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More parents, students saying 'no' to homework (philly.com)
206 points by brianclements on Oct 27, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 289 comments



Let's not forget that the inhabitants of this website are almost certainly the kind of people who saw through the noise and got their education on their own terms. As we raise our kids we help them tip-toe around all this garbage, but most parents have no tools at their disposal to review and revise and push back against bad practices in their child's education. The issue of education in this country needs to be addressed, but the system has to serve all types, including children who's parents are unable to provide alternative structures and insights and 'hacks' to get by.

That didn't add much (I wasn't trying), but these threads always seem to turn into an echo chamber of "I got by without doing any homework!" because, let's face it, here we are. What is the 98% solution, I wonder, versus the 2% version? Of all that I've seen, it starts with better, smarter, well-paid, un-stressed, empathetic teachers. Students too afraid to think? Too pinned down to discover how best to learn for themselves? I just want to give all these poor kids a hug and tell them how smart they really are--it makes me so sad.


I disagree with your comment about better teachers. Teachers are simply a conduit for learning. They don't scale, which is why there is still a power-law distribution in educational outcomes despite tons or research and data and training and testing that should combat that. Basically rich people get richer because all rich people who are generationally consistently rich have one thing in common. They are autodidacts. If you can learn on your own, and have the capacity to recognize when the assumptions underpinning the status-quo are no longer correct, you can consistently remain wealthy relative to everyone else. True rich families understand this and teach it implicitly/explicitly to their children. Who end up being the fertile ground on which 'good teachers' have a multiplicative effect. This does not work for the poor as they lack the necessary base skills and knowledge to benefit from good teaching. Poor people still break through because circumstance often teaches people, like everyone who came from nothing on this message board, how to learn on their own without help or assistance from others. Advocating more assistance from others is not the solution. And for the same reason that sending $1T in aid to Africa has had mixed results.

Knowledge cannot be taught it must be learned.


Your comments about rich families ignore completely the effect of status in life. Knowledge alone does not generate wealth. That needs work directed in the right direction which is also a lot easier if you have the society connections and the capital to pull off your ideas. The rich get richer because they can invest and buy successful businesses. Sending your kids to Eton to rub shoulders with royalty has far more to do with status than education.


While I agree with you, your point is ultimately a semantic difference and not related to the parent discussion on how to fix education. Certainly 'status' defined this way is a necessity of being rich but not sufficient. Being an autodidact is both necessary and sufficient for long-term multi-generational success. eg. 2 generations can live off the fruits of one, but then you're out. whereas if you teach your kids how to learn on their own, you can sustain quite easily for many.


That's what I hate about school. It doesn't teach or encourage autodidactism. Instead, it rewards those who do what they're told and follow the status quo. You see it a lot in straight A students where they're basically just really good at jumping through hoops given to them and have no creativity. Being able to answer problem sets from a textbook is great, but independent and original thought often requires you to step outside the box and question things.


I have not hired capable "homework programmers" for this very reason. If you do not code outside of your CS degree you are toast in this industry.


While the overwhelming majority of my professional respect goes to those who are builders at their core, I think you're using 'toast' in a way that demonstrably includes six figure salaries. The only X-factor is how many (N < 5) years it takes to get there, without any real initiative or personal projects.


I disagree. I'm an autodidact, but I'm not rich. As a kid I did things like repeatedly read every volume of the encyclopaedia cover-to-cover. On a tour group a few years ago I was nicknamed "google [vacri]" because I knew a bit about everything and people started asking all sorts of esoteric stuff. But I didn't earn average wage until my late 30s (median wage early 30s) and didn't earn above average wage until this year (42). There's lots of people out there like me, who love learning about all sorts of things, but don't learn about the specific things to make one wealthy.

What makes rich families generationally rich is not autodidactism, but skill transfer and network effects. For example, it's easier to handle money when you've been around people who know a lot about finance and money movements than it is to autodidact-learn about money.


And just to be clear. The answer for children is to make learning to love learning play. And the way to do that in a way that scales is through a video game. That is the future of education. Games for children that teach them how to learn, that they then use to set their own educational path. With teachers, schools, mentors, and advisors helping along the way.


I blame video games for making me into a history buff. And maybe Legos, combined with the History Channel before it was the RedneckAliensJesus Channel.

Civilization, Lords of the Realm, Caesar II, Robert E. Lee: Civil War General, Close Combat, Total War, Pirates!, Anno 1602, Europa Universalis/Crusader Kings/Victoria/Hearts of Iron, Age of Empires

Or to go way back, Math/Word Rescue, Treasure Mountain, Midnight Rescue, Carmen Sandiego, Oregon Trail, the crazy game that was part of Encarta, Dr Brain, Maxis Sim games all taught me math, geography, history, logic, physics, etc.


Same story, nearly the same list. I'd throw in Shadow President, which taught me the names and locations of all the (cold war era) countries by third grade or so, and gave me a good sense of global and regional balances of power.

If you haven't played "Civil War Generals 2: Grant, Lee, Sherman" you should. It's Robert E. Lee: Civil War General but with the brokenness fixed—there's a victory point system that's in part based on locations held, which keeps you from just turtling on the nearest high ground and waiting for the enemy to come into cannon range—and a much larger campaign. It's kind of tricky to run these days, and is a bit unstable even under ideal conditions. Best solution may involve a Win98se VM. :-/

The Encarta game was awesome. I'd forgotten about it. Thanks for the memory.


CWG2 was fantastic. I scoured bargain bins high and low for a couple of years before I found a copy. Lord knows how many hours I lost refighting Gettysburg or marathon custom scenarios on the ridiculously big Manassas, Harper's Ferry and Cross Keys/Port Republic maps. It's too bad it wasn't more popular; I'd have loved to see a Napoleonic or Franco-Prussian expansion. I remember a couple of total conversion mods that sort of worked, but it was not a particularly mod-friendly game, unfortunately.

Too bad that the only real option to play it these days is still 800x600 on a Win98 VM. If GOG ever offers a version that works on modern operating systems, it will be a "Shut up and take my money" moment for me.

Someday, I want to build a medieval/ancient set game with the same general mechanics...


Might be worth people voting here - http://www.gog.com/wishlist/games/civil_war_generals_2 - although it's way, way down the list at the moment.


I love GOG, but that list is frustrating, when so many of the top items on that list are games that they will never get rights to.

Blizzard is never going to give away their back catalog (they'd sell it themselves). Neither is Valve. Nor, most likely, is EA, with their awful Origin service.

Then there are all of the newer games that you can find anywhere... Obviously, they've got to make money and focus on what pays the bills, but it makes me happier when I see abandonware and unavailable games get legitimate releases on there, compared to when its something already on Steam.


Any games that will be enjoyed first graders?


Nothing I can think of that isn't primarily intended as edutainment, e.g. Math Blaster, Carmen Sandiego, Oregon Trail. Oh man, and Number Munchers[1]! Those were good around that age. Not many games that were only incidentally very educational that I could handle at that age. I'd expect most of the ones on that list to become accessible to a kid in 1st grade now over the next 2-3 years, though.

I remember loving Microsoft Dinosaurs—a wikipedia search for it redirects to a list including that and a bunch of similar looking titles under the Microsoft Home label—and Explorers of the New World, which even the Internet apparently barely remembers judging from the google results. They'd be OK for a 1st grader but those weren't even games, really.

Main issue is they're all old. A few are hard to run. Some are only available on used CDs. Not sure how they'd keep a modern kid's attention. I gather there are some good games like this on tablets and such, but my kids aren't quite old enough for that stuff yet, so I can't recommend any.

Side note: I'm pretty sure playing Doom, Dark Forces, Wolf3D, and other FPS games with confusing maps from young age is ~20% responsible for my wicked-high scores on spatial reasoning tests (Building lego sets from the instructions can be credited with the other ~80%) so, there's that.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Munchers

[EDIT] wold3d -> wolf3d


Shoutout to the Encarta trivia game with the jester! That was the best.


Really a beautiful game, especially to have bundled into an encyclopedia. I'm a little surprised there isn't a version built for Wikipedia... There's this (http://www.wikimaze.me/) but it's not quite the same


Mindmaze!


Can we turn Watson towards childhood education somehow?


They'll screw it up anyway.

I believe the core issue is just about agency: kids will enjoy and learn from anything and everything if they don't feel forced to do so. The best way to absolutely ruin a book? Make it a required reading in school. The best way to make a totally crap game that is neither fun nor educating? Make an educational game.

If you want to kids to learn and have fun at the same time, you have to accept the model of "entertainment first, education incidental" as opposed to "education in game's clothes". But that's hard to do because people assume, probably based on their own experience in the crappy school system, that learning must be about hard work. Yes, learning involves a lot of work, but it's not hard if you find it fun.


I wonder if perhaps kids find the assigned work so dreadful because the manner of assignment assumes it will be. "Why should I read this?," asks the kid. "Because it is assigned," comes the answer. At which point, perhaps the child thinks, "Oh, you don't care about this, so why should I?," and the battle lines are drawn.

In other words, maybe the issue isn't whether or not something is assigned. Maybe the issue is whether or not the teacher cares about - and is excited about - the material. If the teacher thinks it is fun, maybe being assigned it is not such a heavy burden to bear.


"The best way to make a totally crap game that is neither fun nor educating? Make an educational game."

My 5 y. daughter is completely enthralled by a spelling and reading game on IPad. This leads me to disagree and claim instead that a crap game is not made good by educational goals but a good educational game is provably plausible - it just needs to be a good game.


It's about making a game that is educational, rather than an education tool that's a game. The vast majority of 'education games' are simple quizzes, barely even a game.

One of my favourite childhood games (Logical Journey of the Zoombinis) was all about maths, logic and problem solving, and I credit it for a lot of my early interest (and success) in those areas.

As a quick plug for something I loved - they recently kickstarted a remake http://www.zoombinis.com/ - I'd highly recommend it. (Not involved, besides backing the kickstarter).


> It's about making a game that is educational, rather than an education tool that's a game. The vast majority of 'education games' are simple quizzes, barely even a game.

Yes, exactly that.

My biggest problem with the education ecosystem is that adults try to bullshit kids instead of facilitating learning, and at the same time they forget children have perfect bullshit detectors - they haven't yet learned to question their intuition that something is pointless, or lie to themselves to get through drudgery.

Games are not made by just colorful graphics and telling a story. Kids can tell when you try to trick them into doing something they think is pointless, and it also erodes their trust quickly.


If you truly believe this, I would love to share what I'm working on with you: http://playlingoland.com

We are building a World of Warcraft-esque game for students learning languages, and we have people playing for 3-5 hours upon signing up (we had one student who signed up and played 10 hours within the first 24 hours of signing up). Students absolutely LOVE it.

I do believe the future of education is gaming. Unfortunately most of the world believes that it is gamifying things that aren't games inherently. MMORPGs with levels, items, and avatars are games. Flashcards with points are not.


I've come across two outstanding examples of this:

Kerbal Space Program in AP Physics (https://www.reddit.com/r/KerbalSpaceProgram/comments/1jcnyl/...)

Diplomacy [the Avalon Hill boardgame] in 12th Grade Humanities (https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/386460/diplomacy-classroom-...)

The second example is particularly fascinating. We can expect games to apply and reinforce studies in a technical field or to stimulate interest in history, but using a game to teach rhetoric and its ability to express and manipulate is something else.


My observation as a parent of two kids: I think that homework is already moving in that direction. An increasing amount of homework is done at the computer -- hours and hours of it.

Unfortunately, the stuff that's designed for education is Lame -- intellectually superficial, and boring for the kids -- and they know it. The companies that make that stuff are politically connected and mainly good at selling to school administrators.

It's been this way since the birth of the educational software industry.

Now I admit that I've never played video games, but I can't imagine creating an artificial learning environment that's as rich as going outside to play, making things, or writing code.


I disagree. My friends and I played video games for fun. We learned by having "cool" ideas and trying to solve them. This is how you get freshmen learning, nearly deriving, some very basic calculus and juniors doing basic ODEs, not to mention programming to solve things like building a website to allow users to submit and edit content, converse with each other, and search the content. TF-IDF isn't complicated, and almost naturally gets derived when you start to think about "what can I do to make this search better than LIKE '%term%'?"

Games can definitely help with strategical thinking, "people skills", and even learning, but to say they're the future is misguided. Supporting children who have interests is the way I think is best followed, and that can be incredibly resource intensive.


