The Homework Myth:
Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing
(Da Capo Books, 2006)
A compelling exposé of homework – how it fails our children, why it’s so widely accepted, and what we can do about it.
Death and taxes come later; what seems inevitable for children is the idea that, after spending the day at school, they must then complete more academic assignments at home. The predictable results: stress and conflict, frustration and exhaustion. Parents respond by reassuring themselves that at least the benefits outweigh the costs.
But what if they don’t? In The Homework Myth, Alfie Kohn systematically examines the usual defenses of homework – that it promotes higher achievement, “reinforces” learning, teaches study skills and responsibility. None of these assumptions, he shows, actually passes the test of research, logic, or experience.
So why do we continue to administer this modern cod liver oil – or even demand a larger dose? Kohn’s incisive analysis reveals how a mistrust of children, a set of misconceptions about learning, and a misguided focus on competitiveness have all left our kids with less free time and our families with more conflict. Pointing to parents who have fought back – and schools that have proved educational excellence is possible without homework — Kohn shows how we can rethink what happens during and after school in order to rescue our families and our children’s love of learning.
Table of Contents
|One: The Truth About Homework|
|1||“Missing Out on Their Childhoods”|
|2||Does Homework Improve Learning? A Fresh Look at the Evidence|
|3||Does Homework Provide Nonacademic Benefits?|
|Two: Six Reasons Homework Persists (Despite What the Data Say)|
|4||“Studies Show…” – Or Do They?|
|5||The Questions Left Unasked|
|6||What We Haven’t Learned About Learning|
|7||The “Tougher Standards” Fad Hits Home|
|8||Better Get Used to It|
|Three: Restoring Sanity|
What people are saying
“Parents take note: this is a stinging jeremiad against the assignment of homework, which the author, a prominent educator, convincingly argues is a wasteful, unimaginative, and pedagogically bankrupt practice that initiates kids into a soul-sucking rat race long before their time.”
“The Homework Myth should be required reading for every teacher, principal, and school district head in the country. . . . Kohn cites plenty of research to back up his thesis. None of it shows the slightest connection between homework and independent thinking. Kohn argues that homework is a burden to children, and, not surprisingly, their parents. . . . It’s hard not to see his point. Or wish that we could find other ways to measure intelligence and nurture the curious minds of children.”
“Alfie Kohn . . . has made a convincing case against homework . . . . This book is typical of his work. It is engaging, informative, and exudes the passion that drives him to write. It is a well-researched volume with more than 300 references. Kohn has never been better at challenging the status quo and declaring that the emperor has no clothes.”
–Kappa Delta Pi Record
“Kohn takes many of the things we assume about homework and shreds them, showing over and over how little research there is to back up all the accepted theories. . . . [He] chip[s] away at the conventional thinking that homework improves achievement, that homework improves grades, that homework builds character and all the other things we’ve heard about it since we were doing it . . . Worse, [it] may have the adverse effect of dulling a child’s interest in learning altogether.
“‘Some parents seem to figure that as long as their kids have lots of stuff to do every night, never mind what it is, then learning must be taking place.’ That statement, early in the book, is the one that will keep parents reading the rest of the book. And hopefully, teachers, too. Because, in the end, what Kohn wants parents and teachers to do, if nothing else, is think about this homework issue. Really think. And then talk about it among themselves. And, ultimately, take that conversation to the principal and the district level. And that may be the crucial thing parents and teachers take away from the book: Challenge the status quo.”
–San Diego Union Tribune
“Like all Kohn’s books, The Homework Myth provokes thought and encourages activism. But best of all, it brings back the now almost forgotten question: ‘What is good for the child?'”
–Our Schools / Our Selves
“Powerful and thought-provoking.”
–Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry