Discover more from Red Meat For Mushy Moderates
Memorial Day ...
For various reasons, I didn’t make it this year to the parade and services at the Salisbury town cemetery, where a lone bugler plays taps. Everyone has my best wishes for a meaningful Memorial Day. I no longer wish anyone a “Happy Memorial Day” after being told by a wise veteran that it’s a solemn occasion — not a time to be a blithe spirit and celebrate.
Increasingly, this federal holiday seems less about honoring our war dead than it is about kicking off the summer season. But that’s okay. As we mushy moderates often ask, “Why can’t it be both?” After honoring the dead for their sacrifice, the rest of us — especially oldsters such as yours truly —can be thankful we’re still alive to enjoy the long stretch of warm weather.
Right now, though, as the school year heads into the home stretch and students are released for the summer, I’d like to talk about education — my former profession. I’d be interested to get anyone’s take on what Axios describes suggests is an emerging trend: an increasing numbers of schools are scrapping homework. I started my career as an English teacher and spent 12 years in the classroom, so I took an immediate interest when I saw the story.
There are several reasons for this development:
America’s increasing diversity — not only of race and ethnicity but of income and family situations — along with the technology gap.
Millions of students only have access to the internet at home through smart phones, which are very poor devices on which to do homework or perform research.
Millions more are caregivers for family members or have after-school jobs necessitated by their family’s economic condition.
Students in stable family units can lean on parents and siblings for homework help, while the less fortunate don’t have that option.
As the Wall Street Journal reported (free link), the above factors limit the time and effort students can devote to completing assignments. And it goes without saying that an emphasis on homework favors those students who have a stable home life with parents who are involved in their children’s education.
In my days as a high school student (I don’t remember much about elementary and middle school), the usefulness of the homework I was assigned varied. If it was to reinforce something we learned that day in class or if the assignment previewed a topic we were going to be covering the following day, then it was mostly helpful. Long-range assignments were also useful, not only in terms of in-depth learning but in helping me develop the skills needed to plan my time in order to get that 50-page research paper completed.
On the other hand, some of the homework we were assigned (this was a private boarding school in the early to mid-70s) was simply busy work: work sheets; translating a mundane passage in Vergil’s Aeneid for the 17th time; or an uninspired journal entry about a routine day.
So I’d say the usefulness of homework depends on large measure on the relevance to the student and how well the assigned work contributes to the learning process. And there is also something to be said about the lesson of accountability in being required to complete and turn in assignments.
But in the end, isn’t getting that high school diploma about mastery of the content? And aren’t there accurate ways of measuring mastery without completing homework assignments and being held to arbitrary deadlines? If so, then what is the purpose of homework?
Eliminating homework does come with risks. Without firm deadlines, unmotivated students (I was one of them in high school) might realize that in an English class, pre-writing exercises are for the birds because you could always turn in a lousy draft and redo it with the suggestions from the teacher.
“They’re relying on children having intrinsic motivation, and that is the furthest thing from the truth for this age group,” one high school English teacher told the WSJ.
Yah, I and I think therein lies the problem. The elimination of homework will surely be abused and could cause more harm to learning than good.
Other stories I’m following this weekend:
If you live in Massachusetts and love pork (the kind you eat, not wasteful government spending), prepare for what the Boston Globe is calling the Pork-pocalypse. “A 2016 animal welfare ballot measure that would prohibit most US-raised pork from being sold in Massachusetts could finally take effect as soon as July” and force prices for the savory meat sharply upward.
If you like bacon, Boston and Barnstable could be lousy places to be. The Globe has a hard paywall. If you’d like to read the full story, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send you a PDF:
I bleed green …
As I wrote on social media yesterday, I've been following the Boston Celtics since I was a little kid during the Bill Russell years, and through the Bird-Parrish-McHale era, which featured some epic moments. But Saturday night’s miracle probably takes the cake. A put-back by Derrick White at the last half-second to force a game 7 in Boston. Onward! ICYMI, see video below:
The Celtics, who were on the verge of elimination and trailed the Miami Heat 3-0 in the best-of-seven-games semifinal series, won two games to claw back to a 3-2 deficit. Then the Celts pulled off this miraculous win Saturday night to bring the series back to Boston for a winner-take-all match-up tonight at 8:30 p.m. It’s another late tip-off so an afternoon nap is in order.
As Lester Holt tells us at the end of his NBC Nightly News broadcast, “Take care of yourselves and each other.”