“We don’t need no education, we don’t need no thought control” – Pink Floyd
The legendary rock band hailing from London were truly before their time. One just has to look at the state of modern American public education to realize how prescient Pink Floyd’s lyrics were.
In yet another step towards the stupification of the American schoolchild (first was the proposal of a four day school week – you know, so the precious darlings can recharge their wittle batteries), some school districts are now proposing an end to homework.
Nobody ever claimed that the halls of Ridgemont High – eerily reflective of life in a real American high school – were the bastion of academia. Private schools have always existed for a reason, and for the most part they have offered a superior education. But – to state the obvious – public schools exist for a reason: to educate, and to do a reasonably good job at educating, despite a child’s familial means.
But follow the latest headlines regarding public education in the United States, and you’d be forgiven for thinking it was Jeff Spicoli, not Mr. Hand, who was coming up with the curriculum and ideas to “improve” the state of America’s public schools.
American 15-year-olds ranked 38th among 71 qualifying countries in math and 24th in science, at last count. Considering that the United States ranked fourth in the total amount of money spent on education, those returns are nothing short of abysmal.
The clear conclusion from the disparity between spending on primary public education and performance: money is being wasted, teachers are failing, and changes need to be made; more efficiency, perhaps more stringency in curriculum, more of a focus on math and science.
Yet, it seems that the vast majority proposals coming out of non-chartered public educational institutions focus on doing less. We’ve already touched on the push for the four-day school week. It turns out, that’s not enough for anti-educators – those school days that do remain should be shortened, too. Really, bills are advancing through legislatures that would reduce the number of hours students attend school.
That’ll fix it!
And now, even those measures aren’t enough. Those who seek to further insulate children from the mildly uncomfortable yet edifying aspects of life are calling for an end to homework altogether.
Some have attributed homework – not the rise of addictive social media, the ubiquity of technological devices that are causing the downfall of social interaction, or bullying – as the reason for a rise in anxiety and depression in young people.
‘For most children, mandatory homework assignments push their workweek far beyond the school day and deep into what any other laborers would consider overtime… Is it any wonder that, deprived of the labor protections that we provide adults, our kids are suffering an epidemic of disengagement, anxiety and depression?’ (Time)
What about when children weren’t madly depressed, and saw homework not as some unduly burdensome nightly punishment, but as a minimal expectation used to reinforce the lesson of the day?
Of course, such a reasonable retort would likely go unaddressed by educators who are gaining adulation on social media for their ‘progressive’ policies regarding post-school work.
‘The no-homework policy of a second-grade teacher in Texas went viral last week, earning praise from parents across the country who lament the heavy workload often assigned to young students. Brandy Young told parents she would not formally assign any homework this year, asking students instead to eat dinner with their families, play outside and go to bed early.’ (Time)
There was a phrase growing up that countless children can recall hearing time and again, to this day: ‘finish your homework, then you can go outside and play’.
Since when did homework and a healthy dose of outside play – let alone dinner with the family – become mutually exclusive? When did we mindlessly decide that doing a few math problems and reading a chapter of a book before bed necessarily comes at the expense of sitting down for a meal or getting an hour or two of physical exercise before the sun goes down?
Perhaps – and this seems fair – it is this sort of irrational thinking that is directly responsible for the demise of American public education. Or, perhaps the deteriorating state of public education is coming back to manifest itself in the way that parents and educators decide to educate – or not educate – the young people of today.
Because, if it were up to those who were truly successful in the world, those who know that their primary education years should have been made harder, not easier, if they wanted a true primer for life in the working world, these proposals for shorter work weeks and the eradication of homework would be trashed on sight, the ideas’ proponents fired on the spot.
I mean, the districts are literally taking their orders from the students. One New York school district is considering a ban of homework after two – two! – students started a petition to lighten their workload. It’s the definition of letting the inmates run the asylum.
The times are-a-changin’, that’s for sure. Once upon a time, complaints about homework were met with ‘you’ll thank me when you’re older’-type responses. Today, in certain public school districts, those gripes are seemingly met with actions that echo an agreeing sentiment:
“We don’t need no education”….