Omg homework you guys.
My son is 6 years old. That’s first grade. And he gets a shit ton of homework. By a shit ton I mean a wicked lot. He’s only got 11 years before he has to apply for college, so I know he’s got to bone up, but spelling social studies math and ongoing projects plus cramming for tests every night? Like rlly?
We did the park a little bit ago, w another mom and her kids, pre k and k, respectively. Her kids go to a Catholic school (my kid used to go there but we were asked to not come back), and she said the homework came home in mountains of little indecipherable worksheets. Another mom overheard, her kids at the local PS (that’s primary school for all you not-Yorkers), and she said the same was true. The kids all have these backpacks stuffed with worksheets and workbooks and test prep and ongoing projects.
Will the educational administrators not be happy until the children’s little minds are all made out of ticky-tacky and all look just the same?
So let’s riff–
Child labor, right? That used to be a big deal in the Gilded Age, in the late 1800’s early 1900’s, and as the water in the harbor rose (ala JFK’s speech about the boats) the people spoke out. They said, and I paraphrase: let’s stop treating children like small underpaid poorly performing easily disposable adults, and let them have this wacky thing called childhood! Educate them, play w them, let them chill, God they’re just kids.
Good plan. They had those hoop things they could wack w a stick so they rolled down streets, there were jacks and hopscotch and mud pies. If my kid had time for mud pies I would eat them w a spoon. Now everyone is so obsessed w achievement that kindergarten is the new first grade, pre k is the new kindergarten, and the womb is the new nursery school. Women w wombs full of babies get together to play classical music and read great Russian novels to their womb ensconced babies en masse.
I will not hold my own childhood up as a paragon of play based learning perfection, but I will say that it wasn’t until junior high (Hanover Jr High represent) that I started thinking about my grades. My kid gets 4/8 on his spelling test and I get notes home about increasing Dept of Ed services. Dude, I want to tell his teacher and the school admin minions, are we testing the kid’s knowledge? Ability to study? Ability to learn? Ability to focus on what you want him to focus on right this second wo letting his mind wander? Ability to take a test? Ability to be managed?
What are we testing? Looks to me like we’re testing how sleep deprived the child can be and still walk to school without falling into slush puddles from exhaustion. Last night? Up until 9 trying to write a report on Jimmy Carter, due tomorrow. On Friday he’s got a report due about what he would do if he didn’t have a television. Dude, please. The answer is: the same shit I’m doing even though I do have a tv: homework.
What I am attempting to make clear is that we did not abolish child labor and embrace those fleeting imaginative years of childhood only so that we could manufacture children to be managed by educational managerial systems designed to enhance classroom efficiency, ensure merit based raises, and rank schools according to test scores. No worksheet encourages a child to explore his own mind, no workbook releases the wily dragons of the imagination. I had a mom tell me the other day that if she could do it over again she would have worked less when her kids were coming up. She didn’t realize that big kids need their moms on hand as much as babies do. I’m doing my damndest to be on hand, available, on the floor playing legos, giving room for autonomous play, and instead were up half the night doing homework.
Is the homework itself difficult concept wise? Not particularly. Is he being asked to do shit he isn’t capable of doing academic wise? Not so much. The hardest part of homework is sitting down, forcing the mind to force the hand to hold the pencil, forcing the mind to force itself to think about the logic of the worksheet, the spelling, the Jimmy Carter, the hypothetical. The hard part is bending one’s will to make it happen.
Why oh why is the goal of homework to force the child to bend their will to the not super hard but not super interesting task at hand? It is so that from educational mills emerge children who believe it is their duty to lend their mind, skills, and bodies to the meaningless tasks of commerce. Isn’t being subjected to #cubelife while #adulting enough? Do we really have to prepare for that shit?