> And the way to do that in a way that scales is through a video game.

Well, that's one way. Any teacher who has used word-searches, acting, rhyming games, etc has found other ways. Don't get me wrong, there are a wealth of awesome startups in this space making apps, and I think they have a lot of potential, but they are certainly not the whole story, until we have something out of "The Diamond Age: A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer".

Lots of good actual science takes place in the real world, and a video game can certainly be part of the solution, but there's a lot of room for engineering and whatnot that can be part of an autodidactical solution that won't live in an app.


Knowledge cannot be taught it must be inferred.


Exactly. Knowledge and insight is what you get when you take the facts you've been taught (or learned yourself) and internalize them. Schools nowadays focus too much on the first at the cost of the second, because former is easily testable and the latter takes time.


One of the goals of Common Core was to fix that situation ... but then, you know, teaching to the test kind of defeated it.


Interestingly enough, when the schools in my locale started talking about Common Core, I decided to look it up. I found that one or more states had published complete curriculum guides written around CC, and since I like math, I looked through the math curricula.

My impression is that the CC curriculum (neglecting variations that I haven't seen) is so ostentatiously mainstream, that I can't fathom how it became controversial, except that people mistakenly associate it with standardized testing.


It seems to me that the complexity of the issues facing our education system is often drowned out. Everyone went to high school, so they feel comfortable looking back on their experiences and inferring out from there.

I'm a high school teacher in NYC- the largest school district in the country, and the complexity of this system is utterly shocking. I agree with what you said about most parents not having the tools to effectively advocate for their child's education, and I think it's true that the teacher is in the best place to have real impacts on students educational outcomes.

I have to stop there- was teaching all day, lost track of what I wanted to button with.


Maybe don't tell them that they are smart. Tell them that it is OK to work on something and be bad at it. They need to learn to fail and try again not learn that they are smart. This doesn't mean giving them homework or not giving them homework but encouraging them however we can to actually use that creativity we know they have to learn how to learn on their own terms.


I've heard this argument many times since I was a kid and I was "fighting" the educational system I was in and later on, and I think this is red herring. Any change in the educational system that seems to target it for the "top" students is pushed back with "this only works for the motivated and we need to take care of the 98% too".

However, it's not at all clear that the status quo is effectively optimized to maximize the benefit for the bottom 98% either. Neither it looks like they are designed by wise, well-intentioned, experts. For the most part, educational systems around the world seem to have been an evolution through design by committee mostly directed by political motives. Since almost everything tried has been quite ineffective at moving the needle for the bottom 98% in any meaningful way, this serves as a good political excuse for not radically moving things around.

Perhaps educational systems should be designed for the top 2% and the other 98% would adapt as time goes by, instead of being crippled with that excuse? (not saying this is true, but it is worth thinking about)


+1 I think the problem is not homework - it is there is no other reliable and affordable "better" alternative to homework or standard test. We can all argue that homework is taking away the time kids can otherwise spend on exercising, socializing, innovating etc, but truth is they are more likely just sitting there and playing their phones.


> but truth is they are more likely just sitting there and playing their phones

I might be in a minority here, but I have an issue with that sentiment. Because before phones, it was "playing video games". Before that, it was "watching TV". Before that, it was probably "wasting time outside" or "chit-chatting with friends". There's always something else that's "wasting time", even if that "wasting" is infinitely more useful than the activity deemed as "not wasteful".

I'm from the "watching TV" to "playing video games" transition generation and I must say that I owe more to both of them than to most time spent in school.

> there is no other reliable and affordable "better" alternative to homework or standard test

I agree with that though. Standarized tests and homeworks seem to me to be an artifact of an increasingly complex society. Some of that complexity may go away though, if we advance far enough to get rid of the job market entirely (UBI, automation, etc.) - it's competition that requires standarized grades so that people can be compared with each other.


I'm from the "watching TV" to "playing video games" transition generation and I must say that I owe more to both of them than to most time spent in school.

Me too. I spent a lot of time watching educational TV programming when I was a kid. I remember the day I made the sad realization that I had seen every episode of Mr. Wizard's world and there would be nothing new to learn from the show.

I think that there is too much emphasis on standardized testing but I do think that some testing is necessary. I think it's important to have some way to measure if teachers are imparting any knowledge on their students or if they're engendering a love of learning.

My favorite teachers(with some of whom, I remain in contact) are the ones who inspired me to learn more about the subject matter than was taught in the class.


Is the "skip school and become an entrepreneur" meme chiefly an American idea? Everyone I know from China be like "get the best marks in the entire region and become an entrepreneur"


Probably. It seems to me that in China and some of the nearby countries, there is a belief that doing well in school will practically guarantee success in life, an idea that most Americans would find laughable. I don't know if it's actually a lot more complicated to get ahead here than it is there, but certainly there's a lot more awareness here that life is not so simple.


I did not go to a US school myself, but many of my friends who did are saying that studying diligently and doing well in class negatively affects your reputation.. and if you are doing any nerdy extracurricular work or go to a STEM camp, you are just doomed.. ) And then these people go to college, and cannot do simple multiplication.. I think this is not how it should be..


I wonder how much of that belief stems from cultural institutions where top positions at the best companies use good schools and good grades as primary hiring criteria.

In the US, that is still very much the case at a lot of companies outside of hiring developers in the tech industry. Can't say I entirely blame them as much as I dislike the practice. When someone lacks experience because they are entry-level, that is pretty much the next best indicator you have as to some level of intelligence and drive to succeed.


  better, smarter, well-paid, un-stressed, empathetic teachers
Totally, but a teacher in charge of usually 30 children, for probably 8 hours a day, still isn't going work miracles.

Divide your attention across thirty energetic people in 8 hours. You'll still feel spread thin.

When elementary school gives way to high school, this ratio of time per teacher, per student becomes even more distributed. Possibly up to 8 classes of 30 students per teacher, each class lasting an maybe an hour. If you were to parcel out direct attention, such that each teacher spent an equal amount of time with each student, across the entire day, every student would get 2 minutes from each of their 8 teachers, in such a scenario. Maybe that's a 2 minute chess game, or 2 minutes in the confessional.

Obviously lectures don't actually work that way, but you see the point I'm driving at.

Parents with 4 kids feel stressed out by their own kids. 4 kids is a large family. Teachers probably feel the least stressed when there are no kids, or perhaps when only their well-behaved favorite students are present.


And to compound this pressure standardized testing is putting teachers under the thumb. There's an obscene amount of paperwork required and it takes the focus away from students. In today's environment standardized testing is a step back, in the 1950 it would have made sense. A better approach would be to emulate the Finnish curriculum which is ridiculously fluid. And it works, they're currently one of the highest achieving nations.

To be frank I suspect the standardized testing methodology was employed as a part of a conservative agenda to ensure private schools have an advantage. It seems to have spread globally under conservative governments in suspicious circumstances. In New Zealand it's called 'National Standards', and was introduced at the same time charter schools started receiving government funding.


A conspiracy seems overly suspicious. It's more likely that the people putting in place standardized testing believe that data should drive compensation and results. They don't seem to be understanding the implication of such a garbage in garbage out policy though. In private schools there is also standardization and testing, and the data is often good HS and thereby good colleges.


> That didn't add much

For what it's worth, I think it did.


This is crazy, I don't know where I would be today if I hadn't done homework. Homework was where I really and truly learned. Independent work is so important, and it's totally different than doing something with a bunch of students in a classroom setting. Sure, the education system probably could be improved a lot. But you can't just remove homework from the current system and expect there will be no negative consequence to that.

My daughter is in Grade 1 French Immersion in Canada and she is assigned a few sight words every week in French to memorize in addition to some French sounds (2 letter sounds). On top of that we try to do a bit of math here and there and some English. The teacher tells us to make it as fun as possible, so we try, sometimes I turn her sight words in to a quick board game. For math, we try to use the Bedtime Math books or the app. For reading, we read princess readers which she loves. Sometimes we try other readers and we push it, only to find out she really hates them, and sometimes the French sounds memorization is tough and painful. Can't imagine asking the teacher for less homework though, it seems like just the right amount.


There is a pretty wide gulf between no homework, ever, and the kinds of loads being placed on some kids. You talk about "a few" words a week. My friend's kids (I have none) end up staying up until 1am, forgoing family and friend time, just to keep up with the work demands. We invited a family to do something with us - the response was that they might be able to do something in 6 or so months due to the kids schedule. And no, this wasn't a blow off, it was an honest assessment of the demands on their kids. It is just barking mad.


Like another commenter said... I wonder what the kid's evening actually looks like. Staying up until 1am sounds/smells a lot to me like the kind of household where homework gets pushed until the end of the day. I sort of speak from experience as someone who constantly was up late during my university years, and it started in late high school. It all had to do with me not doing my homework right away, putting it off, or not working on it productively. Once it started to get late though, that would light a fire under me and I'd start working faster.

Contrast that to my wife, and other people like her, who did their homework immediately after school (with a small break between of course) and got it done before dinner time, or perhaps a little after, then had some time to relax and watch some TV or chat with friends on the phone (pre-Internet days), before going to bed.


My kids are typical "overscheduled" teenagers. There's music lessons, orchestra, sports, choir, etc. There's going outside before it gets dark.

This is going to sound weird, but we deliberately put some of those things at a higher priority than homework. First of all, the scheduled activities happen when they happen. Second, some activities take more mental focus, it works best for those things to be done first. Third, activities such as music come before homework in terms of their value -- they represent gaps in the school curriculum, that we are filling in ourselves.

So, homework can come last for good reasons. Also, some activities require awake parents. ;-)

Now, about the 1am thing, that only happens roughly once a semester due to an exponential distribution of homework assignments. Each teacher assigns homework, apparently at random, and they don't organize or coordinate it, so the late nights are usually due to a confluence of multiple teachers each giving out multiple assignments at once.

The island of stability in that sea of chaos is math. The math lessons come home at a steady, predictable rate, and none of the work involves a computer, so it gets an early time slot.


You sound like you’re assuming that today’s kids get about the same amount of homework which you did. My impression is that the amount of homework has increased enormously since you were a kid.


When I was in high school, the general attitude was that an hour of homework per night was reasonable. Your English teacher agreed with this idea, so you'd get an hour of English homework. Your math teacher agreed with this idea, so you'd get an hour of math homework. Your science teacher agreed with this idea, so you'd get an hour of science homework. Your social sciences teacher agreed with this idea, so you'd get an hour of social sciences homework. And so on. I knew a lot of caffeine addicts in high school.

So I generally didn't finish it all in the 90 minutes or so between arriving at home and dinner time.


My school improved this by switching to a "block schedule" with 3 rotating classes a day for 2 hours each instead of all 6 in one day. The side effect was that it was easy to wait to do the homework until the night before it was due and forget what was discussed in class the day before.


Hadn't really thought about that, but I felt like I had tons of homework (in the 1990s). Part of it was not that I had tons of homework, but that my parents instilled in me a desire to not just to the minimum. So stuff took longer because I put more work into it. Even with math, I probably always did a bit more questions than the teacher had assigned. I spent countless hours perfecting essays, writing research reports. Now that I've thought about it, I'd have a tough time believing that kids nowadays get more homework than I did.

So... what I'm saying is, there is the amount assigned, and then there is the amount that kids are actually doing, which are somewhat independent. So it's possible that the assigned amount has increased? or not. It's also possible parents are "better" now (this is true, I think parenting overall has evolved little by little for the better) and are keeping better tabs on their kids, making their kids do more homework, more than just the minimum.

Another data point, I was tutoring some kids in high school math around 2005 or so. There was very little math homework assigned, it was a complete joke, and these kids were going to private school. I remember thinking "what the hell is going on here, what has happened to education!" There was actually some Supreme Court ruling in the province of British Columbia that said that teachers couldn't give homework unless they were going to mark it. Or that they couldn't give "participation marks" for homework, it had to be marked on its merits or not at all. So a lot of teacher's scaled back the assigned homework I think. That's what I heard, I can't find a reference to the court case.


While reading the discussion, it seems to me that individual student's attitudes and preferneces plays the major role in this issue. Maybe even more important than the official policies.

I had largerly the same high school and college experience as yours (at least I would describe it in a very simiar way), even though I received my education in a different country, where all educational policies must be significantly different.

