I find myself agreeing that too much homework is a bad thing, but I'm not convinced that we can quantify any amount of homework as good simply based on time requirements.
Harris Cooper writes:
How much homework should students do? The National PTA and the National Education Association have a parent guide that suggests 10-20 minutes of homework in grades K-2, 30 to 60 minutes in grades 3-6. Many school district policies state that high school students should expect about 30 minutes of homework for each academic course they take, a bit more for honors or advanced placement courses. Educators refer to this as “the 10 Minute Rule”: multiply a child’s grade by 10 and that’s the rough guide for minutes of homework a night. That recommendation is consistent with the conclusions reached by our research analysis.
I am familiar with this 10 minute rule, but I'm left with a number of questions:
- why not 9 minutes?
- why not 11 minutes?
- why does everyone have to do the same amount of time?
- why is it that grade level dictates the amount of time?
- why is it that age dictates the amount of time?
- what if there are flaws with the idea of educating students based on their date of birth and grade levels - does that mean there are flaws with the 10 minute rule?
- what if we did away with the grade levels - would that mean we would do away with the 10 minute rule?
- why does the 10 minute rule only address quantity? what about quality?
For me, the subjective feel of the 10 minute rule is inescapable. I can't help but feel like this is a relic of the factory model of education where kids are sorted based on their date of manufacture and are seen as vending machines where we must simply insert the mandated homework time and learning will spew out of them.
I also get the feeling that this rule is a prime example of focusing so much on getting things done that we forget to improve how we get things done.
Alfie Kohn explains further in his book The Homework Myth:
Rather than beginning with the question, What does it makes sense to do with kids? they ask, What reasons can we come up with to justify homework, which we're determined to assign in any case?
The homework game is broken. The majority of kids will look you in the eye and tell you they hate it - and that should count for more than just something - real accountability would ask kids if they like school, and then care what their answer was.
Just like an oarsman who has no time to plug the leak in the boat because he's too busy rowing, we continue to focus all our efforts on making kids comply when we should be reflecting on why we assign homework in the first place.