December 2, 2012

"In the name of equality, the French government has proposed doing away with homework in elementary and junior high school."

"French President Francois Hollande argues that homework penalizes children with difficult home situations, but even the people whom the proposal is supposed to help disagree."

ADDED: Emmanuel Davidenkoff, editor-in-chief of L'Etudiant, is one of the critics:
"Poor people want homework because they know that school is very important, and the only chance — the only possibility — they have to give their children a better life is if their children succeed at school.... Mostly, wealthy people don't want homework because when the kids are at home, they make sports or dance or music. They go to the museums, to the theater. So they have this access to culture, which is very important.... In poor families, they don't have that, so the only link they have with culture and school is homework."
What?! Everyone — rich or poor — can make sports or dance or music. You don't even need as much as a ball or a jump rope to have sports. You don't even need as much as a cheap radio or a harmonica to do music and dance. The best American music, dance, and sports have come from the poorest people. Leave the kids alone, let them go out and play, and the forces of nature should do more than wealthy parents taking them to lessons. The only link they have with culture and school is homework... that's so insulting!

Let the kids out to play as long as there is daylight. Isn't that better than holding them inside until they have their homework done? And we wonder why there's so much obesity! They're incarcerated during school hours, then worked through lessons when they get home. And we wonder why there's such a problem with hyperactivity. After dark, how bad is it not to have homework? Let them choose their own books and read if you think they should have more cultural enrichment. That has so much more potential that more lessons from school (which is already appropriating too much of their youthful souls).

By the way, Hollande's equality theory coincides with my own rejection of take-home exams in law school. Students have different life situations, and one can go home to a solo environment and work late into the night. The other has a husband or wife and a couple of children making reasonable/unreasonable demands and nowhere to find quiet and concentration. So my exam is an intense 3-hour session that's the same for everyone. And when it's over, it's over.


Unknown said...

Seems like a great solution.

edutcher said...

Socialism institutionalizes mediocrity.

I'm sure that "distinguished educator", William Ayers, and his friends at Morningside Heights are taking note.

MarkD said...

Let's just hand out college diplomas and cut out the middle-men. It would be true equality.

Oso Negro said...

As we live a life of ease
Everyone of us has all we need

Shouting Thomas said...

In the future, we will all be assigned our handicaps.

ricpic said...

France is ruled by like 500 families all intertwined and sending their kids to the same two or three lycees in Paris. Guaranteed the no homework rule won't apply to them. It'll just further define the yawning chasm between ruling class and les clochards.

chuck said...

School's out for summer
School's out forever
School's been blown to pieces

No more pencils
No more books
No more teacher's dirty looks

Out for summer
Out till fall
We might not go back at all

School's out forever
School's out for summer
School's out with fever
School's out completely

sonicfrog said...

Dammit! Where wus this guy when eye wwere in skool????

BleachBit-and-Hammers said...

A dumbed down population votes for more socialism.

I'm Full of Soup said...

A better approach would be to bring back orphanages for these kids that, in effect, have worthless, shiftless parents so we take the kids away from their shitty homes and give them a chance at a good life. That would be more fruitful than this "let's dumbdown all kids" idea from the French Obama wannabe.

MadisonMan said...

Why local control of education is important.

Automatic_Wing said...

In my mind, this will just tilt the playing field further in favor of those who are naturally intelligent and have good "home situations". Dutifully completing all your homework is a way for kids who aren't quite as talented to grind out high grades.

KCFleming said...

How can anyone not look upon their works and deeds and see that socialism is evil?

I remain flummoxed by this question.

bleh said...

There are good reasons to prohibit homework. This isn't one of them.

Anonymous said...

Homework? Hahahahahahahaha. Surely you jest. In my inner city school I don't even assign the stuff. Why give them the chance for another "0". We're already being told by Admin that 50% is the new 0%. In my advanced classes you'll get a better rate of return but in most of my standard classes they don't even bring paper and pencil to class and to ask them to is to garner looks of incredulity. I uually charge them a shoe for paper and pencil. When they return the writing utensil I return the shoe. Homework? Forsooth. Hahahahahahaha. That's funny.

ndspinelli said...