So I think, it's not surprizing at all that it's hard to come up with a single resolution regarding homework that would fit every class and each individual student and their family.


I'm in my early 50s, and I had remarkably little homework in school.


Depends. I had friends back then who went to various forms of after-school classes (cram, prep, chinese, piano, etc). They would get home at dark, with even more homework in tow from the after-school classes.


You know I hear this all the time, even from my students who I never gave much homework to when I was teaching. I wonder how much of that "time until 1 am" is spent staring at a cell phone. I know a lot of time in class is.


> I wonder how much of that "time until 1 am" is spent staring at a cell phone. I know a lot of time in class is.

That's probably where the actual learning happens. Also, it used to be "video games" before, and "TV" before that.


What is the point of your comment exactly?


That people whine about kids spending time doing some thing instead of the one they're supposed to do, while the kids are just choosing the thing that is not total bullshit and is actually useful for something.


> while the kids are just choosing the thing that is not total bullshit and is actually useful for something.

This assumption borders on absurd.


Does it? Or maybe the assumption that children aren't naturally curious beings with agency and emotional life, but just a hard drive to write on (or slate, if you like) is something that borders on absurd.


One friend of mine essentially refused to take breaks after school. He'd get home and immediately start working on the day's homework. It would frequently take him until after 9 o'clock to finish up work that shouldn't have taken anywhere near that long. I know he's an intelligent fellow, and not prone to distraction. He'd just get stuck.

I'm /certain/ taking a break would have gotten him into a fresh mindset, and let him finish it all up faster. And, if I had /not/ put some hours between getting home and doing my homework, that it really could have taken me many hours to finish.

Just one speculative data point, but there it is.


You and your daughter will end up as people that can contribute something great to the society; most of the ones skipping the homework without innate talent not, and they will complain about how unfairly are they treated because they are smart.

One of my piano teachers was forced to practice through tears as a kid because they saw the talent she had. She went on to becoming a world famous child prodigy playing grade 8 pieces by sight-reading with unbelievable ease.

Work is required if you want to achieve something. You just need to find the right balance, and it's neither "no work" nor "work all the time".


> She went on to becoming a world famous child prodigy playing grade 8 pieces by sight-reading with unbelievable ease.

...and did that get her anywhere as an adult?

It seems to me that so many people are excited when their children are ahead of the curve, doing "adult"-level things at a young age—and just assume they'll stay ahead forever, forging on beyond the norm, rather than reverting to the mean.


> One of my piano teachers was forced to practice through tears as a kid

She was traumatized by figures of authority to learn piano, and she became a piano teacher. I'm not seeing the inspiration aspect of this story.


> One of my piano teachers was forced to practice through tears as a kid because they saw the talent she had. She went on to becoming a world famous child prodigy playing grade 8 pieces by sight-reading with unbelievable ease.

These anecdotes (i've heard a gazillion) always bother me. So what, now she's good at playing the piano. But what would she have done or become if she had the choice? Perhaps a computer programmer, or a doctor? Leave the damn kids be kids already.

EDIT: I emphasise that i have nothing but respect for those who play an instrument professionally, so i'm definitely not deriding the "piano teacher" part of this story. I'm complaining about the perceived virtue of forcing a child to do something they may or may not actually want, or that may or may not in fact be good for them.


My kids (in preschool) _love_ Bedtime Math (the book) and often request it instead of bedtime stories. It's hard to tell if it's having any pedogogical effect --- my oldest is starting to be able to add, sometimes, if both numbers are less than or equal to five. But maybe that would have happened anyhow?


It definitely helps. We were at that stage, where all my daughter could do was questions that involved summing numbers that added up to 5. She would do them on her fingers. Now she can do those in her head and also memorized what 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 looks like on fingers, and can now recognize 6, 7, and 9, 10 on fingers. Can't do 8 yet... Keep at it!


Given your daughter is in a french immersion school, I would love to hear your feedback on what I'm working on: http://playlingoland.com

Language immersion from home!


I am in total agreement that children have better things to do than homework.

Such as learning how to play and interact with others. Learn how to deal with adversity. How to deal with the sadness of a break up or not being included. Learning how to lead a team via Counter Strike or WOW. Learning computers by writing a mod for a favorite computer game.

These things taught me far more than a worksheet on a very idealized version of the events that led to the American Revolution.

And on a different note the idea of a lecture in class followed by homework at home seems silly to me. Lectures are easy to scale so a child can learn from the best of the best in the world(With explanatory graphics). Tailored tutoring to the issues a child is having while trying to solve problems and understand a concept is very hard to scale. It seems to me it would make more sense to watch lectures outside of the classroom and do homework in the classroom.


Repetition is an important part of learning. Expecting all children to understand what was taught in class is unrealistic. This is why homework is assigned - so the student may take their time to review the parts they themselves didn't fully grasp in class. The time spent doing homework varies from child to child and this is important - kids who need longer to accomplish the same task will have that time because they are at home.

Arguably you could cover everything again the next day but thats hardly a graceful solution and doesn't cater to that variance of time needed for homework across different children as contact hours are very limited as it is.

Homework also offers the opportunity for parents to engage with kids in their formal education - this helps the parents as well as kids.


> Arguably you could cover everything again the next day but thats hardly a graceful solution and doesn't cater to that variance of time needed for homework across different children as contact hours are very limited as it is.

Repetition is important. But kids are already at school for 7-8 hours a day. If that is not enough time to engage in adequate repetition, the solution is not to shift work to home hours. It is:

1) Do less, by cutting less important subjects;

2) Do more with the time given, by cutting students who disrupt class.


What do you view as non-essential? STEM? Arts? Social studies? Recess/PE?

And how much time do you actually think is wasted on dealing with disruptive students? 10% of the day? 35%?

To me, this sounds like a recipe for creating an upper class of uncreative, poorly-rounded conformists and a lower class of people who are undereducated and permanently pissed off at the society that fails to serve their needs.

I think it's pretty unlikely that this would be a substantial improvement in modern American society or many others.

Kids misbehave at school for a huge number of reasons (many of them socioeconomic but definitely not all), and it's not really the public school system's responsibility to fix that, but it is the school system's responsibility to give them an education so that they can properly integrate into society as an adult. Shoving the problematic students to the side exacerbates this.

Bonus points if the education system can encourage more independence of thought and action, creative and analytical problem skills, and the tenacity and wisdom that come from actually having gotten some hard things done.

A better system would be one that is more capable of demonstrating the value of education to the students (incentivizing them to learn, and making learning at any level more rewarding), as well as one that can accommodate a larger degree of student interests and learning styles. I don't really know how to do this without having more internships and so forth, which aren't necessarily feasible for younger children but may be for teens. Maybe somewhere in the world or at some point in history this has been practiced more?


I don't think K-8 needs to teach more than writing, reading, and math. Not even science--kids don't really get it and the dumbed-down version you learn at that level probably makes it harder rather than easier to learn "real science" later on.

Misbehaving kids should get an education--they should just get it in a class with other misbehaving kids.


>Misbehaving kids should get an education--they should just get it in a class with other misbehaving kids.

What specific criteria is there so that we segregate fairly, not based some delusion that normal behaviour between genders are identical?

Teachers (which are overwhelmingly female) overly punish normal behaviour from boys compared to girls. I wouldn't trust their judgment for my children of what misbehaviour is given their obvious discrimination that I've witnessed and experienced.


Exactly. School is a much better environment for repetition anyway - you can oversee students doing the chores and explain things to them individually if they get stuck. It also seems better to use the "high-grade" time (home) for learning new things and "low-grade" time (school) for repetitive chores.

If you have to assign something to them to do at home, stick to just making them read a book instead. Right now they have to do both, and there isn't enough time for that.


> 2) Do more with the time given, by cutting students who disrupt class.

If you keep doing that for a long enough time, no more students will be left in the class. So I don't think this a practical solution that will yield better results than whatever we have going on today.


Why do you think that? I'd wager impulsiveness and attention span are normally distributed, and there are gains to be had tracking those say more than 1 SD below the mean into classes specially equipped to handle them.


Understanding is a far more important part of learning in my opinion.

You know where repetition is really important? In sport. Muscle memory really work that way, with a "conscious enabled" repetition.

But for learning? Frankly you don't learn multiplication by repeating the tables, you really learn it by visualizing the repeated additions, thus by understanding it.

That being said, homework can be smart if it promotes self-discovery of a specific domain.


Of course understanding is the most important, but what you're presenting is a bit of a false dichotomy and a bit of a caricature of the understanding process. The way you get good at playing the piano is repetition. I'm not talking about brainless repetition. I'm talking about reinforcing, improving, and strengthening certain mental pathways which happen during repetition. Understanding on its own doesn't create good habits of mind. They're established through repetition, whether that means playing the same song on the piano 50 times or solving the same kind of problems 20 times. Each repetition can also reveal a bit more insight.

Also, understanding is not the same as doing, which is a distinction you fail to make. Understanding arithmetic multiplication is one thing. Performing it is something else, hence the distinction between mathematics and calculation. Calculation is very useful in mathematics, it's what K-12 and most college math is, but it's only one part of what mathematics concerns itself with. A physicist may be good at doing physics, but he doesn't necessarily possess an understanding of physics per se until he begins reflecting on it. Furthermore, there are many things you must learn before you can understand them because they require that you known things in aggregate and from a certain mature perspective. You must know the "what" before you can explain the "why" or the "how".

Furthermore, there is difference between comprehension and understanding. Most of what you know in the empirical order is comprehension of someone else's claims. You verify very little of those claims yourself because it is impossible for anyone to verify everything they learn. You take it on a practical kind of faith and trust that those who make these claims have done their jobs. If you end up working in the field, you may verify some of those claims, but in practice, science is a body of culture that is transmitted and only when anomalies begin to crop up do certain theories begin to undergo examination, verification, and reformulation by some scientists.

There is something to be said about teaching subjects with more context and coherence and being guided along a logical progression. Frankly, most teachers are awful, and compared to the classically trained, are a miserably uneducated bunch with little pedagogical skill. That and the idea of universal education is very problematic because it doesn't take seriously differences in students and the families they come from.


> The way you get good at playing the piano is repetition. I'm not talking about brainless repetition. I'm talking about reinforcing, improving, and strengthening certain mental pathways which happen during repetition

Well, to me piano is like sport, you get good to it by leveraging muscle memory, and when I was saying "with conscious enabled repetition" I was merely saying "no brainless repetition". I see no contradiction in our point of view here.

> Understanding arithmetic multiplication is one thing. Performing it is something else, hence the distinction between mathematics and calculation.

Multiplication was a maybe too simple example to give. Take bezier curve as a more advanced example: can you refute that you really get it threw visualization rather than by reapplying the formula on a series of homework assignation?


I spent weeks and weeks doing the same thing over and over - multiply these 2 digit numbers together. Multiply these three digit numbers together. next week? 4 digit numbers!!! Some people needed to do that, some didn't. What is wrong with work until you get it, instead of having to do page after page of rote work when you have clearly demonstrated that you understand the material?


Repetition, when overdone, leads to an absence of learning. And repetition in the context of rote memorization is often actively harmful to learning. The biggest thing missing in modern public education is synthesis, because there's no time for it, but that's how learning truly sinks in and becomes valuable. Otherwise it's all just disconnected trivia.


Yup. Repetition and rote memorization are useful tools, but should be viewed as putting data in L1 cache, and just that. Memorizing the multiplication table or solving equations ad nauseam gives huge speedups which can not only improve learning harder subjects but even enable the whole new sets of knowledge and skills that are unfeasible to learn otherwise.

But turning entire learning experience into cramming stuff into cache memory? That's a recipe for disaster, it leads only for data to be quickly purged, and the time being wasted on re-entering it instead of letting the brain to generate connections and new insights in the main memory. The result is basically what you described.


> kids who need longer to accomplish the same task will have that time because they are at home.

But they only have that time if they sacrifice other activities such as clubs, sports and hobbies... or sleep.

School already absorbs seven hours of a child's day. In my opinion that is already excessive without the additional burden of homework.


My significant other is a teacher and entered the workforce 2 years ago. I now firmly believe that the education system is the way it is because of the teachers, and not in a good way. The few who got into it because "they love children and teaching" are so massively outweighed by those who took it because there was nothing else. It's created a system that is center around Dear Teacher, a frustrated individual upset that they couldn't get the overseas marketing job or field marine biology study position they spent $40,000 trying to attain.

