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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The homework myth disspelled or how we're teaching children not to love learning examined in exceptional book, March 23, 2008
This review is from: The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing (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". He shows why homework persists based on miconceptions about how people learn, competitiveness and an essential distrust of children and how they spent their time (something you'll also find in the business world which is why "busy work" is assgined as well despite the fact that it burns out employees and makes them not enjoy the work they do. In a sense, I suppose you could argue that homework prepares children for the pointlessness of the work world--i.e., "better get used to it" as Kohn refers to the pointless tasks we'll be asked to do later in life).

Kohn also takes on the myths of testing (since homework often is preparation for testing particularly to make sure that children do well on standardized testing).

We find out nothing about whether a child's learning has improved or deepened but instead how well a child can memorize by rote. Every hour spent making sure that children do well on standardized testing is time taken away from true learning (you're teaching them to take the test well not to develop critical thinking skills).

For example, he looks at standarized testing and discovers that
1) Timed tests put a premuium not on thoughtfulness but on speed.
2) Tests that focus on "basic skills" are geared towards cramming facts that are useless without the connection to comprehension and ideas.
3) Most children under the ages of eight or nine are tripped up by the format because they don't understand its purpose and, as a result, don't do well.
4) "norm-referenced" studies are designed not to measure knowledge but, instead, to artifically rank students focusing on the competition not on comprehension. In other words, some children are better at taking these tests than others but it doesn't give us a sense of their depth or understanding of the materials and is useless.

This book should be required reading for school administrators, teachers and**yes**parents. It's a thoughtful look at how we are destroying the desire to learn with often untested or assumptions that we make about human behavior. I highly recommend this book for any school age parent simply because it will help you understand the system and its flaws.
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