Homework

The purpose of homework should be to enhance and reinforce skills that are gained in school.  Sometimes, however, one is learning the skills at home rather than reviewing them.  This kind of homework is useless.  Classwork that is then pushed into time at home takes away from a child’s quality time.  During this free time, a child could be learning how to play a musical instrument, drawing, reading books of his or her own interest, or playing with friends.  When homework takes time away from other activities, a child’s sense of self is stifled.

Children, by nature, are more creative than adults.  They also can have a shorter attention span.  It’s cruel to give them a heavy workload similar to one that an adult would get.  It does not help them to prepare for the corporate world.  One of the most depressing things to watch is when children are put on medication to improve their attention span.  It looks like there is more concern about making the child fit in than letting him or her develop naturally.

But even if people express concern for a child’s natural creativity, real teachers have to ensure that their class is fulfilling certain standards.  Because of this, creativity is the first thing thrown out the window.  Due to the lack of time a teacher has in the class, he or she will sometimes assign work that should have been done in the classroom.  Depending on the teacher, you could get homework in five or six different subjects.  Often, you will get the geometry problems that go beyond the teacher’s simple explanations or a writing assignment that is not relevant to what was discussed in class.  Of course, it is good to be challenged, but when a teacher repeatedly gives assignments like this for homework, it looks like the teacher wants a break from doing his job.  This may be due to the demands placed by the people above him.  Teaching for a test inevitably makes teaching more tedious and stressful.

Although there are some teachers who are overextended, there are still some teachers that do not want to teach at all.  Their bad performance is not so much due to stress as a simple lack of interest and competence.  They are there only to earn a living.  They cover up their lack of competence by humiliating a student in the class to maintain their insecure position.  This teacher may give an exam where he throws in a random question.  The question comes out of nowhere because the teacher did not explain any concept or technique related to it in class.  While he may justify this by saying he is challenging critical thinking, he still needs to show the class the means to get from point A to point B.  If one studies for the exam, which is a form of homework, and gets the question wrong, the student gets the message that studying actually leads to negative outcomes.  If the student questions the teacher on it, and the teacher maintains his position by saying something sarcastic, the teacher shows that he does not like to admit mistakes because admitting them might mean he has to change.

In this example, studying proved to be pointless and the student was made to feel like a fool in the process.  Students are often made fools by their teachers and live in dread of the next day when their incorrect or incomplete homework will make them a target of ridicule again.  If they accomplish anything, it is out of fear.  Then, they have to contend with other classes and their demands.  From these classes, they have pointless busywork like copying Latin verbs five times each, reading the history chapter and answering the questions, and take home punishment essays.  These tedious assignments influence students toward a cynical outlook on education.  All I remember from Latin class were the words defenestra and puella and Marcus.  In time, I decided that copying Latin verbs would eventually make me want to defenestrate myself.  The majority of students will do it to get it done with, not as a means of memorizing.  Reading the history chapter and answering the questions should be…history!  Words like Bismark and Prussia wander through my mind, but only along with defenstra and Marcus.  They have no relevance unless I wrote some kind of poem about a puella in Prussia who defenestrated herself when she was kidnapped by Bismark.   And when I wrote an essay on animal behavior when my teacher told us to write ONE THOUSAND words on behavior I was better fulfilling the assignment because of who I had to deal with every day.

So yes, the majority of homework is pointless.  If it had anything to do with the learning that is supposed to be taking place in class, it might actually be fun.  As it is, it often looks like the teacher’s sneaky method of passing the buck on difficult questions—questions she will not teach but are still required in order to meet specific standards—and getting away with the pretext, ”homework as reinforcement”.  It is not clear if most teachers understand their actions.  But due to the low pay a teacher makes, it seems quite possible that many would regard their services to others best rendered if they could mark the failing Latin exam with a phrase written in insane red capitals that said something like, “Quid rides?  De te fabula narratur!”    At the end of the day, they may know better than their cynical unresponsive students, who laugh at their assignments, that the education system is really playing a joke on them.