Lecture with assigned homework happens because it's easy. Read a script, send home to mommy and daddy to do the hard stuff. Any attempt to change and you get a strike. There's a fucking strike every year now in Ontario.


Bonus: A lot of elementary school teachers are there because they can't cut the math for some program they wanted and their college shunted them off into early education. These are, unfortunately, very often women. As a mathy woman who homeshooled my sons and spent considerable time getting my oldest over the math phobia school instilled in him, I harbor the opinion that sending math flunkies in droves to teach our children is part of why math has such a reputation of fear and loathing. They not only cannot teach it, they pass on their fear and loathing to the students. Extra bonus: Since they are overwhelmingly female, I think this contributes to keeping the stereotype alive and well that girls are bad at math. We give our kids sucky math education and also model that "All the women you know and admire are terrible at it and hate this shit."

Go, us.


As a person with math degrees, I cannot agree with this more. I'm fighting this battle at home now with my first grader. There is way too much focus on the mechanics of grinding out arithmetic and way too little in teaching kids how to think about numbers and mathematical operations.

You can't teach kids how to think about math when the focus is on mechanical mathematical operation.

When I work with him on his homework I have to undo a lot of stuff before we can make progress. Then he goes to school and they undo all the stuff we did at home. Rinse, repeat, it can really drive you insane.

Furthermore, he's already terrified about getting the wrong answer. He's so worried about doing it wrong that he is afraid to think. When he thinks he does just fine.


> There is way too much focus on the mechanics of grinding out arithmetic and way too little in teaching kids how to think about numbers and mathematical operations.

As I posted to a friend on Facebook:

arithmetic : Math :: spelling : English

It's a critical component, but it's not the entirety of the subject. But we drill, drill, drill it, and when people have trouble with it they say they're "bad at math". I know plenty of mathematicians (also have a math degree) that were horrible at arithmetic, but mathematics (whether for the particular person this meant some field of algebra or geometry or topology or whatever) itself was easy for them.

I tried to help my last girlfriend out with this. She is a teacher and a severe mathphobic person. It was incredibly frustrating, because she did get higher concepts when they were separate from numbers, but introduce numbers and her mind would shutdown. This attitude will be passed on to her (future) children and her students if she's not careful.


Unless she genuinely gets over it, it will almost certainly be passed on even if she is careful.


I just had a talk with my brother about this Sunday night as he did his homework at my parent's home. He wasn't able to find his sheet of rules on how to simply some math expressions, so I sat down and showed him how I would simplify them without rules. He had been given rules, but never actually taught why these rules worked. (Not to mention at least one of these rules I would not count as simplification, though it would be useful in simplification.) Like you mention, he was scared of getting it wrong instead of understanding it.

An hour before that, I was talking with another brother why 'oh, I don't need help with that because we are no longer on that chapter' is a horrible way to think about math, especially at a grade school level where you are building up the core foundation.


Got any tips for people who are much older who might have been taught the wrong way to think about maths in school?


What kind of math are you interested in and what you would like to accomplish?


First, if you have a lot of baggage about numbers, realize math is not "numbers" anymore than speaking English is "the alphabet."

Second, look for "normal" books filled with words instead of numbers that talk about math and read those. When I was homeschooling my oldest son, I spent about four years picking up books of that sort. I got a lot of them off the clearance table for as little as a dollar. After I finally got my husband on board with my plan, I handed the stack of books to my son and said "Here, read these." For the next few months, there were no tests, no quizes, no written work of any kind. I periodically asked if he was still reading them. He periodically gave me a book back that he had finished. After six weeks, he began bouncing into my presence joyously announcing "I finally understand why you can't divide by zero! I knew it was a rule, but I never understood why!"

Third, look for fun ways to explore math. There are entertaining math books like "The Number Devil" that are a fun read and will likely introduce you to new concepts if you do not have a strong math background. I also bought games for my sons to play instead of doing arithmetic drill.

Last, don't let anyone intimidate you with jargon or with their failure to explain it effectively. (Write them off as "stupid" and move on. :-p) My oldest is still incredibly bitter about learning that "x" in algebra is basically the same thing as the empty space in basic arithmetic, it is just easier to move it around and lets you have more than one "empty space" by giving it a name. So that let's you have two or more mystery numbers instead of just one.

After I explained to him that X was the same as the empty space in more familiar problems, he realized he had been doing algebra in his head for years while playing video games in order to infer, for example, how many hit points of damage a particular attack did so he would know how many hits it took to kill something. He is still bitter at the system convincing him algebra was hard and something he could not do when he had been doing it competently for years.

Also, consider jumping in at the top end and working backwards. I read about half of "A tour of the calculus" with my son to help win him over and convince him math is your friend. Think of it this way: Just because you can't spell doesn't mean you won't fall in love with writing poetry. Once you are thrilling to the pursuit of writing a good poem, you will have motive to look up the correct spelling and spelling might start sticking.

Last, if you went through the standard algebra-geometry-trig track and have baggage about that, consider pursuing a statistics track. There are some very approachable stats books for laymen, such as "How to lie with statistics," and it shouldn't trip your "oh, god, I hate math and am bad at it" switch if you haven't previously been exposed to stats. Statistics is very serious math, yet many people do not realize that. I think the first chapter or two of "The cartoon guide to statistics" is the rough equivalent of my entire college intro to stats class. It is a deep subject, yet we hear statistics every day in the news, so it can feel a lot more approachable and familiar and relevant for some people.


Based on my son and daughter's math education I agree with this. It's not all entirely on the individual teachers; the program (created by groups of other teachers) is heavily based around non-algorithmic math. I really liked math in school but I absolutely hate the math my children have to do.


Indeed, I have read that women can be the most rigid and cruel sexists.


plonh: Indeed, I have read that women can be the most rigid and cruel sexists.

I have no idea what your point is.

But let me use this as an opening to suggest that men with math challenges are not being routinely encouraged to give up on challenging careers and go spend their days with small kids. In fact, men who want to spend their days with small kids face the challenge that people look askance at them and assume they have nefarious motives and are probably child molesters. So I don't think women who are bad at math being actively encouraged to go teach elementary school is evidence that women are overall inherently worse at math than men. I think it just means that when we don't readily get something, people cluck at us about how nature designed us to spend our days with small children and why don't we go do that in some capacity.

My ex husband sucked at math. I tutored him when he took college math classes. He got really frustrated sometimes and threw his pencil across the room. He did not give up and no one suggested that, well, maybe you should just go do something easy, like teach small children basic things in elementary school.

You are welcome to clarify if your remark is an ad hominem or not.

Have a good day.


Assigning blame for a system that sucks is tricky. That kind of narrating is often just an outlet for bias, frustrations and such. In reality the way things are has a long history, with interlocking effects and counter effects.

Teachers being unhappy with being teacher is a problem. It's partly because teaching is often an available profession, mostly due to how many we need. There are other things to blame too: Education is bureaucratic and regimented, this makes teacher dislike the job. It's the legacy of reactions to failures in the past, an attempt to make sure that schools can't fail kids. Class sizes are way too big, often. A class of 15 9 year olds can learn more in 4 hours than a class 30 9 year olds can learn more in 8. But, we need babysitting. Teachers don't have high pay or a respected place in our society. Etc. Etc.

The reality is that it's hard to do this right. It's easy to blame. Even if you're right, it's not useful.


No, it's important to assign blame here. Teachers welcome praise with open arms, but the minute we criticize them, "oh you know, the issues are complex, it's not my fault". They are the sum of the education system, it is wholly represented by the person leading the classroom. Just like we blame a president for a shitty economy, so too must the teachers carry the blame for a shitty classroom.


I'm not so certain. I've been in many educational environments ranging from home school to private college prep high school, to suburban high school, to inner city high school, to the ghetto school in the area.

There were good and bad teachers in all of those. However, the good teachers may as well have not had existed in the inner city/ghetto schools. Their talents were 100% wasted, and those classrooms would have been far better served with a police officer in front of the classroom who was enabled to boot the dysfunctional future criminals from the classroom. With those students in class, there was no point in even calling it school. Call it daycare, or juvie, or whatever you like - learning wasn't much of the process though.

I find it hard to blame teachers when their job is primarily daycare, and they have zero tools available to them to deal with poorly performing and disruptive students who have no business being in the classroom.

tldr; Almost all the US education problems can directly be tied back to the parents. Full stop.

This goes for my private schooling as well. The college prep school I went to was probably more diverse than the inner city school - the only difference was the self-selection of the students and parents who attended. They also taught with about half the funds.

That said, there are tons of horrible teachers too. The problems go far deeper though, and until you solve the parenting problem you may as well shut the public school system down in many areas. No amount of epic-level teachers will be able to get anything done in those environments.


> a police officer in front of the classroom who was enabled to boot the dysfunctional future criminals from the classroom

Well, that sounds like a way to make more future criminals. Maybe send the police officer to the parents instead. If the goal is to systematize the production of healthy, non-broken adults, we want to get those children more of a healthy environment, and less of an unhealthy one—send those police officers to watch the parents, and boot them out if they're making their child dysfunctional. (Really, if we had as many social workers as we had teachers, a lot of things about lower-class life could be fixed.)


I feel like everyone in this thread should go watch season 4 of the The Wire. There is a lot of relevant work there, including the various pressures on, and requirements of the educational system.

tl:dr; Teacher's can only ever be a part of a solution to the complicated educational needs of our society. And given what we're willing to spend, they can't even be a particularly effective part in poorer parts of the country.


go watch season 4 of the The Wire...And given what we're willing to spend...

Ironically, Baltimore spends quite a lot ($15k/student) on schools. Apparently only NYC (among the top 100 districts) spends more.

http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2013-05-21/news/bs-md-ci-ce...

"In spite of what we're willing to spend..." would be a better phrasing.


I think that it's pretty obvious that simply 'money' isn't the solution to our educational needs. There are lots of ways of spending money that won't change outcomes, and probably several that would.

But I'm anti-school in general (note: not anti-teacher), so the whole point of this side of the argument misses my interests.


Everyone likes praise and dislikes blame, that is not special to teachers.

You might be able to blame a teacher for a class to some effect. What I was referring to is blaming teacherdom for education. That's pointless. When a system consistently produces a result, that's the result being produced by the system. The teachers and students are part of that system, producing and being produced by it. It will continue, blame or no blame. It is just as pointless as blaming the students.


It's not just teachers and students, it's the parents, government (NCLB anyone?), and corporations (e.g. textbook vendors, testing companies) who profit from the system.

Following the money often works for discerning most dysfunctional systems.


I think the real problem is that "marketing job" and "field marine biology study" are preferred to teaching. Finding a way to make teaching a job people want, and keep wanting after doing it for a while, is the key.


The issue with the idea of the flipped classroom is I feel the proponents only examine the "happy path" as you might call it in QA. Assuming parents are invested in their child's education and enforce the consumption of the lecture materials and preparation for class the next day the system sounds great. The current model of education in this country is designed (for better or worse) around the opposite paradigm. Mandatory schooling dominated by lecture allows the establishing of a minimum level of exposure. And then homework with penalty provides the negative feedback to ensure (as best possible) the minimum of parental involvement. You still need a home life that treats education as a priority to get excellent results but the floor is capped as best we can.

You see this thinking in almost every metric by which we grade schools. % failing to pass test, % drop out, etc are all built on the foundation of measuring the efficacy of the achievement floor.


This is precisely the "flipped classroom" concept that Khan Academy has been championing for a while now:

https://youtu.be/vmtgz95ZBbE?t=32s


I completely agree! Please look for my other comment above (control-F "tonydiv"). You will be pleasantly surprised about what we're working on here at Lingoland!


As far as dealing with adversity, I would argue that the impossible amounts of homework give that element of hard ship to students.


I think that's a really brilliant idea.


Homework is an abomination. It steals time a child could be spending with their parents, siblings, friends, etc. You spend all day in a classroom, sedentary, which isn't healthy to begin with, and then when you go home, you're expected to sit more. Children need to play and explore the world. Schools are failing if they have this overflow of work that must be sent home.


I get (and agree with) your sentiment, but to call homework an abomination is misguided. I don't want the totality of kids' academic learning to be in the class room, I want them to have to do thing by themselves, unsupervised -- which is what homework is meant to achieve. As you say, though, that shouldn't come at the cost of their play time. Personally I feel more inclined to say that we should aim towards fewer classes and more homework.


