Writer’s Workshop: Homework: Yea or Nay?

Let’s start with some appropriate music: Otis Rush, “Homework.”

The J. Geils Band did a version of this on their live album, 1972’s Full House. It was the version I heard first, because I didn’t have access to the Otis Rush version until… well, just now.

But that’s neither here no there.

I have never been a parent, so I don’t know what it’s like having to be like Simon Legree and stand over kids while they do their homework under duress. But I was a kid once and remember what it was like having to do my homework under duress, and believe me, I hated it. There were better things to do at night, like watch TV, listen to a White Sox game, play my guitar, read a book besides a textbook, read the newspaper or magazine, or even go to bed early.

Evidently, quite a few teachers have stopped assigning daily homework. They’ve come to the conclusion that the kids have better things to do than yank out their schoolbooks after spending six hours with it and do more of it. A lot of teachers now look for their students to do twenty minutes of reading, then fill out some kind of a log that their parents have to sign of on, that goes to the teacher, but that’s still homework, even if it’s not a textbook. So they’ve stopped demanding a reading log, too.

Believe me, I would have loved it as a kid. So much of it was just busywork (“for homework, do the hundred problems on this page”), and if the teacher didn’t check it, I was more likely not to do it. I was a pretty lousy student. I was smart and got good grades through grammar school (grades 1-8), and was usually able to bluff my way through most assignments, which was what I did nine times out of ten. That wasn’t so easy when I got to high school, and by the time I went to “university,” it really became a struggle to keep my head above water.

So, I can see good things about not having daily homework, but can also see some undesirable things happening. Still, if it means that kids have more time to read or get some sleep, I’m all for it. Mom, who taught for 37 years, always said if you could read, you could learn anything. I had a friend in college who I learned later had my mother in fourth grade. He couldn’t read, so Mom told him he had to read a book every week and turn in a book report every Monday. He ended up going to medical school, so I guess he learned to read.

I don’t have kids, so I’ll have to defer to the mothers here: what do you think? Do your kids get homework every day? Do you have to stand over them with a whip to get them to do it? Does homework help or hurt? To quote Ross Perot, I’m all ears…