This should make for even a more effective military.

Bob Ellison said...

I usually find myself aligned with conservatives on such questions, but not on the homework one. When I was in school, we had homework, but it wasn't usually assigned as a matter of policy-- an end unto itself. My children's schools actually have rules, weird ones, that govern homework. For example, they aim carefully to assign ten minutes' worth of homework per grade (1st grade, ten minutes; sixth grade, sixty minutes, and so on). For these schools, homework assignment serves several goals:

1) Forcing kids to work outside the school.

2) Forcing parents to be more involved in their kids' work.

3) Offloading the schools' responsibility for student learning and achievement.

Of these goals, only (2) is reasonable, and homework assignment is a perverse way of achieving it, especially in light of the fact that the schools routinely undermine parents' ability to help their kids by changing methods, like how to do long division.

I was a pretty good student and a hard worker, and I have always tried to encourage friends, employees, and my sons to know the difference between productive working time and "personal" time that may not haul any water. It's the only way I can face shit work, and it makes fun work more fun. It also leaves weekends mostly free.

Homework assignment teaches bad work ethics.

Expat(ish) said...

Hmmm, you may not understand what's meant by "access to sports and culture" - it's about networking as much as any particular achievement.

It's why my kids do scouts and fencing and voice and choir and piano and not soccer or swimming. (They did the last two as well, but I was not as encouraging.)

YMMV, but my view is that you surround your kids, as much as possible, with aspirational, goal driven, high quality kids.

So we "guide" them into those areas.

So far so good.


PS - Homework is pretty variable, I see some good (math, etc) and some less good (writing assignments).

edutcher said...

Ann Althouse said...

What?! Everyone — rich or poor — can make sports or dance or music. You don't even need as much as a ball or a jump rope to have sports. You don't even need as much as a cheap radio or a harmonica to do music and dance. The best American music, dance, and sports have come from the poorest people.

Listen to what comes out of most car radios today.

M Davidenkoff wants to expose these kids to the good stuff, culturally.

Y'know, the DWM stuff.

As for sports, I think they do it differently over there.

virgil xenophon said...

Although I'm a rock-ribbed conservative, I don't believe in home-work for grammar school either. Of course I fit the "elite" profile of culturally enriched kids Ann talks about as I attended the Lab school at Eastern Illinois in the 50s where we had little after-class homework (although we did have mandatory half-day summer-school 1-6) but my experience as a parent of a school-aged child in the early 80s led me to believe that current policy is 180 degrees out of whack. They load up grammar school kids w. soul-destroying homework during their most malleable years, but homework assignments at the HS level (when serious in-depth study should be done by students who, by that time, should be capable of doing it) are miniscule compared to when I attended 58-62..

MikeR said...

Well, I'm all for it; I hate homework. Have them do it in school. Make the school day longer if need be.

My main peeve about homework is that these days the teachers seem to expect the parents to be involved - which of course does indeed penalize kids whose parents are not up to it. If I'm remembering right, that was pretty much unheard of in my day. We did our own homework, or we didn't.

KCFleming said...

I am opposed to most homework, as it tends to expose how most in-school time is completely wasted. Through homework I was able to find out that teachers did not even know how to do simple math.

I was forced to teach them myself. I never would have known this without homework. I would likely homeschool today.

The socialist idea that Hollande expresses, however, that base motive to flatten all human differences, is borne of envy, a most destructive and disgusting vice.

BaltoHvar said...

So by extension then reading "les Miserables" for fun will be cheating?

Lem said...

Real equality would mean people are only allowed so many children.

A China policy.

It would be best for the Environment.

Unknown said...

This sounds like more of the mistaken notion that if we tack middle class achievements on the poor they will acquire the virtues those achievements represent.
People should have figured out by now that that doesn't work.

