Homework: A 'sin against childhood'?

Kids and parents alike love to hate homework, but begrudgingly do it anyway. Beyond greasing the wheels for academic achievement, it's argued that the act of homework prepares students for important life skills that they need to survive in the high-stress adult world. But homework is a cultural product. IDEAS producer Nicola Luksic marks the history of homework and what it would mean if it was banned all together.
Rote learning and memorization was a stable of the education system. Homework-heavy education fell out of favour from about 1900 to 1950s, and then popularized again as the Cold War era progressed. (George Marks/Retrofile/Getty Images)

Homework is a flashpoint for conflict, both in the home as well as between the home and the school. Parents like Dawn Quelch are taking a stand and banning it from their homes. A hundred years ago homework was described as a 'sin against childhood'. But the practice is still a staple of our education system. IDEAS producer Nicola Luksic examines the ideological roots of this tension, which goes back to the beginnings of public education and the shift in thinking about child psychology and development. **This episode originally aired September 7, 2016.

Dawn Quelch explains why she’s instituted a homework ban in her home

"When are parents going to open their eyes to this fearful evil? Are they as blind as bats that they do not see what is being wrought by this crowning folly of night study that is homework?"
Edward Bok, editor of Ladies Home Journal, 1900.

Guests (in order of appearance)

  • Cordelia Quelch -- Eight-year-old storyteller, big sister and Grade 3 student.
  • Dawn Quelch -- Mother of Cordelia Quelch. She's a criminal defense lawyer and she institutes a homework-free zone in her home.
  • Etta Kralovec  -- Associate Professor of Teacher Education and Program Director of Graduate Teacher Education at the University of Arizona South. She is co-author of The End of Homework: How Homework Disrupts Families, Overburdens Children, and Limits Learning.
  • James Ogden -- Kindergarten teacher in Toronto. He's known as Mr. O to his students.
  • Harris Cooper -- Professor of Neuroscience and Psychology at Duke University. Author of The Battle over Homework: Common Ground for Teachers, Administrators and Parents, which is now in its 5th edition.
  • Steven Schlossman -- Professor of History at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. Co-author of a number of papers on the history of homework, including A 'Sin Against Childhood': Progressive Education and the Crusade to Abolish Homework 1897-1941.
  • Pasi Salhberg -- Education advisor and former school teacher based in Finland. Author of Finnish Lessons 2.0: What can the world learn from educational change in Finland

Also thank you to Jianzhong Xu. He researches the relationship between homework, time management and the regulation of emotion


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