Teacher and writer, David MacLean, is of the belief that a cat is more beneficial for children than homework:
I hate homework. Or rather, I hate the emphasis placed on the academic tasks set by schools and teachers to be done at home. I don’t have a problem with true “home work”, however.
I have two students – siblings – who are the product of the “tiger mother” mentality. They ask for homework. Their school gives them homework and their tutors give them homework. They insist on being given homework, as if it will somehow make them better students and better academics. It won’t.
Research indicates that homework of the academic kind has minimal benefits – if any at all. Studies have indicated there is no correlation between homework and improved academic achievement. Indeed, some of the poorest academic results come from countries with high homework expectations. In France, President Francois Hollande has introduced educational reforms to ban homework. There are inequities when it comes to those who have parental support at home or access to technology and even tutors who will help them with that homework.
The “home work” of which I approve is a different variety. I was astonished when those two students of mine were awed by a cat leaping on to the top of a fence. They were amazed at the feline dexterity with which it made its way along a beam and found its way into a tree, generating squawks of fear from the resident birds. In my conversation with them, I discovered that these two charges of mine did not really know much about cats. Their parents did not let them keep one and they were too busy going from tutor to tutor to have time to look after a cat. There was a whole world of wonder that was being denied them for the sake of academic efficiency. There was no time to pause and wonder.
There is much to be gained from “home work” where such reflection over a task is possible. That time to read a book simply because it is fascinating or because you are absorbed in the way it is written is essential. Think about what you could learn from kicking around a footy – the co-ordination, the bad language when you fluff a kick, the need to learn social skills to have someone kick the ball back to you.
Mucking in at dinner time preparing the salad to go with the meal or learning how to avoid cutting yourself when slicing vegetables for the casserole are all skills and part of a larger contextualised learning. These activities give meaning and purpose to what we do in the classroom – or, at least, they should. It is often hard to see how what we do in class has application in the wider world. More often than not, the purpose of school work is assessment.
Most importantly, “home work” should be undertaken with parents as participants rather than supervisors. That conversation you have will build vocabulary. That book you read to your child will create a sense of the importance of literature. The article you discuss from the newspaper will help build a greater perspective of the world and what we should value.
Those students of mine were picked up in an SUV and whisked away to a piano lesson or some other tutorial session. In the back of my mind was the notion of organising an excursion to the RSPCA where cats can be adopted. Unfortunately, that institution would prefer families with time to spare and who would delight in what a cat could teach them. There is a catalogue of wonder in “home work”. The other homework simply makes you catatonic.
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