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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

All Homework and No Play

Generally, when the older generation comments on the circumstances of the younger, the elders lament how much easier the young whippersnappers have it.  "When I was your age, I had to walk five miles to and from school--uphill both ways--through three feet of snow, 13 months a year!"  Well, for all those weary of cliches, I happily report one area at least where we Gen X-ers had it easier than today's teens: Homework.

At many an elite private school, administrators have announced to great fanfare a desire to lighten their students' homework burden ("At Elite Schools, Easing Up a Bit on Homework").  This comes in response to psychologists' unsurprising findings that excessive homework--say, more than 3.5 hours a night--has little benefit and may actually prove detrimental, especially if it deprives teens of much-needed sleep.

Fair enough, but. . . . 3.5 hours of homework?  Per NIGHT?!?  I don't think I ever did much more than, like, 4-5 hours of homework per week in high school.  And I've done all right, if I do say so myself.

In college, a general rule of thumb is that you should spend two hours per week studying outside of class for every hour in class.  Thus, a full-time student--generally someone taking 12 units worth of classes--who spends approximately 12 hours per week in class should commit about 24 hours per week to homework.  This does, indeed, work out to about 3.5 hours per day.  But this is for college classes!  By defnition, they are more difficult than high-school classes.  Plus, these classes often offer less "instruction" in the classes than those in a secondary-school setting--the presumption being that college students need to learn to work independently.  When did the standard for high school become equal to that of most colleges--indeed, greater than most colleges, if the private schools are now reducing their requirements to approximately 3.5 hours per night?

As a teacher, I certainly believe students need homework.  Especially in a writing class, students cannot develop their skills in a mere three hours of in-class work per week.  But I would not expect any but the most ambitious, passionate, and/or insane students to spend something like five hours a week every week writing, especially if they must then spend the same amount of time on all their other classes.  Hell, I don't spend that much time writing--and I have my own BLOG.

There is something to be said for enjoying one's youth doing things other than studying.  Kudos, then, to private schools that see the need to scale back on their excessive demands. . . .

Unless, of course, the demands AREN'T excessive. . . .Hold on a minute--do I contradict myself? Very well, I contradict myself.  Maybe schools actually assign the same amount of homework they always have.  Maybe it just takes students longer to complete it because their brains have been addled by years of video games.

Hmph!  Kids today!  They don't know how easy they've got it!

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