If they are in school all day and then pressured with all sorts of homework at night, when do they actually get to learn something they want to learn? Something they are really interested in, but isn’t assigned by a teacher?

I think there is value in giving kids time to learn things that at outside the subjects that a school teaches. Eliminating homework gives kids more of a chance to do that, not to mention the other things that people have mentioned like spending time with family, playing, etc.


Like I said: I agree with the general sentiment of giving kids more time to be kids, to play and to learn non-academic stuff.

What I'm advocating, though, is that this should be, at least partially, at the expense of structured lectures, rather than homework.


Doesn't sound too unlike working a job in the real world (minus the homework).

Totally agree with you though.


One evening my wife, daughter and I were sitting in the living room. My wife and I were reading and my daughter was doing her Math homework, when all of sudden she asks "Did Heath Ledger commit suicide?"

I said "that's a weird question, what brought that up?" and she said they were talking about it at school today with the Dare Police Officer. I said "Oh you had a Police Officer in your class today?" and she said "Yeah, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays."

No one I've ever told that story to has ever commented on it.


Yeah, time to run for that old school board seat or find someone who can. Three days a week means that family time with you and your wife is being substituted for homework because your child spends time with a D.A.R.E. officer.

I went to school in, shall we say, a less than good-rated school, and we didn't even have that level of foolishness during the "Just Say No" era.


Why was there a DARE officer at that school three days a week?


School-to-Prison pipeline, maybe?


A Dare police officer, as in D.A.R.E.? Is that program from my childhood still active? Or is that something else?


It's dying out, but still around.


"the notion that America can close the learning gap with China or India..."

Indian and Chinese students in America do as well or better than Indian and Chinese students in their home countries on any measure you'd like to name.

For that matter the same is true of Mexican students in the US vs. in Mexico, European students in the US vs. in Europe, etc.


Chinese and Indian students in America also have the benefit of being from some of the highest socioeconomic groups in America [0]. It is more a factor of the group's average wealth rather than the fact that they are foreign.

[0] : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_ethnic_groups_in_the_U...


>It is more a factor of the group's average wealth rather than the fact that they are foreign.

How do you know that for sure? Maybe their higher average wealth is a function of their success as immigrants, not the other way around.


Or the causation goes the other way, and they get rich because they're smart.


>European students in the US vs. in Europe,

I'd like to see stats for that. I strongly doubt that's true of European students.


Can you provide a source?



Thanks. I don't think it really backs your claim that "[X] students in America do as well or better than [X] students in their home countries on any measure you'd like to name."

but it's still interesting data.


the learning benefit could be because of the change of scenery, not because one side is better


Or because they select for people that are able/willing to make a choice to move across the world/border.


Indeed. Shake a box of rocks for a while and you'll find the largest rocks at the top. It's not because the top makes rocks grow, or because moving to the top makes them bigger, it's simply that larger rocks move up more readily in this environment.


Living in India, Indian schools are mostly worse than American ones—rat race, outdated curriculum, etc. (I don't think there's sex ed in schools even).


> (I don't think there's sex ed in schools even).

Depending on the state, there isn't exactly sex ed in American schools either.


I am not to the point of saying 'no' to homework. But I am starting to question a few things.

First off, my situation is not the norm anymore. Not only am I the single earner in my 5 person household, but I work from home full time. I am extremely active in my kids lives.

My kids are very fortunate in that they always have one and often times both parents to help out with school work.

My oldest is 9 - 4th grade. I have a 5 year old in Junior-Kindergarten. Both have homework. (My 2 year old doesn't count here, except when he's literally eating their homework.)

I coach little league, and I talk to a lot of the parents. Some of the parents have kids in the same class as my 9 year old. These are households where both parents work and have more than one child in school.

There is a drastic difference in support that the children receive. Now, I'm not smart. I have a high school education from Arkansas, which is always fighting with Mississippi for the worst rank in education standards. However, I consider my problem solving skills outstanding. I am not doing my kids homework, but I do look at my kids homework. Every night. I help them sometimes. I get on the white board and we go over things. I have them teach the methods back to me.

It's a difference that just last night, a mother of one of the kids came up to me and was talking about the math homework they had today. Her daughter had spent an hour on it before the game and still doesn't get it. I hadn't even looked at the homework yet, so I asked my daughter what was going on with the math homework tonight. Her response? Oh yeah, that's super easy. You can look at it when we get home.

So you have something that takes at least 1 hour (I'll find out more about it later if anyone cares!) for one student compared to something that is a nonissue for another student. In 4th grade. That isn't really sustainable. And I'll go out on a limb here and say that her friend who is having a bit more trouble isn't dumb by any means. I've coached her for two years in softball. And we're not special in the other direction, either.

Oh yeah - my 5 year old in Jr K - she has monthly homework assignments. Things like gather fall leaves and glue them to a piece of paper. Trace your hand and stick leaves on it to make a bird. Fun things like that. Not real homework. But she does have things to do at home to gear her up for the future.

Anyways. There are my personal experiences with this stuff in California's central valley.


It's not easy for low SES students to learn much from homework.

Schools are designed by upper-middle-class people who care a lot about school. The problem students are from a very different background.

It's nice to say that teachers should be doing parenting for kids (building their self esteem, helping them develop as people, etc), but that's just glorified daycare. The poor students need to be taught to read, write, and do math, because that's what their parents can't help them with.

Education is meant to give every child a chance. I really think poor people have decent general cognitive skills (problem solving, relationships, etc), but really need a leg-up when it comes to formal academic work.

I don't think schools are really helping kids, when they shunt the fundamentals off to parents, as homework. 6 hours a day should be plenty to develop basic numeracy and literacy. But that's often not a priority to educators. It's more fun for teachers to tell themselves they're being parents - teaching kids how to develop as people.


I remember being a TA at uni, and taking a practical class on electricity with some first-years, one of the questions involved multiplying 4 by 0.2. One student reached for her calculator and I said "No, you're not allowed to use the calculator for that". She just stared at me like a doe frozen in headlights for a painful 10 seconds until I broke: "Okay, what's 4 by 2?" => "Ooohhhh".

Yes, different people have different aptitudes, but some people simply don't want to engage their brain. It's definitely a multivariate problem...


I see several issues with the ideas presented here. Firstly, the idea that a parent should have control over homework in any capacity seems like a misguided idea. Secondly, the article dances around ideas but never touches on the importance of the content of the homework. Not all worksheets are created equal and it follows that neither are all hours spent at home working. There are big differences from a pedagogical standpoint between homework designed to expand knowledge, evaluate proficiency, and provide mechanical practice (just to name a few).

In my opinion the whole issue stems from lack of standardization in education in this country. The huge variance, even at a regional scale, in the tools available to teach coupled with the lack of standardized methods for addressing the needs of a wide variety of students presents a system that is often going to regress to the lowest common denominator (often mechanical drudgery given the ease in creation and evaluation) .


     Firstly, the idea that a parent should have control over 
     homework in any capacity seems like a misguided idea
Full disclosure I'm a parent so biased. However with that said I know more about my child's workload than the teacher. The teacher knows how much homework they assign for "their" class. They don't know what the other classes assign. What extra curricular activities require or what chores the child has at home. Asking a Teacher to figure out the appropriate level of homework for a child is asking someone with inadequate information to make a decision on priorities. The person best suited to make an informed decision here is the parent.

EDIT: unbiased to biased.


I'll preface this response with the acknowledgement that the world is not ideal, and there are some fundamental problems underlying how classes are structured (largely due to the fact that evaluations are based on the achievement of the lowest performers) which poses institutional obstacles to efficient work assignments.

That being said, given the (in practice flawed) assumption that the work being assigned is something your child needs, it's a disservice to say some other home life takes higher priority than education. This is especially true given the additive nature of many topics. Imagine, in a contrived example, you veto the addition worksheet despite your child needing practice. How is he/she supposed to keep up in the next week's topic of multiplication?

In practice this falls apart if you have a high performing child, but, campaigning for funding for gifted programs or ,if you're particularly lucky, working with the teachers to get customized work is a far better investment than lobbying for the ability to just ignore the work.


You are assuming the education of a single class takes precedence over other classes, the education of extra curricular activities, and the education of chores at home. That is a large assumption that I'm pretty sure is invalid.

The crux of this problem is that time spent in school is poorly spent for a host of reasons. If you child spends close to 7 hours at school and none of that time was available for the work that is expected to be done at home then that imposes an undue burden on the child and the family.

Rather than insisting that the needs of a schools poor use of time should supersede the families needs perhaps the solution is to fix the poor use of time instead.


The metaphor that resonates with me as a musician, would you expect someone to get better at piano only by attending lessons but no practice at home?

Im not sure where you get the idea of poor time use from. Out of that 8 hours you need to fit lunch, recess, cumulative transition times, and at least 4 major academic topics (Math, Science, History, Language) plus hopefully a rotating time dedicated to the arts. And you want that to fit into 8 hours on top of the practice required to achieve mastery?

Finally, this is me making a value judgement. Just picking one class, math, I'll go out on a limb and say mastery of basic arithmetic is going to resonate much farther in a child's life than participating an extra hour in extra curricular or chores.


"The metaphor that resonates with me as a musician, would you expect someone to get better at piano only by attending lessons but no practice at home?"

If they were at lessons for 7 hours a day, five days a week... yes! Yes I in fact do.


Except children don't sit down at school and begin a "school lesson". Basic education is going to cover Math, Science, Language, History and hopefully Art. So in a given subject there might be 5 hours of lesson time week. When framed that way, asking for another hour or 2 of practice time for mastery doesn't sound so unreasonable.


Assuming that the homework is "practice" and not "instruction". A good bit of my older kid's homework is continuation of the instruction at home without the benefit of the teacher. Not that I fully blame the teacher for this, I blame the district for it as much, if not more.

But to continue the metaphor, I would expect a child receiving five one-hour lessons a week on piano to be proficient enough to show they have received lessons within a decent amount of time. Without extra practice. But what's the criteria to consider it a success? What amount of time? Do we consider whether the child has a natural talent for it in the equation? Personally, I don't think it's a good metaphor.


1 hour a day, every day, of each of the subjects you listed should be plenty. Anyways, anything longer than that is difficult for adults to pay attention to, let alone children.

If you had an hour per day of instruction/guided practice at the piano, you would absolutely get better. You probably wouldn't become a virtuoso, but the school system isn't designed to make people into virtuosos. That requires more practice.


> You are assuming the education of a single class takes precedence over (...) the education of extra curricular activities

I think this is sort of in the name, extra-curricular - as in, "in addition to the stuff that's the priority".

> and the education of chores at home

Here I will have to agree with 'lordCarbonFiber. You can't have teachers asking kids to do something and then let parents arbitrarily overrule them. One of the point of public education system is that the kid gets to learn something regardless of what parents think of it. You're probably a very responsible person, but the general population is a mix of people, some of whom have ideological reasons to reject parts of science, others simply don't like math, and many are just so overworked that they'll let the kid take a break at the first sign of difficulty. It's such a random mix that you have to enforce some rules, or else the kids will propagate further the faults of their parents.

> The crux of this problem is that time spent in school is poorly spent for a host of reasons. If you child spends close to 7 hours at school and none of that time was available for the work that is expected to be done at home then that imposes an undue burden on the child and the family.

Totally, 100% agree.


you're losing me with this. Parents, exhausted after work, kids already 7 hours of school, then there's this new set of chores to deal with instead of enjoying life, you know life, the finite thing that runs out.

that AND this goal of "education" you seem to have is not the actual goal for most people. My goal for me or my kids is not to "be educated" Just like a goal of a society is not to "have laws"


It's an investment sure and you're right in asserting that childhood is finite. Fortunately, the US is interesting in that they give you the freedom to home school. If knowledge isn't a priority we as a country give you the right to deny it to your child.

In my personal experience (and I suspect yours given you're on this site) my entire livelihood is dependent on my knowledge. For me, this was cultivated on the lattice of the public school system (K-12 to university) but I'll freely admit I was lucky in that respect. My personal dream is that every child gets the same opportunity.


Fortunately, the US is interesting in that they give you the freedom to home school. If knowledge isn't a priority we as a country give you the right to deny it to your child.

