231 Erwin Road

My experiences as a Northern transplant down in Chapel Hill, NC, 2005. And now my experiences back up in NYC.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Critical Thinking

The New Yorker has a book review on "Everything Bad is Good For You" by Stephen Johnson.

The article has some interesting insights, such as the educational value of videogames and how their complex worlds offers lessons in thinking and problem solving. I want to touch on a point mentioned at the bottom of the article though, about Elementary and High School Homework.

Now I've been out of HS and elementary school for quite sometime. While I was there, I never did my homework and I never wanted to do my homework. Come to think of it, that's sounds a lot like college for me too. But let's step back for a second. Is homework really productive for kids? I think I'd have to say "No."

I work 40+ hours a week now; while I don't have homework, I definitely have work and stress that I take home with me. When I was in H.S., I may have not been interested in homework, but that doesn't mean I wasn't interested in the material or learning.

I must have been in well over 20 clubs in High School. I was in Science Olympaids, National History Day, Schreiber News Line (TV News Show), The Schreiber Times (our school paper, I was the graphics editor), the Holography Club, the backstage Crew of Drama, Academic Decathalon, and a lot more that I can't even remember. My point to this is that although I may have seemed like a slacker from the homework standpoint, I was one of the most active students in my school. (Ohh yeah, I was even Executive Officer of our Student Council.) Those were all excellent activities for learning and growing. Was that reflected in any of my grades? No.

I actually enjoyed the clubs I was a member of, and that's why I did them. I'm sure there were kids that enjoyed the homework they were given, whether it was reading American history, some famous novel, studying chemistry, or solving physics problems. For different people, different things can hold their interests. So why not make school more like work, and have us do all this during school hours. Let them study and problem solve during the day. Let kids decide what the want to do after school, whether its playing sports, participating in clubs, taking bike rides around town, playing video games, or doing anything else that's part of being a kid. However, we do have to have to keep our kids excited about all these extracurricular activities. Otherwise, it would just be anarchy. I don't have suggestions on how to motivate kids to do productive things, that's different for every individual, maybe it's painting, maybe it's playing music, who knows.

So in conclusion, I think homework is a pointless activity of schooling. As Mark Twain once said, "I never let my schooling get in the way of my education."

So who's with me?


  • At 5/15/2005 12:18 AM, Blogger Brent said…

    You know why teachers give homework? I can tell you, because as you know, I was a teacher. Remember when I would come home at 3pm after an exhausting day of work and you would just be getting up? That was when I would BEGIN the rest of my work grading homework assignments. I HATED DOING THAT. Teachers give homework b/c they're expected to do so; parents, administrators, school board, other teachers, everyone expects kids to come home with work to do, work which is then graded so that the student can then have a postitive or negative self-image. It's awful, but not something you can do a whole lot about until you have tenure. But that brings up a whole other set of problems, because then you're inclined not to do your job at all, not encouraging anything like "critical thinking."

    So I would say that homework should be voluntary; let the kids follow their interests, but make sure they have access to all kinds of genuinely interesting things (or else Grand Theft Auto will win every single time, which it still might). The teachers could follow their own interests too, and then hopefully no one would hate their lives.

  • At 5/15/2005 1:14 AM, Blogger Vincent said…

    "Hear, hear."

    As in "hear, all ye good people, hear what this brilliant and eloquent speaker has to say!"

    Homework should be voluntary, and we should make sure kids have access the the resources they need (whether that be the internet, a studio, a library, ...) We should encourage kids to take on the desire of learning, not force feed it to them.

  • At 5/16/2005 11:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    This is Brian M. I've been reading a lot about this book recently for some reason and it's causing quite a stir. (Check out the NYT Magazine article on it as well). I don't care about the homework argument (though I do think homework can help create some self-discipline and time managment skills). What strikes me about the whole thing is that I'd rather be playing video games than watching TV. I've thought about this a bit, and although not having cable may be a part of it, I think that sitting and watching TV is passive, whereas playing a video is interactive. This book seems to be arguing that TV shows are so complex now that they work our brain a lot more...all of this is lame. Go out and experience life in order to expand your knowledge. Otherwise, just admit that you're a couch potato. I HATE THIS BOOK. onto


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