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The Homework Myth Hardcover – August 21, 2006

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press; 1st Da Capo Press Ed edition (August 21, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0738210854
  • ISBN-13: 978-0738210858
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #167,590 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Education watchdog and author Kohn (No Contest: The Case Against Competition) questions why teachers and parents continue to insist on overloading kids with homework when there are no definitive studies proving its overall learning benefits. Indeed, argues Kohn persuasively, homework can be detrimental to children 's development by robbing families of quality evening time together and not allowing a kid time simply to be a kid. Americans in general advocate a tough-going approach to education and push teachers to give more drudgery nightly as a way of "building character." Yet Kohn shows that doing forced busywork only turns kids off to school and kills intellectual and creative curiosity. The American insistence on producing good worker bees "by sheer force or cleverness," notes Kohn, "reflects a stunning ignorance about how human beings function in the real world." Kohn pursues six reasons why homework is still so widely accepted despite the evidence against it, including the emphasis on competitiveness and "tougher standards" and a basic distrust of children and how they would fill their time otherwise if not doing busywork. There aren't enough case studies in Kohn's work, but Kohn sounds an important note: parents need to ask more challenging questions of teachers and institutions. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Kohn has mapped for himself an uphill struggle against widely held beliefs that American children need homework to stay on track for academic success and to compete with better-prepared children in other nations. Kohn outlines the costs of homework: overburdened parents, stressed children, family conflicts, little free time, declining interest in learning. He highlights the debate between parents and teachers as they argue about the relative benefits or detriments of homework, and explores research--from as far back as the 1800s--indicating that homework does not improve learning. Exploring the variety of assignments, from fill-in-the-blank sheets to more creative efforts, Kohn maintains that homework does not improve learning for children, whether in grade school or high school, and laments the trend of giving homework to younger and younger students. He also takes to task the alleged nonacademic benefits of homework, including teaching children time-management and study skills. Whatever their opinions about homework, parents and teachers will find this book an interesting part of the debate. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

More About the Author

Alfie Kohn writes and speaks widely on human behavior, education, and parenting. He is the author of twelve books and hundreds of articles. Kohn has been described by Time Magazine as "perhaps the country's most outspoken critic of education's fixation on grades and test scores." He has appeared twice on "Oprah," as well as on "The Today Show," NPR's "Talk of the Nation," and on many other TV and radio programs. He spends much of his time speaking at education conferences, as well as to parent groups, school faculties, and researchers. Kohn lives (actually) in the Boston area - and (virtually) at

Customer Reviews

If you don't read it and complain now, your child will lose more and more of their free time as they get older.
Frederick S. Goethel
Kohn suggests that a placebo like effect is seen in studies designed to evaluate the effectiveness of homework and he has a valid point.
Wayne Klein
Alfie Kohn addresses a lot of the studies that say that homework is good for kids and tries to debunk this myth - which he did for me.
Vicki Schaffer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

94 of 102 people found the following review helpful By Sean Howard on February 25, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Growing up, I was a gifted student who absolutely hated school and teachers with the end result of becoming a proud college drop out. I picked this book up to, frankly, justify my educational opinions and to perhaps collect ammunition for when my own daughter goes to school. That's not the book I got. I got an even better one.

People seem to think this book is about how homework is bad for you. It's not. The premise of the book is that homework isn't good for you, an important distinction. This isn't a book about homework. This is a book about the homework myth - why we believe it, why we want to believe it, why we can't ignore it, and why we are controlled by it. When the author quotes Chomsky, you know the subject has moved beyond the usefulness of worksheets.

This is a book essentially about faith. I may actually be doing a disservice to the book when I describe it that way, since I've made a polarizing connection with the material, but it's really what the book is about. When faced with the lack of evidence, why do we still choose to believe things? Like why does Harris Cooper, despite his own research either having nothing to say or even contradicting his opinion, still conclude that homework is good for you? He goes from point A to point C. This book is about that hidden point B.

The first part of the book is basically tearing down a bunch of preconceived notions about homework. Rather than saying homework is bad, he spends considerable effort convincing us that there is no evidence that homework is good. To some people, that's not enough, but his point is, I think, that it's plenty enough to at least open a serious discussion on the matter.
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Format: Paperback
We live in an achievement driven culture that is so obsessed with success we often don't question the value of those things we do to reach them. Alife Kohn's book The Homework Myth takes us down the rabbit hole showing us the flawed assumptions and conlcusions of numberous studies and how they shape school policy teaaching children not to love learning but to hate it. We categorize, grade and put our children into slots using homework, "standardized testing" and other devices that often are meaningless measures of true intelligence or success. As Kohn quotes one writer, grades are "an inadquate report of an inaccurate judgment by a biased and variable judge of the extent to which a student has attained an undefined mastery of anunknown proportion of an indefinite amount of material". Got that? In other words, grades are as subjective and uninformative as can be. The same can be said for homework and how it adds to our children's understanding of the material. Kohn takes apart multiple studies that have been done to support the concept of homework and discovers that these flawed studies were designed to prove their point rather than find out the true meaning and understanding of homework in our children's ability to learn.

Kohn suggests that a placebo like effect is seen in studies designed to evaluate the effectiveness of homework and he has a valid point. He points out the flawed thinking of teachers and school districts believing that homework correlates to academic benefit. There's no clear cut evidence of this. He also looks at the detrimental effect that homework has on family life, social interaction and questions the nonacademic benefits of the homework "system".
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59 of 71 people found the following review helpful By Timothy Haugh TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 3, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In The Homework Myth, Alfie Kohn has some good things to say. Take this (from p. 59): "People are active meaning makers. They are not passive receptacles into which knowledge, or skills, or dispositions can be poured." This is a powerful statement which has wide implications in the field of education. And, in fact, Mr. Kohn has a number of other good things to say in this book beyond his insistent calls to eliminate homework. But he does little with his big ideas. They are hidden beneath his avowed purpose in this book: to convince us that homework is a bad idea. But, no matter how you feel about Mr. Kohn's thesis, it is a bitter pill to swallow since his tone is so stridently negative and he falls into the same traps that he accuses the supporters of homework of sliding into.

I speak mainly of his selective use of research data. In fact, there is not enough valid research to support either eliminating or sticking with homework. And yet, Mr. Kohn has no trouble reinterpreting past studies that "proved" the usefulness of homework to support his thesis. And, in any case, he says, in the face of indecisive research we should throw homework out. That's not a very "scientific" argument or conclusion.

This goes beyond his tendency towards hyperbole and otherwise overstating his case. Is it really so easy for educators to face down parents who want their kids to have homework? Does he really believe that, given the free time elimination of homework would provide, kids would drift into idyllic pursuits like "hanging out with their parents," "read[ing] for pleasure," or "get[ting] some exercise"? Does he really believe that colleges and universities should accept low-performing students?
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