That you equate homeschooling with "denial of knowledge" makes me strongly question your intentions. If homeschooling is the denial of knowledge, we must also concede compulsory public schooling is the institutionalized withholding thereof.


I was homeschooled and I'm on this site. Homeschooling in fact is why I'm on this site and well employed in the lucrative world software development. Without homeschooling my education would have been far less than it was. In fact I was homeschooled because my parents saw that I was getting lost in the system and pulled me out of it.

You make a lot of statements without supporting evidence in this conversation.


I know a few people who've been home schooled. You would never be able to tell unless they told you (which is how I found out in every case)


I suspect the parent is referring to the nearly epidemic levels of religion driven homeschooling we have in the US. It's apparently totally acceptable to pull your child out of school and teach them dinosaurs didn't exist and that evolution is probably wrong.

Source: http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/oii/nonpublic/statisti...


> In my personal experience (and I suspect yours given you're on this site) my entire livelihood is dependent on my knowledge.

So does mine. And almost everything I know about tech, and about the science and the world came from avoiding learning in school and reading books instead, or playing computer games for 8 hours straight to the point I learned English, and then decided to make my own, and then bye bye homework (and grades) and listening to the teachers because I have programming books to read (I ended up having bad math grades for a while, but I caught up - getting into game development tends to make you very good at school-level math very quickly, sans the bullshit they usually teach you instead of actual understanding).

I don't want to say here that school is pointless - but the best people I know are either ones totally ok with discipline and systematic assignments, or people who ignore all that stuff and learn their own way. Most kids get neither full-in or full-out, so they get all the disadvantages of rote learning with none of the benefits of systematic practice.


it's a disservice to say some other home life takes higher priority than education

Schooling is not education, only a facsimile of it.


Giving parents veto power over associated work will not fix the problem that schooling is not education.

EDIT: I missed [lordCarbonFiber](https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10459743 )'s comment, saying the same but better.


Perfect is the enemy of better. There is huge room for improvement in our education system, but that doesn't mean we'd be better off with nothing.


There's nothing about perfection or relative improvement here. Traditional schooling is simply not an adequate model for education, but rather persists as a quasi-day care environment for occupied laborers to drop off their children to.

We probably would be better off with nothing. For one, abandoning compulsory public schooling will lead to an explosion in democratic, free, Sudbury and other alternative school models, as well as decrease the regulatory capture for homeschoolers and unschoolers. We are at a far better position than ever before in history to suitably practice autodidacticism on a mass scale, potentially with decentralized study groups, apprenticeships and democratic schools existing to augment and pool one's skills. Private universities will still exist and be able to focus more on research and less on being High School 2.0.

Not to mention such an arrangement would be more organic, in the sense of not constraining people to the uncanny artificial environment of public schooling, which does not mirror any other oft-seen real life institution. It's an odd syncretic chimera of its own.


Which is not what the poster above was saying at all. Public schooling is a necessity because not everyone can afford to homeschool or hire a personal tutor for their children. That point is not under dispute.

However denying parents the input of their far superior knowledge regarding the workload their child has as well as implying (intended or not) that the homework situation does not need improvement is denying the very real problem that kids are stressed and overworked. Some as early as kindergarten.

One perfect valid grass roots solution to this is for parents to push back against the school. And unless schools start changing it's the only solution available to parents of those stressed and overworked children.


Firstly, the idea that a parent should have control over homework in any capacity seems like a misguided idea.

Why, may I ask? It seems intuitive to me that the school's influence over the student ends when class is over and they return back to their families.

And regarding standardization in education - that is what leads to a regression to the lowest common denominator (see the non-religious criticism directed at common core), not a lack of standardization. Ideally there would be fewer students per teacher (in a perfect world: 1-1) who are able to tailor the curriculum to the person, rather than trying to shoehorn ~30 kids of varying skills and interests into a one size fits all class measured by a one size fits all standardized test.


Exposure to information is just the first piece in the puzzle. Imagine, for example, you went to piano lessons but didn't practice at all at home.

For the second point, I think we agree just have an impedance mismatch. When I speak of educational standardization I'm not talking to the idea that every kid takes home the same worksheets. Instead it's the idea that teachers have a better pool of tools and resources so they can address the needs to the students. In a perfect world we can have class sizes at ~10 (I think there is value in learning community that you lose if you take it much smaller than that) segregated by student ability. However, lacking the funding and push for that, these tools could be used to help teachers fully meet the needs of these larger class sizes as well as make the entire process more transparent.


> In my opinion the whole issue stems from lack of standardization in education in this country.

I think the real problem is a lack of standardization in humans in this country. If all children were identical in form and function, as well as all parents, it would be dramatically more efficient to teach them.


Playing Devil's advocate to your last point - standardization of curriculum (including handouts), is a dangerous game as students get older. When every classroom is taught the same, with the same lectures, notes, and handouts, the incentive to pay attention in class dwindles as the resources available for that class increase.

A better example may be a typical college course. Most freshman courses at any large University can have an upward of 500+ students. Depending on how the Professor conducts their class, some students may find it is not worth their time to attend class or complete homework themselves, when it's more time-advantageous to simply scheme with others in the course. If you want a tangible example, pull up your favorite "study" site (StudyBlue, Quizlet, CourseHero, Chegg) and view the plethora of paywalled material for classes.

Of course, as class size shrinks, this advantage drops, combined with tougher content, typically better incentives students to attend class and complete homework individually, rather than as a group.


I would rather see less standardization and more diversity in teaching methods. All of my children learn differently and would benefit being able to go to schools that match teaching style with learning style.


The problem with homework is it's used as a form of accountability. My French teacher used to joke when collecting papers : "Ou est votre dette a la societe?" (Apologies for missing accents.)

Of course what it should be is like at university. The professor can't spend all his time with you, so you get a rough list of what you should know about. It's then up to you to judge whether you need to read a bit more or a bit less.

The point is judgement. You can figure out when you understand something. You don't need a whole page of quadratic equations, in fact you don't understand it if you get to the end and think you need more. OTOH, if you only do the first two and you think you get it, you might be enlightened when you look at some further questions.

As a parent, it means instead of asking the teacher for more homework, which will annoy them, you can simply ask your kid some enlightening questions. It's probably a lot more interesting for them that way.


> ... you can simply ask your kid some enlightening questions. It's probably a lot more interesting for them that way.

Part-time (law) professor here. Thinking of enlightening questions is often quite difficult.


> Thinking of enlightening questions is often quite difficult.

And this is a big piece of the problem with homework. Enlightening questions could be asked as homework, but various forces create an emphasis on quantity over quality.

As someone who's taught arithmetic to lots of adults, I use 'enlightening' in a broad sense. I hope most of us agree that grasping arithmetic requires practice (in or out of class), but that's not the same as repetition. Even simple arithmetic problems can be varied in deliberate ways that draw students' attention to those variations and at the same time reinforce the underlying pattern.


Asking about their assumptions on simple examples is a good start. And then asking about situation that break these assumptions.

It's a little evil but that makes it fun:) Example from the time I helped sister clear confusion between accelration and velocity:

- what's acc and vel of a rock lying on a ground (not 0 - a vector 0)

- ... of a car slowing down (vectors that poin in opposite directions)

- ... of a rock swinging on a rope (non-parallel vectors, one of them changing in direction)

I'm feeling for the teachers that have to teach something to 30+ kids without having the time to ask them about their wrong assumptions. Must be frustrating as hell when you see they don't understand, but can't help them with the time you have.


This is where I think technology and legislation can really be helpful. A standardized structure for encouraging the top achievers combined with a national database of templates and problems to accommodate the wide spectrum of students would go along way.


> Of course what it should be is like at university. The professor can't spend all his time with you, so you get a rough list of what you should know about. It's then up to you to judge whether you need to read a bit more or a bit less.

This does not reflect common US practice.


As a university level instructor, we still give homework and it's still a big part of the student's grades. It's still up to the student to decide if that's enough, but accountability is there. The students do not tend to ask themselves if they understand the material until they are in their later years of schooling.

I strongly dislike dealing with more homework so I tend to spot check and count participation in the exercise. Realizing that I only have three classes and not many students per class, I don't know how K-12 can possibly handle homework in any way but purely participation. They tend to have hundreds of students split among ~6 classes a day to deal with.


The way it is handled at large research universities is through rigorous testing. They don't care if you show up to class, they don't care if you do the homework, but the midterm and final are brutally difficult and count for 50-75% of your grade. You learn very quickly how much homework you need to do, or you fail. Personally, I find that approach far better than counting class exercises, participation, or any other subjective assessments.


> You don't need a whole page of quadratic equations, in fact you don't understand it if you get to the end and think you need more. OTOH, if you only do the first two and you think you get it, you might be enlightened when you look at some further questions.

You do a couple of them and you get superficial understanding. You might even have a decent mechanical grasp of how it works. But I'm yet to meet someone who can take topics of adequate complexity and actually internalise them without a fairly large amount of (progressively harder) repetition


"ceci est votre dette à la société?"


I graduated from high school recently. Homework was the true bane of my existence. It gnawed at my every waking thought and put a tinge of anxiety to my every moment. Am I doing it? Did I forget some? What do I need to be doing that Im not? The entire school experience is a depressing prison of course but homework is how it goes from an seven hour affair to a twenty four hour project. More than anything else it makes sure youre always at school, always worried about the evaluation of unrespectable teachers and disgusting sadists.

You start to wonder if theres a way out, like any prisoner examining the prison with obsessive dedication. You follow the vine to its end and back pacing your room going through the mental anguish of knowing youre trapped and theres nothing you can do about it. (http://steve-yegge.blogspot.fr/2008/10/programmers-view-of-u...) I used to have this fantasy where Id go down to the school building in the middle of the night when nobody is there with a barrel of kerosene. Id douse the schoolhouse walls with the fetid substance and light it ablaze, laughing as the walls go up in smoke before throwing myself on the tickling flames crying and screaming and laughing in agony as I burn.

Im so glad to be free.


I'm with you. I'm 28 now, working as a software engineer, and I'm loving my life. I roll into work at 10:30 and yesterday I got a raise without having to ask or negotiate for it. I have the time and money to pursue hobbies, but I also genuinely enjoy my coworkers.

But high school was _rough_ for me. My grades weren't especially good, but I did a lot of AP classes. I constantly had the anxiety of homework looming over me. Looking back, I realized that I got into the state where I'd be behind on a lot of things, and once I had 5 different things on my plate it'd be really hard to prioritize them and I'd just stress myself out trying to balance them.

I'd like to have children someday, but I know that there's a chance they're going to inherit my style of thinking. (My dad is the same as me-- he also graduated college just barely, also procrastinated too much in high school.) I'd really like to find some alternate form of school that still challenges my kids, but does so in a way that doesn't explode their stress levels.


The best thing my school did was moving to the 'block' system. Instead of having 6 or 8 classes to go to every day, I had 4 classes a semester. It also meant that my algebra class, or biology, was twice as long as your 'standard' class at another school.

The block system meant that the instructor had twice as long with the students and could really dig into a subject. It also meant we didn't usually have homework because it wasn't necessary-the instructor taught, we learned, we drilled on it in class.


We had block schedule with 4 classes per day, but alternated days for 8 classes total. Long, 100 minute class periods allowed for lecture+homework/help time during the day.

Fridays were an alternate set of interesting classes, from SAT prep, to bowling, to computer programming. I couldn't recommend this system more. If you must have public school, this is a great way to structure it.


The school in my first high school school district did that, and had disastrous results. Too much time between related courses (essentially 9 months between each math class).

I preferred the way my second high school did it. We still had 8 periods a day (magnet school, so the regular schools had 7). Monday was everything, it was a busy day. Odd classes on TR, even on WF. So you only had to do homework for 3-4 classes a night. And you had the benefits of nearly two hours of instruction most days.

It was more like college structure, but with additional courses (where most college students take 4-6 classes a semester, we took 6-8; some of our classes took multiple periods).


This is important. Homework is a poor substitute for class time. If education budgets permitted schools to stay open later in the day, time spent on homework could be spent in class. Plus, the block system is a better approximation of university.


Why the all or nothing approach? At my high school, I think we have a great policy for math homework (I am the teacher). It is assigned every day but never checked or graded. At the beginning of each class we go over any problems the students had trouble with, then move on. Students eventually reach an equilibrium where they figure out how much time they personally need to spend each night on math homework. For students who are failing tests and doing no homework, we generally suggest they do a little more.


