Happy Thanksgiving

I’ll have a new post on Monday. In the meantime, if your child had homework over this vacation and you’re unhappy about it, tell the teacher (or administrator) how you feel about it. If you need a suggestion of what to write in a letter or email, or say in a telephone conversation or person-to-person chat, check out my book, The Case Against Homework, where you’ll find plenty of examples.

Recent Media

Since The Case Against Homework came out in late August, the book has been discussed in dozens of newspapers and magazines, and I’ve been interviewed countless times for radio, TV, and print media. The reception from audiences everywhere has been fantastic. After almost every radio show, the hosts have told me they’ve received more calls than on any other recent show.

Several weeks ago, I was invited to my hometown, Toronto, Canada, for a day of media appearances. I had a one-on-one conversation with Steve Paikin, the host of The Agenda on TVOntario.You can watch our 15-minute conversation of October 23, 2006, here:


Also several weeks ago, I was interviewed by Stan Goldberg from San Francisco, California, who hosts a podcast called Sr. Dad. He interviewed Harris Cooper, Alfie Kohn, John Buell, and me in separate, very lengthy interviews. You can listen to them here.

And, if you want to read any of the media coverage of the book, just google “Case Against Homework” (in quotation marks). You’ll see that this book (and Alfie Kohn’s The Homework Myth) is shining a spotlight on a widespread problem.

Teenagers Drastically Need More Downtime

The Philadelphia Inquirer ran an article this week by Dr. Daniel Gottlieb, a clinical psychologist, family therapist, and author of, among other things, Letters to Sam: A Grandfather’s Lessons on Love, Loss, and the Gifts of Life. I was excited to read Dr. Gottlieb’s article because he talks about what students themselves can do to deal with the homework problem. Only days earlier, I’d been asked by Teen Vogue what teens can do. It’s unfortunate that we don’t hear very much from students, since they’re the people most affected by homework and education policies. (On this blog, I’ve posted a poem by a teenager and a few students have left comments, but I’d love to have more entries by students. So spread the word.)

I asked Dr. Gottlieb whether I could post his article and he graciously told me I could. I hope you like it as much as I did.

Inside Out | Teenagers Drastically Need More Downtime
By Dan Gottlieb

To all adolescents,

You need more time.

Ninety percent of the high school students I speak with say they are under great stress. Most of it is time-related, and much of that is a combination of too much homework and too little sleep. You need time to sleep (physicians say nine hours a night at your age), to read whatever you want to read, to dream about your future, to just hang out. You and I are not the only ones who know this. A new study by local pediatrician Kenneth Ginsburg demonstrates how important unstructured play (a.k.a. hanging out) is for children’s development. The same is true for adolescents.

Free time fosters creativity and emotional development. It gives you the opportunity to deepen relationships and learn about yourself. Without free time, I worry that you could grow into adulthood valuing yourself more for your performance than for your humanity – therefore putting yourself at greater risk of self-absorption, depression and anxiety disorders.

Mental health professionals all over the country are concerned, but nothing seems to change. Perhaps, in talking to adults, we’ve been addressing the wrong people.

So, how can you create more time? Let’s start with homework. The three to four hours a night I’m told is typical is way too much. Many well-respected educators say students should be assigned about 10 minutes of homework per grade (20 minutes in second grade, etc.).

For seniors in high school, that means two hours or so a night. Harris M. Cooper, a psychology professor at Duke University and author of The Battle Over Homework, agrees; so does the National Parent Teacher Association. In their new book, The Case Against Homework, Sara Bennett and Nancy Kalish find no evidence that homework helps elementary school students at all. And the U.S. Department of Education has said elementary students should be given a maximum of five math problems a night. Yet many children are sent home with dozens of math problems and words to memorize.

Convinced? Here’s what you can do about it:

At each school, form a committee to deal with this issue. Check at least one of the above books out of the library and start gathering evidence for your argument.Continue reading “Teenagers Drastically Need More Downtime”

In Hong Kong, Homework Spawns Abuse

According to an article by the German Press Agency, a father in Hong Kong was convicted of abuse this week for making his 9-year-old son walk naked through the streets for failing to do his homework. Earlier this year, also in Hong Kong, a 10-year-old boy died by suffocating inside a suitcase, where his parents had locked him after he didn’t do his homework. In that case, the father received an 18-month jail sentence and the mother received a 24-month sentence.


There are some really interesting conversations going on in the forums, so don’t forget to visit them. If you haven’t registered, it’s really easy. Just follow the simple steps under the heading “Register.” Although you have to register in order to participate, you can register anonymously if you want and your profile information remains private to everyone, including me. Of course, if you just want to read the posts and not chime in, you don’t have to register at all.

