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The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing Paperback – August 14, 2007

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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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press; Reprint edition (August 14, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0738211117
  • ISBN-13: 978-0738211114
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.6 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #99,979 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

111 of 120 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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71 of 86 people found the following review helpful By BaRoLA Man on August 27, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I didn't realize I got this book from a bookstore on the first day it was available. I've read half of it so far, and must say that Kohn makes some excellent points about how homework is something we don't consider doing without. Nor do we tend to consider whether or not it is even helpful. Thinking back on my experience as a student growing up, homework was just a chore I had to do. Of course it helped me remember the forgetable facts I was being tested on, but to justify assigning homework based on that is to assume memorizing forgetable facts is a productive and valuable experience.

He brings up a valuable point that homework does not play upon any intrinsic desire to learn something but is just more forced learning that can even make students hate certain subjects or even learning in general. If only teachers knew how much making me read a bunch of stories I didn't want to read caused me to hate literature. If only teachers knew how much all the performance-based math homework and testing made me hate mathematics when I may have loved learning it with a focus on understanding the concepts involved and possibly considering how it could be applied to something practical. All I got was math homework and grading from math teachers

Although this book is good, I would recommend reading Kohn's What Does It Mean to be Well Educated first to get a good idea of his perspective on education in general. Kohn displays his brilliance and revolutionary thinking in 18 concise essays that should be seriously considered by students and teachers alike.

There are two things Kohn has not mentioned so far. First, sometimes students do homework at school. I don't mean during lunch or recess or other non-instructional times, but during classes so they don't have to do it at home.
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