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Closing The Book On Homework

Closing The Book On Homework: Enhancing Public Education

John Buell
Copyright Date: 2004
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 176
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  • Book Info
    Closing The Book On Homework
    Book Description:

    In this, the sequel to his critically acclaimed and controversialThe End of Homework, John Buell extends his case against homework. Arguing that homework robs children-and parents-of unstructured time for play and intellectual and emotional development,Closing the Book on Homeworkoffers a convincing case for why homework is an outgrowth of broader cultural anxieties about the sanctity of work itself. After the publication of Buell's previous book, many professional educators portrayed reducing homework as a dangerous idea, while at the same time parents and teachers increasingly raised doubts as to its continued usefulness in education. According to John Buell, the importance of play is culturally underappreciated. Not only grade schoolers, but high school students and adult workers deserve time for the kind of leisure that fosters creativity and sustains a life long interest in learning. Homework is assigned for many reasons, many having little to do with learning, including an accepted, if unchallenged, belief that it fosters good work habits for children's futures. As John Buell argues convincingly, homework does more to obstruct the growth of children's minds, and consumes the time of parents and children who may otherwise develop relationships that foster true growth and learning. A unique book that is sure to fuel the growing debate on school reform,Closing the Book on Homeworkoffers a roadmap for learning that will benefit the wellbeing of children, parents, and teachers alike.

    eISBN: 978-1-59213-768-8
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. Introduction: Homework as an Issue in American Politics
    (pp. 1-8)

    When Piscataway, New Jersey, introduced a policy limiting the amount of homework in its public schools, theNew York Timestreated the event as a major news story.¹ A front-page article detailed the school’s policy, the rationale for that policy, and the reactions of parents and children. Other major media quickly followed theTimes’s lead. For the first time in a generation, homework—both its amount and type—had become a subject of national debate. I was fortunate enough to be part of the debate. A colleague and I had recently published a book advocating limitations on and alternatives to...

  5. 1 Revisiting the Evidence
    (pp. 9-29)

    For a practice as solidly entrenched as homework, the scholarly case on its behalf is surprisingly weak and even contradictory. Much of the popular media’s support for homework is based on the assumption that the practice has been tested and found essential to academic success. Yet scholarly studies of homework’s ability to deliver in even such short-term and narrow areas as test scores and grades yield at best uneven results. In addition, homework’s advocates often fail to assess not only the long-term effects of the practice but also the implications modern learning theory has in the debate.

    The controversy over...

  6. 2 A History Lesson about Work and Homework
    (pp. 30-66)

    In the past three years, the theme of family stress, not only for the poor but also for working- and middle-class families, has become a regular staple of media attention.Time, Newsweek,andU.S. News and World Reportall featured cover stories emphasizing the “stressed-out” family and pointing to both work and homework as important components of that stress. These popular magazines describe a familiar litany. Parents come home from long-hour jobs and must then wrestle with homework over the kitchen table. The articles suggest that parents learn how to manage their children’s outside activities better and place limits wherever...

  7. 3 Educating Global Citizens or Global Workers?
    (pp. 67-101)

    My father went to medical school during the Depression on $4,000 in gold that his grandfather, who distrusted all banks, had stashed under a bed many years before. During my childhood, I was constantly admonished that assets in any form, even cash, were only paper. The only way to avoid poverty was to “study hard.” Long after the New Deal, my father still believed that “you can lose all your savings in stock markets and banks. The one thing you can’t lose is your education. As long as you are educated, you can always make it somehow.” He believed that...

  8. 4 Education at the Epicenter
    (pp. 102-132)

    When theNew York Timespublished an article in October 2000 on the new homework policy in Piscataway, New Jersey, it evoked a familiar set of responses. One reader wrote to complain, “Despite homework’s increasingly onerous reputation, Americans desperately need to keep pace with a competitive, interconnected global community. Discouraging students from opening a book over the weekend hardly seems the most effective way to approach education in the twenty-first century.”¹

    The reader joined a nearly two-decade litany of complaints and worries about U.S. schools. At least sinceA Nation at Risk,critics have claimed that U.S. schools are insufficiently...

  9. Conclusion: On Character and Public Education in Democratic Society
    (pp. 133-148)

    In recent books, articles, and public appearances, I have argued that the policies our public schools adopt toward homework need to be rethought. Homework does not convey the academic benefits its proponents promise. It also creates inordinate difficulties for children from poor economic backgrounds. Just as fundamentally, all children, just like adults, deserve some time and space of their own. Elementary-school children already work nearly thirty hours a week in school, and they often spend another five hours a week commuting to their workplaces. The studies showing that homework benefits these children are tenuous at best and are countered by...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 149-156)
  11. Index
    (pp. 157-160)