Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Homework Myth - Chapter 5

The Homework Myth - Chapter 5
The Questions Left Unasked

I started this chapter thinking that section two would be something I would want to skip over, since I have the feeling that this is the part of the book where Kohn will present arguments for homework and show why they do not make sense. He has been doing that through the first four chapters already.

However, I like this quote on page 87, it was inspired by Robert Frost:
Too many of us, including some who work in the field of education seem to have lost our capacity to be outraged by the outrageous; when handed foolish and destructive mandates, we respond by asking for guidance on how to best carry them out.
Kohn goes on to talk about the "hidden curriculum";  students are taught to sit still and listen to what the teacher says, and in doing so gain rewards (88). I am writing these notes as I read, so he may or may not talk about his later on, but I teach my students to sit still and listen not because what I am saying is paramount  but because it is a respectful way to communicate. Have you ever tried to have a[n important] conversation with someone who takes a phone call in the middle of it? Have you ever done that? Is that how we want our kids to be raised? There are some people, some conversations, when I do not mind them walking around, or answering their phone, but it generally tells the listener, "You are not important". [And yes, Kohn is referring to answers on tests.]
* Later Kohn asks, "What would happen if the students didn't raise their hands--and had to figure out how to avoid interrupting each other?" I need to implement this.

Semi Aside
A few years ago, I think in my first year teaching, while in a math lesson or some other lesson (it must not have been so meaningful if I forgot it) I made a mistake in what I was doing. I remember one student said, "Are you a teacher? How can you make a mistake?" It was shocking to realize I had a group of students who did not see me as human. Did they really think I was the all-knowing fountain of information? I now tell my students in the beginning of the year that everyone makes mistakes, it is all right to make mistakes, and we learn from making mistakes. Mistakes are OK.
/Semi Aside

I also like the quote from Norm Chomsky, about how the best way to deceive people into thinking they are a part of the thinking process is to have an open discussion about it (89). I wonder if I have seen that before. If I do see this, will I have the courage to voice what is actually happening?

On page 95, Kohn talks about the weight of backpacks and how there are no questions about why they have become so heavy. I have actually asked some of my students about their bulging satchels, and they look at me as if they are doing something right by carrying around such a heavy bag. I should be more direct with parents about this one. Some kids want to carry a lot of books, but just a few is OK - not all.

What if there was no homework at all?

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