This is totally the way to go. In my experience (I was in high school '92-'95 so this is dated), this method worked great in the advanced classes, but a lot of the remedial and "normal" track classes still focused heavily on rote memorization and quantity of work, for whatever reasons. The fact is, the best students will succeed no matter what, either because they have supportive families & social groups or because they're autodidacts, so the challenge is tackling the other 80%.

In your experience, does this method work equally well no matter what the class is or who the students are?


It seems to work equally well for advanced and non-advanced students, it's just that the normal track students take a little longer to figure what the "right amount" of homework for them to do is.


Saying 'no' to homework doesn't go far enough, IMHO. They should be saying 'no' to the entire abominable structure of schooling.


Hmm. The article alludes to some studies that back up their point, but, anecdotally, I think I got more out of doing homework than I did out of sitting in class...


IMO the problem is not work, the problem is homework.

It's pretty well accepted that the sweet spot for working a job is around 40 hours a week. Go beyond that consistently and your productivity starts to fall off, to the point where you may well get less done than you would have if you worked less.

School is basically a student's job. Their output is learning. Surely the same thing applies? Yet we have the students "work" 40 hours a week at school, then have them "work" even more once they get home. If you go to school for 8 hours a day, then you have two hours of homework a day including weekends, you're "working" 54 hours/week.

By all means, give the students assignments. But they should be assignments the students can complete during school hours. If you don't have time for that, then maybe you should cut back on instructional hours.


I tried to do all my homework while in class. But I hated and did terribly at doing homework at home.


This right here is the core of a world of problems. Data contradicts gut feeling. Data must be wrong.


PS: In response to a deleted post.

As a counter argument, doing homework can easily train people to do thing wrong thing which takes a lot of effort to correct.

That does not preclude doing. In many cases mixing in 'homework' with class work is probably a much better use of time. AKA ask everyone what 57+49 is give them 30 seconds. Collect answers. Fix errors. Repeat.


I deleted the post because after 30 seconds I thought it was insufficiently well thought out and written. :-)

In many cases mixing in 'homework' with class work is probably a much better use of time. AKA ask everyone what 57+49 is give them 30 seconds. Collect answers. Fix errors. Repeat.

Agreed. My school classroom experiences were mostly passive listening. The few that mixed listening with reading with doing, right there in the classroom, were marvelous. Little if any extra homework needed.

If that would be done? I think that'd be great. But if the proposal is just passive lectures in class and that's it, I remain unconvinced.


Data and anecdotes are rarely actually contradictory; by combining data, which can demonstrate broad trends with authority (while taking special care to avoid giving extrapolated conclusions the same authority as what is actually shown), with anecdotes, which can fill in detail by suggesting what factors may cause some cases to defy the broad trends, one can come to a broader understanding of a situation.


Exactly! This dovetails with the Khan Academy approach, of listening to lecture online, then doing homework in class with the teacher there as tutor. Public school is usually run upside-down from what makes sense.


I don't agree with this comment, but it's a shame that it was downvoted. It seems to me like a productive contribution to the discussion.


What data do you have to back that up?


Believe it or not, but I did a fairly detailed study of public schools. I spent nearly two waking years over more than a decade auditing and participating in 50+ classes at levels from K to pre-university, across ten or more schools.

I know people will respond with "Anecdotes aren't data", but that's incorrect - they're just really badly sampled. Even if my experiences are uncommon they're enough for me to recognize errors and overly broad assumptions in other people's work.


That's more of an indictment on how bad classes are than how beneficial homework can be.


This sounds again like a problem of a system that is trying to educate a thousand different kids with a thousand different lifestyles and a thousand different home lives and a thousand different living situations all the same way, because it still operates on the basis of the organization system of the industrial revolution. Hell, we still organize our kids by their date of manufacture.

Every time I read one of these it reads like "We're trying to make this 1940's era system work but it just keeps sucking more and more" and yet every time someone says we should just obliterate this thing and come up with something better, they always get shouted down by the educational establishment.

unquietcode up there has a great thought, and I know I'm deep in it, but yes, I got successful in howling opposition to, not because of the education system. We sit our kids in tiny desks and have them do clerical work for 9 hours a day while high school dropouts drive Bugatti's and we wonder how our kids intrinsically know that school is worthless.


"Let kids be kids" means something different for each household. In mine, that meant video games and sports, but mostly the former.

Not sure what's going to come of any no-homework generation while this happens elsewhere:

"Teens in Shanghai spend 14 hours a week on homework" http://qz.com/311360/students-in-these-countries-spend-the-m...


When I was in elementary school in the 90s, they used to try to scare us into working harder by telling us stories about how Japanese kids went to school half a day on Saturday.

When my parents were in school it was about keeping up with the Soviets.

These days, it's kids in Shanghai doing 14 hours a week of homework.


I remember half-day Saturdays!

It was more of a global thing in Japan. Many workers actually did half a day on Saturday, so naturally were schools. Most of companies adopted 5 working day per week perhaps around the end of 80th.

School was a bit late on this one, when I was in Japan (1st year in middle school; 1992) was when they were start transitioning from 5.5 to 5. Although, I have only experienced having only second Saturday of a month off.

After I left Japan, in 1995, they've transitioned to 2nd and 4th Saturdays off, but It was not until 2002 schools in Japan transitioned to complete 5 day a week schedule.


We actually had 6-day studing week in Soviet Union in the school. There were normally two schifts, one ca. 8-13 and the other one ca. 14-19. After school or before school we had a few hours of homework every day, I'd say between 2 and 3 hours. More in the later classes as we were preparing for the university.


I figured I'd share a relevant anecdote: throughout most of my school (at least by seventh grade) I did virtually no homework. Not with the blessing of my teacher, nor of my parents. But I knew that my parents wanted to shut their eyes and pretend that my grades were improving for as long as they could until the report card came home. I knew that most teachers could be convinced into letting me make up some work at the end of the quarter to turn my Ds into Cs if need be. And I knew that without doing the homework, I could still swing a 90% or greater in the remaining assignments.

I could sit down in class and be fully engaged an learn everything I need to and more. While I avoided some higher-level classes because often they were just the same as the regular classes with more homework, most of the classes I took were of the advanced level. I wasn't just coasting.

I repeatedly tried throughout high school to change my habits, but for various reasons, many personal, these attempts were doomed to fail.

I know I'm not the average case, but clearly homework is not at all necessary for every kid to do well in school. Other commentors have given the opposite anecdote, saying they did only homework and did well. I think maybe we should accept that these grading policies should be tailored to the student. At the risk of just rambling off my life story, I'm going to continue to show how these homework problems affected me beyond high school.

Despite these problems, I was admitted to a good state university. I had a 3.0ish GPA because I brought it up with easy A classes like band, and because I had several classes that where homework comprised only 5-10% of the grade. I guess that. combined with my above-average extracurriculars got me in. I then essentially flunked out after two semesters.

It's not that I didn't have the study habits. They were probably lacking a little for the academic environment, but I definitely knew how learn independently. I was just so completely used to ignoring my academic responsibilities that I couldn't stop. When you've been saying "I don't need to do this homework" for years, it's very easy to say "I don't need to study this thing" even though you know very well that you have a lapse in understanding.

I'm convinced that I would have done at least somewhat better in college if only not doing homework in high school didn't feel like not doing something that I had to do; if my parents and teachers hadn't treated not doing homework as a bad thing. Obviously it was in fact a bad thing, but it didn't have to be.


Yeah, I could share a similar anecdote. I went through most of my school years ignoring as much homework I could get away with while still keeping good grades (the unspoken rule at home was that A-C were ok, anything below was unacceptable). I could learn a lot from just listening to the teacher during lesson and an occasional skimming on textbooks, and any significant effort that I put was just before important exams. This has served me well in some ways - I owe most of my general knowledge as well as the whole career to basically ignoring school and doing whatever the hell I wanted (it happened to be programming).

But then the university started, and by the third year I was in full panic mode, fighting fires. Not because things were hard, but because I've never learned the necessary endurance for systematic work (and powering through make-work bullshit). I ended up just with BSc, because I didn't give my Masters thesis in time. I had probably the most ambitious project in the entire year, but I didn't manage to wrap it up to into an acceptable Masters project (simultaneously working full-time at the time didn't help).

The end result is, I didn't learn discipline. The very things that enabled me to pursue software career are the things that are now seriously damaging my work output. That's the flip side of going for what intrests you - the modern workplace is something where you mostly have to power through boring things. Being self-educated can actually make you misadapted to the society if you don't learn some discipline along the way.

It's funny - most of the people I worked along with were hard-working but struggling to become good programmers. I was already a decent programmer; I was the one struggling to become a good employee.


Did you happen to have a job during high school?


No, I wanted to work, but my parents wouldn't allow it because they felt it would make my academic performance even worse.


I get the feeling it would have actually improved your academic performance. It worked for quite a few people I know.


I was extremely lucky in my work life, I am successful as entrepreneur and I believe it is because of the way I was raised as a kid in Spain.

When I went out of the school I was free to do whatever I wanted to do. I never did homework but was good student, not brilliant, because I considered the extra effort was not worth it, as the extra effort for better grades was not linear but exponential.

I took school seriously when I was in the school but when I am out, I am out. I rode my bike, I played soccer with my friends, I did swim in lakes or pools, I climbed mountains, I camped in the forest.

All those experiences gave me probably as much as the school and trained me for free environments.

I see the world as an environment I can change and I do routinely. Most people can't and I believe it is because they were trained to be good in controlled environments but just can't "think out of the box" because of their education that was so controlled.

I have seen miserable kids with not a single moment of freedom in their day. A girl of my class graduated with honors in the University, got tenure and suicided. She was miserable if she did not made perfect exams, her parents were like crazy "life is work and sacrifice" nazis.

They were not expected to choose their own paths, to make decisions, but were expected to follow others to be good guys.

Most of the best entrepreneurs I know of had problems in the school. Most of them wanted to do things on their own early on and the adult response was repression.


I'm really not sure if abandoning homework is a good idea. I went to school in the Soviet Union/Russia, we had ca. 5 hours school a day and around 2-3 hours of homework, 6 days a week. I surely can't provide solid scientific evidence linking homework to results in learning, but I don't think it was unreasanable.

I have to admit, I mostly remember math homework, I loved math and loved math homework, it was always great fun to hack those problems and then problems with * and and * (stars for the higher difficulty). We learned concepts in the class, but we also needed to train mechanics with pure repetition. Some commenters wrote about scaling - I think repetition is exactly something which scales well in the homework, you don't really need to do this in the class with a teacher.

The same for foreign language, for instance. You don't really need a teacher a classroom to memorize new words, that's perfect for the homework.

So I don't think homework is unreasonable, I think it's a valid approach to "outsource" mechanical/repetitive tasks which don't require classroom or supervision.

Having said that, 7 hours of school PLUS 2-3 hours of homework is definitely too much.


It seems like the only skill that homework really builds is tolerance for being micromanaged, which I'm not sure is a good skill anyways.

I recall (with angst) the ridiculous way that homework was graded in school (x% of credit taken away for every day the assignment was late). This sets people up for a terrible relationship with work by making them focus on short-term rewards/penalties instead of longer term goals, while disadvantaging individuals who don't respond well to such a micromanaged model.

If we really want kids to develop well-rounded skills, we should make work about longer term projects, whose goal is very well articulated and its purpose is clear to students.

At the least, we should provide multiple paths for students to make the grade, one based on homework for those who naturally do well with that environment, and another based on long term projects for those who are naturally more "bursty" in their learning process. You can still administer tests/quizzes for both types of learners to gauge their progress.


We opted out of a 9/10 greatschools.org public school by second grade due, in part, to excessive homework in early elementary school (and also because of an obsession with standardized tests).

My son had 15-20 minutes a night of homework in kindergarten and even more in first grade. He was a "late" (by US standards) reader, which meant that he could not be responsible for reading the instructions doing his homework himself. These nightly homework sessions were pure misery for our family. After 2 years, we felt that all they were achieving was to drum any love of learning out of our son.