The value of homework is providing practice. Once a skill is presented it needs to be practiced until the student understands and retains it. It's not always possible to get enough practice in the school day.

BleachBit-and-Hammers said...

The French have a mandatory 35 hour work week. At 1 second after that 35th hour hits, you can't work anymore. It's the law.
So much for putting in that extra effort.
(btw - That 35 hour work week is weird if you ever experience a meeting with the French. They really do get up and walk away at hour 35)

The argument over too much homework vs. not enough homework vs. zero homework is separate. This is about the government controlling every aspect of life.
What about the freedom to choose where your child attends school? What if you want your child to have a rigorous education that includes a certain amount of homework?

Big government knows best.

test said...

Funny that as soon as the socialists are in power they revert to all the stupid shit they've said conservatives are paranoid for accusing them of. If the leftists had any integrity they'd admit every time the left is in charge they prove us right. But of course that would require intellectual honesty on their part.

I guess whoever came up with this didn't realize Idiocracy and Bergeron were satire.

Lem said...

A dumbed down population votes for more socialism.

But it will be equally dumbed down.

Remember... a half empty glass is also half full... better to die together than todie alone... its not the quality that matter but the quantity.

BleachBit-and-Hammers said...

Marshall cracks the code.
Socialists are hypocrites. They whine about those evil conservative who are going to take away your freedom - then the socialists take away your freedom.
The good news is that masses of stupids don't seem to mind.

It's for the common good.

Bender said...

While homework should not necessarily be required, neither should it be prohibited. And neither should we simply leave poor kids to wallow in ignorance with an arbitrary conclusion that they would not benefit from having homework in some cases.

And equally importantly, neither should we allow parents to abdicate their fundamental responsibility to be the primary educators of their children -- they cannot simply palm that duty off to government agents. Any parent who says that it is the school's responsibility to make sure their kids are educated, and not their's, is a neglectful parent.

If anything, if we want to be a free people, we need to get more education OUT of the government schools and more of it into the homes. Identifying education as a school-only endeavor is to build disaster for the individual and for society at large. Building up a high wall of separation between school and the rest of life (just as we have demanded a separation of religion and everyday life, that people should keep their religion inside the church and limited to one hour a week) is also a recipe for disaster.

I fully agree that kids need more free time away from the government prisons they call schools. If homework will detract from children's recreational opportunities, then rather than taking away the homework, rather than taking away the incentive to self-educate in the home, CUT the school hours. Do not increase the length of the school day, but drastically shorten it.

Get kids out of the boring classroom, the government indoctrination room, and foster instead in them the need for self-learning. Education and knowledge are vital if anyone is to succeed economically or to be able to live in a free society.

By the elites encouraging kids to not self-educate, by giving them no incentive to self-learn because the elites have prohibited homework, we condemn the poor to perpetual poverty and government dependence. Then again, maybe that is the reason for the policy.

Bob Ellison said...

Bender, I agree.

Eric Jablow said...

No matter how intelligent one is, one cannot learn a skill without practicing it. This applies to sports, arts, and reading, writing, arithmetic, and everything else. And the practice cannot be done only during the class; students need to do some work when there is no one ask questions from.

Not assigning homework ensures that students won't get to practice their academic skills. One can argue about how much is necessary for the students to learn, but assigning nothing will be disastrous.

Gabriel Hanna said...

American students are very far from having too much homework, judging by the deficiencies they exhibit in basic math, reading and writing in my university courses.

Michael said...

This is the logical solution, of course, to the persistent lack of social justice. No matter the method attempted to level outcomes it appears that certain cohorts perform better at every single thing than their fellows. Always. Maddening. But instead of pursing the fruitless and impossible task of bring the lower orders UP it makes more sense to bring the higher performers Down. It has worked well in the areas of entertainment and the well off now dress like and their children act like those at the bottom. Cutting them down to size intellectually might do the trick.

Michael said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jjb said...