School Leaders in Wake County, North Carolina, Encourage Teachers to Stop Penalizing Students for Not Doing Homework

According to an article from the Raleigh News and Observer, more and more teachers are beginning to question the value of homework. In Wake County, North Carolina, school leaders are encouraging teachers to stop giving zeros for late or missed homework assignments. And a middle school in Raleigh, East Millbrook Middle School, no longer counts homework as part of the academic grade.

Guest Blogger: A Father’s Lament

Today’s guest blogger is John Painter, the editor of readingtonparents.org. On that web site, you’ll find interesting articles on a variety of topics, including: scripted learning, cheating, and homework. You’ll also find a pretty decent homework policy from the Readington, New Jersey, School District. Here, the father of two describes the all-too-familiar trials of a family immersed in homework hell.

A Father’s Lament
by John Painter

It is 6:30pm this Tuesday night, and we are knee deep in homework. My wife, a teacher, is helping my fourth grade daughter with her assignments while I help our sixth grade son with his. The glasses and serving dishes from dinner are piled up in the sink, although we have moved to paper plates as a way to save time. The kids are 11 ½ hours away from starting another school day, and my wife and I are an hour less than that away from our respective Wednesday workdays. Without our direct involvement in this homework, our kids will get “stuck� at some point. Sometimes the reason is because the material has not been covered well or at all in class, and frequently it is because the assignment is unclear.

My fourth grade daughter is mispronouncing the word “tranquility� as she attempts for the umpteenth time to recite the preamble to the US Constitution. I’m trying to focus on my son’s homework, but my blood is boiling and I’m having trouble staying focused. The assignment for my daughter is to memorize the preamble and to recite it publicly in class. There are so many facets to the wrong-headedness of this assignment that I struggle to contain them in some reasonably organized criticism.

It isn’t as though we are not patriotic. I spent time in the US Navy, and my father will always be a US Marine. My mother and grandmother were active in the Daughters of the American Revolution and my daughter can trace both sides of her family tree on this fertile soil back before any federal American government even existed. As a youth I was taught by my grandmother to stand with my hand over my heart each time an American flag passed by in a parade. My children feel the same stirrings. We usually watch the movie form of the play “1776� each year around the fourth of July, and my daughter can tell you a thing or two about John Adams.

My back is up not because I don’t think the preamble is worthy of study, but because I don’t think my daughter is learning anything about the ideas, the principles or the sacrifice behind the words she is memorizing on this Tuesday night. And, that is not all. Continue reading “Guest Blogger: A Father’s Lament”

First Monday

Today, November 6, is the first Monday in November. As suggested in The Case Against Homework, and in this blog on October 2, I recommend that every parent send a note to her/his children’s teachers, administrators, or School Board members on the first Monday of every month. (If your school celebrates a holiday today, then send your note tomorrow or another day this week.) If you, and several other parents in your school, do this, your school won’t be able to tell you that you’re the only parent concerned about homework overload.

Last month, I heard from several parents who took some kind of action on the first Monday and all received some kind of positive response. So please let me (and other parents) know what you did by posting in the forum under the topic “First Monday”. If you put something in writing, please post a sample and the response you get as well.

West Allegheny, Pennsylvania, School District Implements Homework Policy Setting Maximum Time Limits

According to the post-gazette.com, a new homework policy in West Allegheny, Pennsylvania sets limits for the maximum amount of time students should spend on homework each night. The guidelines also state that test preparation counts as homework and a student shouldn’t have more than two tests on the same day. If a student consistently spends 50 percent more than the recommended time on homework, teachers must review that student’s skill level, study habits, and courseload.

Immigrant Parents Face “Distinctive Challenge” in Helping Their Children with Homework

An article in today’s New York Times (subscription required) highlights a big problem with homework when parents aren’t equipped to help.

Parental involvement is a buzzword in education, a recommended cure for high dropout rates, poor test scores and almost everything else that ails schoolchildren. But for immigrant parents, helping their children absorb lessons in an inscrutable language in a strange country has always been a distinctive challenge.

Hispanic children now make up 18.6 percent of the nation’s public and private school children, and many of those are immigrants or children of immigrants. Their dropout rates and test scores trouble policy makers, so educators have been focusing on what parents can do to help their children thrive in school and what obstacles they face, among other approaches.

“It’s a huge issue,” said Dr. Pedro A. Noguera, director of the Metropolitan Center for Urban Education at New York University. “Many Latino parents are working a lot, so their ability to get involved is limited. There’s the language barrier. In many Latin American countries there’s a tendency to defer to authorities in school, an assumption that educators know what they’re doing.â€?

Long-established middle-class American parents, he said, take for granted that they are “critical consumers, making sure their kids are getting the right teachers and the right classes.� But, he said, “many immigrants parents don’t understand that this is a role they need to play.� For those who immigrated without proper papers, the problem is “compounded by legal status; any time you engage public officials there’s anxiety that you can be discovered.�

Read the entire article here.