After 2 years in a Montessori-like school, he's reading well above grade level, doing well at math, loving science, and has transferred to a new school with a Spanish immersion program. I feel that if he'd stayed in public school, he'd be well on the way to having "learning problems"


I am a sophomore in high school. In fact, I attend the same school as Zach Masterman in the article (Harriton High School), and he is in one of my classes. My one refute to his complaints is that perhaps he would have less homework if he played less games in class. Quips aside, here are my two cents.

I certainly do not agree that all out of class work should be abolished. However, I do think there is a threshold at which it becomes too much. As I presume many of us on this website can relate to, there is lots to be gained through personal study and developing good individual working habits. Many students tend to complain about being forced to go to bed late, however I am willing to bet that many of these students (myself included) sometimes push their assignments back to later in the night and could go to bed earlier with more efficient scheduling. This certainly does not always hold true, sometimes there is just that much to do.

Being a three season athlete I have a little less time than others, however I have found academic success. In general an HN appropriate modification of the "time triangle" (http://cdn1.theodysseyonline.com/files/2015/09/02/6357682979...) has held mostly true:

Pick 3 for the day: Sleep, Academics, Sports, Programming OR Social Engagements

Also, a note about my school. It is in the notorious Lower Merion School District, which is known for collecting lots of money in property taxes from the local old money who send their kids to private school. Thus, they have lots to spend per student (every student is given a new Macbook Air at the beginning of freshman year to rent for 4 years. They receive the exact same laptop every year, to incentivize keeping it in good shape. Only cost to student is $80 insurance deposit per year. The program is extremely successful.), every teacher is paid very well, great facilities, and they perform very well as a school. There is also a competitive academic culture: you are expected to do well at Harriton, and many do. Where homework plays in that equation is unclear, but take it how you will.

My final point is that not everyone who isn't doing homework is sitting around watching TV or playing on their phones. Some have found a passion in something like programming, and actively pursue those passions in their free time (working on side projects, or perhaps even trying to build a company). Our district even provides a mini incubator with small amounts of seed money, free mentorship, and summer office space.


> Where homework plays in that equation is unclear, but take it how you will.

Sure, in the enriched environment you describe students are more likely to have the motivation to make the effort to learn and succeed. I'd guess you and your classmates are engaged with the educational process, ready, even eager to learn. Doing homework would seem the natural thing to do.

By all means it's right to take advantage of such favorable circumstance. The issue for schools and students not so blessed is creating this kind of benefit. The goal won't be achieved by strengthening the factory approach to education. Piling on bureaucracy, "performance" testing, etc. will not help, rather just lead to more discouragement.

I think great examples, like the one you present, give a clue. Find talented teachers (I've known a number of them, they do exist) and leave them unencumbered, let them teach. They will reach some students, and it will begin to inspire others. Perhaps they will assign homework, but then if we offer help to parents and students so they can cope with it better, homework would serve constructive purpose in augmenting learning.

Technology can add to the cause, but by itself is no answer. Used wisely it may play a useful role in evolving solutions, that is, realizing it's a means to an end.


I am continually shocked by how willing people are to opine, completely sans any data except for their own (worthless) anecdotes, when it takes less than 5 seconds to google “homework meta-analysis”.

Believe it or not, scientists have studied whether homework is worth doing before. You know, using science. Here’s one example of such a meta-analysis: https://larrycuban.files.wordpress.com/2011/06/review-of-edu...

Unsurprisingly (to me at least), homework is positively associated with improved academic performance.

Was that really so hard? Was it really easier to bloviate, as nearly everyone seems wont to do, than to actually pursue the evidence?


The main benefit of homework is instilling the habit of working to a deadline without direct supervision, instead of giving in to distractions.


You can get similar benefits by giving kids chores at home. Bonus: Chores at home are typically more meaningful than homework. Homework is often "make work." But the trash actually needs to be taken out for reasons of basic sanitation to protect your health and quality of life. So you aren't teaching kids their lives and labor so do not matter that we can have them simply piss their lives away on make work.


So I guess maybe my schools were too easy on the homework - I managed to slip through doing as little as I could, electing for self-driven learning instead (known to me as "whoa, this thing is cool!" when I was a kid), and the end result is that I absolutely can't do bullshit work on a deadline without direct supervision. It makes me feel at the same time both smart and totally unfit for the contemporary workplace.


Me too, my friend. I've spent too much time here this week because I have something important I'm putting off. Sigh.


As a current high school student (at a private high school that is consistently ranked as one of the top in the country, so AMA if you want), homework sucks. That is true.

But the benefit to homework is that it teaches time management skills. Thanks to having hours of homework every night, I have learned to manage my time very well. For example, I spent the summer working in a University Lab. While there I spent ~10 hours a day at work, yet this still felt like a vacation to me. So yes, being busy sucks--but it ensures that students will learn how to manage their time effectively.


School starts at 8AM around here and ends at 3:30PM with a 30 minute lunch break. 4 classes in the morning and 3 in the afternoon of 55 minutes each with 5 minutes between classes to get to the locker and to a different classroom. Around 32 hours of instruction and work per week. That's close to a full time job, and some people want the students to do 2-3 hours of homework a night?

If schools must, increase the school day by 30 minutes or an hour, but that's enough. Other things are just as important as school.


The real argument is not about whether we need homework or not. It's more about can you learn more than 7 hours or so a day? Kids are at school from 8-3 being taught by the teachers and then they have to spend an another 30min to 1hour at home. This is just too much.

Homeworks are important. It's the only time that they can think by themselves and put what they learn in practice. But after being taught so long at school, kids are tired to learn. They want to play!


30min to 1 hour of homework is too much? If they have seven periods a day and we assume they only average homework from each class once every few days, then the kids only have 20 minutes of homework per class. That should be the minimum for a homework assignment, not the maximum. Less time that than and no knowledge reinforcement is happening because the homework is too easy.


I HATED homework. I can honestly say that it's one of the main reasons I didn't have a fun time at school, since these things tend to snowball out of control.

Don't do your homework -> get into trouble -> teachers thing you're * -> etc.

When universities started to doing the same (in my country) I just quit. Now I work in tech, I love my job. And the best part is that I thought all the skills I needed to myself without the huge (wasteful) drains on free time.


I never did homework in school.

Got a lot of hate from the teachers, but it only lowered my grades one mark.

Finished school with C+ so with homework I'd probably got B+

When I got home I played video games and later surfed the Internet and chatted all day.

This changed massively when I started my undergrad studies. I didn't have to come to university, like I had to go to school, so I stayed at home. After I failed all my Math classes in the first semester I started working at home really hard in the second semester to get all the Math done. After the first year I knew how to find out what was expected in the exams, something I was missing in school. I stopped showing up at classes and just created a list of stuff that was needed for the exams. I learned this at home a month or a week before the exam and kept working/partying the rest of the semester.

For my post-grad studies I switched to a remote university entirely and saved a bunch of time and money with this.

Since I had to work with remote teams on group projects in the post-grad studies, I also decided that I wanted to work remote in my 'regular' job also.

Long story short, I hated homework as a kid, now I only do "homework".


The thing that sucked about homework wasn't the fact that it was doing 'work' at 'home'... it was that it was often rote, boring, and time consuming work that did little to stimulate the brain.


This issue seems to go back and forth. Here's an argument in the Atlantic a few years ago arguing for more homework (for kids who struggle in school).

http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2013/09/poor-st...


I didn't see anything from the side of parents who want more homework. Why are some parents asking for more? Are their children misbehaving? Are their children not learning the material? I am guessing that homework doesn't automatically make up for a school's or teachers' shortcomings.


I've seen parents argue for more homework so that homework would make up a larger percentage of the students grade in an attempt to make up for the fact that their child is a "Bad test taker".

It always bothered me because a grade should reflect the percentage of the material you actually learned. Not be just an accounting of how many hours you spent trying to learn it.


It always bothered me because a grade should reflect the percentage of the material you actually learned. Not be just an accounting of how many hours you spent trying to learn it.

Well, the argument in those cases is that tests aren't always a reliable indicator of the material being learned. Speaking from my experience, I was a great test taker in high school, and they rarely indicated my actual knowledge of the material. It's not hard for me to imagine plenty of students having the opposite problem.


I learned the most from _good_ homework assignments. These assignments were always multi-week (1-2) affairs. They were big, complicated, and covered a lot of things. But, since they weren't due within a day, they gave me the time to really work at them. To rack my brain against their problems and discover, on my own, how to solve them. Of course, I almost always needed to talk with my TAs, professor, and fellow students multiple times throughout the assignment. And this made me become pro-active about seeking help, which I use on a daily basis in the real world.

Worksheets? Yes, I never learned a damn thing from these time wasters. I feel that mini-projects are the way to go.


> An elementary school in Gaithersburg, Md., has banned homework altogether in favor of 30 minutes of nightly reading.

Is this reading that's supposed to go on at home? I'm now confused as to how the article is trying to define homework.

But yeah, when I was in school there'd be 8 hours at school, then 3 hours of homework. And the homework was all busy work and the time spent in school was mostly pointless as well. School probably killed my innate desire to learn more than anything else in my life. It took me a while after I graduated enjoy it again.


I know a family in South Korea with children, who wakes up at 7 am for Grade school until 1 PM. Go to English academy the next hour, then goes to several other academies of Math, Science, Music. Comes home exhausted at 7-8 pm but has to do online tutorials for English. Plus the homework after that. The parents pity their child. But they said they don't have any choice. The classmates are too competitive. If they stop doing that their child may look stupid in school. This is pathetic. But how to stop?


The vast majority of homework has little direct value.

The real problem is many classes are poorly structured and need to crutch of outside work to cover the material. Even in college I often found reading the textbook was more useful and faster than attending class.

PS: I still remember many math classes where attendance took 5 minutes, then 30 seconds of (new idea! yay), followed by 40 minutes of mind numbing boredom.


I really hate how so many of my classes in college have mandatory assistance. In a lot of my classes the professor just poorly summarized the textbook.

I think some courses could take inspiration from my English classes. In them, we had to read (novel or literary criticism paper) by ourselves, but in class we only asked questions, discussed the works and got help with our writing. I don't know if this can be applied to Computer Science classes, but I liked it a lot.


Oh it can definitely be applied to computer science classes. At my college, most computer science classes had optional lectures and were heavily project based. Some of the slower or less experienced students went to lecture (usually less than 1/3 of the class) but most students skipped it. Instead, we would work on our projects and go to office hours for one on one assistance with a ta or prof if we needed help. This was expected behavior and they made tons of hours open to the students so it worked great.


The preponderance of homework in primary and secondary school is striking compared to college, where there are plenty of classes where the entire load of work to be turned in is two or three moderate-length papers.


If you want to get good at something you have to put in the work. I wonder what would have happened if MJ didn't put in time into practice.


A lot of kids that show promise in something outside of school get a free pass on homework. I wonder what would have happened if MJ was too buried under homework to get in any practice time.


Whatever, Michael Jackson came out of the womb singing! Sha-moh!


I'm good with a bit of homework when the kids are not too little; there's something to say for sitting down by yourself and trying to focus and figure things out or memorize a little bit (it can be done at school too or instead of at home); if students don't have a minimum of study habits, how are they going to go about hard STEM courses in universities?


As a SCRUM teacher, I do 2 hours of talking, with Q&A, and then 3 hours of practical where we put the LEGO version of the Daily Bugle together.

I learned LONG ago that my students learned so much more by DOING than by lecture. As children, why would it be reversed with homework? If anything, I should reduce the talking and add more Lego fun for kids.


I think homework is necessary for some subjects, like math and physics, because practice is where the learning comes from IMHO. In other subjects, homework is anachronistic. I think we should extend the school day like Japan, and build homework and social networks into the school setting.


You want to _extend_ an 8 hour day even further?


I don't know about the U.S. but in Toronto school ran from 8:45am to 3:15pm which is 6.5 hours. My poor dad had to shift his schedule to work 7:15 to 3:15 to pick me up. It would have made a lot more sense to extend the school day by 1.5h to a standard 8h day and not assign homework.


When I was in school (admittedly, 15 years ago...), I got on the bus at 7am and got off at 3pm. This was in upstate New York.


Absolutely! Asian and European schools have longer days, and the social activities of the kids are based in and around the school. I think it's safer, promote learning and socialization in a structured environment, and it takes pressure off of parents to worry about their children at home alone, while they're still at work. Just add an hour to the school day. Use that hour to review with the kids what they did in school that day, any questions they have, and get them started on reviewing that learning.


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