. We’re all in this together, make sure they do their homework, the president chides us.

    US Education Secretary Arne Duncan had a message for school children and parents too this week. He wrote about himself and his goals rather than lecture parents outrightly. He has two young children. He set himself up as an ideal example and he cleared his schedule on Day One so he could escort his kids to school. Note to Arne. So did I, so did my husband. I can figure out good parenting without the government practically giving me a step by step instruction manual. But, okay, so far so good.

    I should go fish out the piece, but in a nutsehll, as I recall, this is what Arne Duncan and his wife will do:

    Read to their young children
    Show their young children they savor reading too
    Instill a love of learning

    (Okay, so far so good. It’s everything we are doing and have always done.)

    Continued:

    Make sure they’ll do all their homework
    Limit tv and computer time
    Play outside
    Get adequate rest and nutrition

    Good luck, Buddy. Wait till you see that homework overload and sleep are mutually exclusive.Wait till 6th grade, wait till high school. If you choose sleep, you run the risk of being admonished by our dear president (whom again, I like and voted for) that you didn’t make sure your child does her homework.

    Choose homework over sleep and you will be accused of being a neglectful parent. Unlike Arne Duncan, whose precious little charges will of course do every drop of homework without question, play outside and still get to bed on time. Such uber kids, how do they do it?

    Oh, that’s right. They don’t attend public school so they don’t have to put up with those pesky state tests that teachers here tell us eat up so much of their time.

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  3. Psych, typo on your name I didn’t catch the first time around. I would not call you MOMO. But I’m in fits of laughter over my innocent mistake :).

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  4. Hey at least it wasn’t MooMoo..

    Yeah, I’m Canadian and I love Obama, but I can’t figure out this education kick he’s on. I learned yesterday that over 1 million American kids are homeless. They go to school and have no home. To my mind, those 1 million kids are a bigger issue than #$%^ homework, excuse my language.

    Feed and clothe and house them first…give their parents pride in themselves so that the parents feel powerful to raise their families. Then we worry about competing on the world stage and making sure our children flunk out of high school (I get sarcastic when I’m riled up).

    I don’t know who said it but somebody said that a society is judged on how it treats it’ weakest members. In my books, America and Canada fail.

    And I’m probably not the first person to think of this but perhaps the reason why we can’t find politicians who can solve problems is because of the way they were schooled. Our current problems require creativity, new ways of thinking…motivating people in different ways. And all we see is the same old, same old that’s not working.

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  5. Moo Moo, MOMO. I’m sorry but I am laughing so hard, I’ve got tears in my eyes. Daughter was up till 2:15 and then woke me up at four to say she can’t sleep. At six she was still up and went to school on two hours sleep because she will miss some later this month already. I need this humor to get me through today or I will plotz from homework worry.

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  6. Right you are. Obama is supposed to be this big visionary and all he does is lecture us like errant little children ourselves, make sure your kids do all their homework. I love that, make sure. Which button shall I press to make her GO?

    Sheesh, is that the most profound thing Obama can think to say? It’s just the same tired old canard. Come up with something you think parents will lap up when in fact it’s not original and is quite stale.

    And Duncan patronizes. My kids will do all their homework, they will read, they will play, they will sleep, they will eat. Hey, Arne, so will mine. I like that list. Just remove homework, would you, and I think we’re humming the same tune.

    What if Arne’s kid has a learning disability? Or is profoundly gifted and perfectionist? Or both? Or doesn’t like homework. Or has to be cajoled? Or has executive functioning issues, like many children. Or it doesn’t go quite so easy. Fear not. Duncan has the bucks to hire all the top guns. He’ll amass a plethora of coaches, consultants, what CHADD likes to call a “multi-modal approach” to homework. The rest of us just don’t have all those resources.

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  7. Ok, here’s a new suggestion. We need an uprising. How about a dozen parents who feel the same way you do, take a couple of days off work and attend school with your kids…in solidarity. Ask lots of questions in class. Stand at the back if there are no seats. Let the kids die of embarrassment, but at least you won’t be seen as an unconcerned parent. The school wants to dictate your life and the life of your child…you demand equal time.

    We need to do something different.

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  8. “The rest of us just don’t have all those resources.” Or want to. Some of us have better things to do than turn homework into a full time night job, complete with a small army of staff and professionals. It’s homework, guys. Not nuclear disarmament.

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  9. Oh and I was reminded to be supportive. Because of the heavy year.”

    You’ll be supportive, alright. Support her right out of it. Support your firm conviction that this is not the way.

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  10. Madam, I am much impressed by the heading of your book.
    I am working on this concept practically since last five years. I run a school under the name of “Pandora’s Little Masters” an english medium school. My school is based on the same concept i.e. no bag, no books no home work and no tuitiions. I have 250+ students with two branches. my school is upto 5th std. in gandhidham-Kutch gujarat India. I am 100% successful in this concept. In fact there is no need for any type of homework if the subject is taught properly clearly in the class itself. Yes, a practical work related to the subject have to be given so that child can explore his vision and understanding. In my schoo we emplasize to clear the concept rather than making the child cramp the subject.
    Today I saw the cliping of your book on net and immediately placed the order with amazon.com.
    thanks
    please respond if you please.
    Imtiaz dhafrani
    Managing trustee
    Pandora’s educational & charitable trust
    Mb.No.9377967367

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  11. Home work is nothing but a process of cramming without understanding.
    It is waste of time, energy, money and papers.
    Homework must be eradicated and instead some useful assignments having fun with relevant subject so that the child can understand the subject.
    imtiaz

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  12. I’m posting here just to play the devil’s advocate because I am a teacher. I don’t believe in long hours of homework either but I also read a lot of ideas here of things that are happening which don’t actually occur. You work on the assumption that we have a classroom full of students whose parents have all taught them work ethic, study habits, and the self discipline to participate in a learning environment. However on average I would say a teacher’s classroom is composed of less than half a student population with those characteristics. We assign things in class and give time for them to be completed but have students who fail to do so. We ask them to take it home..and we never receive it back. My homework consists of a reading log. They must read 60 minutes in a 7 day period. The log is due every Friday. Over 3/4 of the class fails to turn them in. That is less than 10 minutes of reading a night for an 8th grader yet they fail to bring them in and even more disturbing is the fact that parents will provide excuses for not doing it as well. You assume that there are parents who read to their children, talk to their children, discuss things with their children. Sit and look around. I have parents that shuttle their children everywhere after school and never have a conversation with them. They listen to the radio and the kids to their ipods. (the kids share this information with no hesitation) We have parents who show up to reserve a spot in the car rider line to pick their children up every day 2 hours early. We’ve gone out and invited them in..asked would they like to volunteer for that couple of hours in the school. No…they don’t, leave them alone. You have children that go home and spend from the time they come home until the time they go to bed on facebook. Some will tell you they don’t even see their parents in the evening because everyone is in their own room. The parents that post here are the parents of the kids we don’t have to give homework to. But what do we do with the other half? The half that reads on 3rd grade level in 8th grade and the state expects us to have them on 8th grade level by the end of the year? What do we do with the ones that can’t read at all??? How do we achieve all of that in an 50 minute class? For parents to be parents is all teachers want. To receive a class full of children with parents who actually do read to them and interact with them is a dream to any teacher. If that is what we received homework would be obsolete. Unfortunately we have to deal with reality.

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