"Let them choose their own books and read if you think they should have more cultural enrichment."

The problem with this suggestion is that it presupposes that students have access to books of their own choice. Many lower-income parents do not have the funds for a home library. Similarly, low-income parents do not have time to take their kids to a public library, because they are working or have child-care obligations. In places like Phoenix, AZ, there are few libraries, and they are not convenient to access without a car.

Many schools that serve low-income communities have had to shut down libraries to save money after budget cuts, so low-income students have that avenue to "books of their own choice" cut off as well.

While it's a stretch to say "The only link they have with culture and school is homework," for some students that is sadly closer to reality than the ability to pass their fingers over the books on the shelf at home and choose one that strikes their fancy.

Bruce Hayden said...

I think that what is missed by some is that those in the elite or seriously trying to join the elite in this country do do homework, at least in HS, and homework in lower grades should be preparing them for HS homework. The baseline for most kids at the most selective colleges is quite high these days, and the most of the kids attending those schools got there by taking a lot of AP classes and doing a lot of homework. Plus, a lot of extracurricular stuff, such as sports, fine arts, etc., leaving very little free time in HS.

My kid went to a good prep school, and to stay in, in HS, most of the kids had to do quite a bit of homework every night, along with the mandatory sports and fine arts. The result was that most of the kids got into very good colleges.

But, what was weird was the disconnect between their lives, and the lives of the average HSchooler, at least as portrayed in the popular culture. Wasn't much time left over to hang out, go to the mall, watch TV, for romance, etc.

So, now that my kids' HS classmates are getting ready to graduate from college, it is not surprising that most seem to be getting ready for graduate school. One was admitted to medical school a year early, another already working on a doctorate their senior year. And, yes, mine is applying right now for STEM PhD programs.

Because, again, one of the things that homework in K-12 does is to prepare you for studying in college, and those who are well trained in that area tend to have a much easier time getting the good grades there required for the more challenging graduate school programs.

MayBee said...

In Tokyo, the bells would ring over the public address system every day at 5:00 pm so the kids would know it was time to stop playing and go inside and do homework and eat dinner.

After school, play was scheduled first.

Clyde said...

Shouting Thomas beat me to the obligatory "Harrison Bergeron" allusion. Bergeron does sound rather French, doesn't it?

Chip S. said...

They could keep the homework if they'd just take the logical next step of randomly assigning kids to homes.

n.n said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
n.n said...

Engineering is the only means to enforce equality. Socialism is an engineering protocol to establish equality through marginalization of individual dignity. It is prosecuted through the consolidation of wealth and power under control of a minority, which then redistributes as grants or favors to the people. It is designed to dissociate or shift risk, not only at the head but throughout society, and for that reason has a predisposition to suffer progressive corruption.

Chip S. said...

Socialism is an engineering protocol to establish equality through marginalization of individual dignity.

The Fabians, at least, thought that replacing private charity w/ public policy would increase individual dignity by removing any stigma from the recipients.

When ample evidence that things haven't worked out that way is ignored, then statements like yours start to sound plausible. But another possibility is that people are highly resistant to admitting error.

More importantly, of course, they're very very resistant to seeing their public-sector jobs eliminated.

Sunslut7 said...

Ann, ANother of your half-baked ideas enters the blog-o-vers. How many kids want to pick up a math text? The hard sciences are not easy for most students to learn and yet they determine who gets in the graduate schools that lead to the better jobs. I takes years , maybe decades, for most students to master these skills.

Your let them choose their own text books seldom works because most students take the easy way out. Discipline begins with submiting to authority and order.

The utopian dream of total freedom for studants is a mirage. AS a law professor you should know this fact.

Sunslut7 said...

Ann, I lived in Singapore for six years and their system works. Their kids have homework up the wazzu. Plus tutors and Saturday classes. Its a very competitive climate and its very stressful. But it also tuns out kids that are knowledgible and well prepared in Math and Science.

