A Blast from the Past

I love this editorial from 1910, posted in yesterday’s Calgary Herald. (Thanks to Vera Goodman, author of Simply Too Much Homework, for sending it to me.)

Hope For The Children
published in the Calgary Herald on January 26, 1910 and reprinted on February 2010

The Herald has frequently urged the abolition of home work in the public schools, at least in the lower grades. It believes that little children of from seven to twelve years of age do not need to study at home in order to learn as much as their brains are properly capable of carrying during that period.

It is a pleasure now to be able to quote one of the leading authorities in Canada in support of this view. Inspector Hughes of Toronto, whose name is known wherever education is discussed, will recommend to the board of education of that city the abolition of homework in all the classes below the senior third. His example will probably be followed by other similar officials and may perhaps in time reach Calgary.

There is hope for the children in this news. Home study, as an eastern paper recently put it, is the Jack-the-Giant-Killer of primary education. “It kills,” says the Toronto Star, “the giant in the making, catches the bright boy, who ought to become the big virile man, and smothers him under blankets of books. It stunts his intellect by making him work when he should be resting. It puts his eyes out with night work, rounds his shoulders, leaves him a hollow chest.”

The Herald cannot too strongly impress on the parents of Calgary the far greater importance of healthy bodies to crammed minds. Calgary’s schools are well equipped with play grounds. Calgary’s children, as a rule, are a healthy lot. Calgary’s climate is perfectly adapted to the moulding of vigorous bodies. We do not want them spoiled for the sake of a few lessons or a little more rapid advance in some branch of study. The example of Inspector Hughes is a strong one. The public school board of this city might well consider it carefully with a view to abolishing home study in the lower grades of the schools under their charge.

7 thoughts on “A Blast from the Past

  1. So a hundred years ago people understood that homework overload was bad for a child’s health. And here we are, a hundred years later, arguing the same point.

    I notice the article says homework is bad for “children seven to twelve years old …” These days, kids get homework from the age of five, or even younger. Ugh.


  2. Depressing that we have gone backwards, not forwards. And it’s not as if new research and ancecdotal findings suddenly prove the merit of no play and more work for children. The question we keep asking here is, what the hell are we doing to our young? Bears do a better job protecting them.


  3. I loved reading this–so wonderful. But yes, what a bummer that 100 years on, we continue to ignore common sense and have, yes, made things worse by introducing homework for 5-year-olds. My 4 y.o. niece even told me this wkend that she gets HW, although I have to believe it must be “self assigned.” Almost afraid to ask her parents!


  4. I am the author of the only book by a Canadian author dealing with this subject. When I found this article, I didn’t look at the 100 years. I thought it was actually happening! I was ecstatic. But I truly feel that the by keeping the issue in front of people we will affect change. I am a reading expert and have just published some interesting stuff around that so I haven’t been giving my attention to the homework issue. I hope to blog more often now.
    Thanks, Sara, for keeping up this blog.


  5. I wonder when homework did get started, and why. I think it’s safe to assume that it wasn’t before the Industrial Revolution, because kids would have had to help their parents with chores on the farm. But when, and, more important, why? What’s the earliest reference to this practice that anyone can find?


  6. Because of the waxing and waning of the practice over time in the last 120 years, I’ll bet it will have lots of “origins”..

    …this homework thing for very young children, though, (K to G5) is a relatively new invention..in the last 20- 25 years, I’d say. I didn’t learn to read in kindergarten in the 60’s…colors, shapes, counting up to 10, learning to say please and thank you, and going to the bathroom on your own were the only educational goals in Kindergarten …and you only went to school for half the day.


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