Homework is one of those issues in education guaranteed to start an argument among educators and parents. Some would say that students need a steady diet of it in order to improve learning while others say it has little or no value, with plenty of points of view in between. The odd thing is that many parents seem to come down on both ends of the spectrum: they believe children need homework but they object when it interferes with their family plans. I think we know where the vast majority of kids fall.
To the outrage of many parents (and others) in his community, a headmaster in England decided to eliminate homework at his school. More importantly, however, doing away with that moldy tradition is just one part of a more comprehensive overhaul of teaching and learning at the school.
"I have spent the last four years re-engineering our school’s curriculum for the 21st century and one thing I have become very much aware of is that homework is a 20th-century concept whose time has long gone."
"Pupils should not be sponging ideas off their teachers: they should be taught to have their own ideas".
St John’s has been at the forefront of radical educational change since becoming one of the first schools to test a futuristic project by the Royal Society for the Arts that holds the point of school is not to acquire subject knowledge but to encourage pupils to ‘love learning for its own sake’.
The no-homework plan is Hazlewood’s latest step in this project, seeing his Year Seven pupils (11- and 12-year-olds) encouraged to think around long-term projects at home instead of being asked to complete set tasks.
Back here in the states, most teachers still assign homework regularly. But, if the principal won’t ban it, maybe students can get the courts to forbid homework. At least over the summer. A student in Wisconsin is suing the state to end summer homework in the state because "it creates an unfair workload and unnecessary stress" and interfered with his summer job.
I could easily argue on both sides of this complaint (the homework was for an honors class the student would start in the fall) but there’s an issue behind the law suit that comes from another moldy educational tradition. The kid and his father argue that "homework shouldn’t be required after the required 180-day school year is over".
The concept that learning only occurs during a fixed number of days is one of the greatest impediments to educational reform in this country. It’s time to throw out that traditional 180-day school calendar, along with the incredibly wasteful opening and closing process most schools go through each year. Along with the traditional homework assignment, they are all artifacts of the last century.