As for the myth of regimented think its a myth. The current generation is ore independent minded then the previous three generations. In three more generations the 'independence ' myth will be gone IMHO.

France is a dying civilization led bya cadre of inter-married aristos who only care that they can escape the deluge that is about to follow. We should sever of contacts with them and enjoy the bonfire of Euro vanities.

Joe said...

What?! Everyone — rich or poor — can make sports or dance or music.

Yes, the poor play sports and make music, but the middle and upper-middle class world wide seem to be obsesses with scheduling their children for formalized activities in such. It isn't unusual to see families have two activities per day scheduled per child. Now, to be fair, many of these parents also have high expectations for school and thus, their kids graduate.

My ex and I refused to go along with that. A few years ago, several friends and neighbors also got tired of it and told their kids "pick two."

Anonymous said...
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Gabriel Hanna said...

"As for the myth of regimented think its a myth.".

Amen to that. My students who can barely read and cannot add fractions pride themselves on their social skills, their "creativity", and their "life skills", and think themselves superior to nerds and foreigners with mere book learning.

But they show very little evidence of being able to think for themselves, to express themselves so as to be understood, to show up to meetings on time (or at all), to take any responsibility for their learning, or to deal with issues themselves rather than running to their parents.

Anonymous said...

lol. Again, an activity where too many straight white people (especially men) are doing well.

Time to shut it down!

Expect this in America in the next 4 years. President Stepin Fetchit hates whitey and all his works.

Ann Althouse said...

"Ann, ANother of your half-baked ideas enters the blog-o-vers. How many kids want to pick up a math text? The hard sciences are not easy for most students to learn and yet they determine who gets in the graduate schools that lead to the better jobs. I takes years , maybe decades, for most students to master these skills."

We're talking about what they do AFTER school. They could read fiction or anything else. Whatever interests them. Some actually would read math. This idea of working kids' brains all day long is misguided. They need room to play and rest and find out what they're good at. The adults need to back off for part of the day.

It would also be fine, I think, if after-hours, the kids did chores, like helping with the younger children or household chores.

Let the "homework" occur during school hours. School hours in France are very long. Enough already!

n.n said...

replacing private charity w/ public policy would increase individual dignity by removing any stigma from the recipients

The transposition results in the lender becoming a servant or slave of the debtor. While neither orientation is desirable, there must be consequences for individuals who defraud others. In the case of debtors, they voluntarily enter a contract with the superior knowledge that they will be incapable or unwilling to provide compensation for a consumed product or service. However, involuntary exploitation or public policy (i.e. redistributive change) is materially worse than fraudulent exploitation.

Risk (e.g. stigma) serves as the principal mechanism to circumscribe our behavior. The consequences of risk serve as feedback to assess the fitness of a behavior. It is dissociation of risk which engenders corruption and is the cause of our crises. Well, that, and dreams of instant gratification, and promises to fulfill them in exchange for democratic leverage.

glenn said...

Bad schools for poor people is just another way to separate "Them" from "Us"

ampersand said...

Sacre bleu! Is les yutes torching les Renaults et Citroens not making les sports?

Paul said...


To me it's all about initiative. Those with initiative will go home and study MORE. Those who are also-rans won't.

Sure different people have different home environments but to not give homework won't balance anything. Private schools will still give it and still push students to give their 100 percent.

Public schools, on the other hand, will go down even more in quality of education.

Keep in mind equality is basically the same as 'average'. Everyone equal... everyone the same. And that is an average. And average is for the mediocrity.

So keep failing bozos, it give me more room at the top.

Kirk Parker said...


"American students are very far from having too much homework, judging by the deficiencies they exhibit in basic math, reading and writing in my university courses"

Aren't you confusing inputs with outputs? I have absolutely no quarrel with your observation of the deficiencies, but to assume that just adding hours of homework will correct that...

Methadras said...

In France, they want all their children to be equally stupid. Why? Well, because it's all about fairness and equality. Outcome not included.