What is homework?
Dictionary.com defines it as, “schoolwork assigned to be done outside the classroom (distinguished from classwork).”
Miriam Webster interprets it to include “research or reading done in order to prepare for something.” More often than not, homework is work that could have (or should have) been done in school. Savvy older students often finish their homework at school, in study hall, during lunch, or even during other classes, a fact which provokes misgivings about the efficiency and efficacy of our nation’s education system.
After seven-plus hours in school, how is there any remaining work for a youngster to accomplish at home? Cleaning people don’t leave dishes in the sink, and the gardener never hands you his rake, but most public school teachers send home school work, some as early as kindergarten!
Parents nationwide complain about needing to sit down at the kitchen table each night with their children, who struggle to comprehend what was “taught” to them in school that day. These are the same parents who claim to be unskilled and incapable of home education.
Newsflash! If you have ever helped your child with his homework, you have home schooled.
Let’s not fool ourselves anymore. Teaching your child anything is committing the basic act of home education, despite our delusion about some fantasy public-school alternative for the upbringing of our children.
Wikipedia ingenuously puts a positive spin on homework. After defining it as reinforcement of what students have already learned in school, it adds, “homework also provides an opportunity for parents to participate in their children’s education.”
I have little doubt that this entry was written by a teacher, having just shared a flight with someone from a family of teachers, who adamantly alleged that all our schools’ failures could be laid squarely at the feet of disinterested and distracted parents.
Legislatures, recently picking up that refrain, are showing interest in holding the parents responsible for educating their children. In an adorable but oblivious New York Times article, writer Lisa Belkin likened the new state measures to “grading the parents.” The legislators and educators freshly declare that parents must be involved for the child to excel. Apparently, this is news to them.
This latest turn is only the education bureaucracy’s most recent confession of inadequacy. But why take their word for it, when we have hard data?
A 2013 study by the U.S. Department of Education found that 32 million adults in this country cannot read. Most of these individuals went through our school institutions. Twenty-one percent of adults in the U.S. read below a fifth-grade level, and 19 percent of high school graduates can’t read at all.
According to a 2013 CBS report, “nearly 80 percent of New York City high school graduates need to relearn basic skills before they can enter the City University’s community college system.”
It’s cute they used the term “relearn,” as if this is a memory problem, and not a failure in education. These kids aren’t trying for ivy league, by the way, just city college, just basic skills. At the same time, NYC Department of Education reported raising graduation rates by 40 percent over the last seven years.
Sure – lower the standards and presto! Better results!
In the 2016 World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report, U.S. education didn’t even rank in the top 11 worldwide. The latest (2015) Pisa study by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) assigned the U.S. 25th place, down nine positions from their 2010 findings, when observing student performance in math, science and reading.
This places America’s public schools well behind Estonia and Slovenia, among others, despite our government spending 31 percent more than the average, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Reported spending for elementary and secondary education at the state level was $235 billion in 2009-2010, although the “average real per-pupil spending figure of over $12,200 is 49 percent higher than the $8,200 the districts claim to spend.”
These glaringly grave results intensify against a backdrop of rising violence in our public schools. Assaults on teachers in St. Paul, Minnesota tripled in 2015. According to “Education Week,” teachers’ unions in Fresno, Des Moines, New York City, and Indianapolis have all lodged complaints about the new anti-discipline philosophy called “restorative justice,” which, as it is practiced in Seattle, results in students being returned to class without suffering any consequences, after cursing at teachers and physically assaulting them.
What a deal, right? Greater expense, worse scholarship results, and increased violence … Congratulations, John Q Public, you are officially the victim of the biggest Ponzi scheme ever. Well, you and your children. Ponzi and Madoff only pilfered people’s hard-earned savings. Our public education system is scandalously squandering the fortunes and futures of the next several generations.
The bungling education bureaucracy has explicitly imposed nine overhauls of the public education system in the past 29 years. The most comprehensive revamping, Common Core, is an untested, uninspired, non-curriculum, “standards” application that purports to solve all kinds of issues while offering absolutely no proof that it can. (It cannot.) Common Core proponents scurrilously and incongruously defend it as the standardization of our education. (I mean, who doesn’t want their child to be common?)
Standards are simply goals; they are not outcome. For instance, I have a high standard when it come to the tidiness of my son’s room, but there remains a sizable difference between the standard and the result. And the Common Core standards are not even elevated – they are lowered. So formerly eighth-grade math is now ninth-grade math, instead. Your gardener is not simply assigning you a pile of leaves to rake, he’s chopping down your favorite tree.
Now, you might imagine the educated public would wise up and recognize that public schools are failing, some even say “by design,” but remember, we ourselves are products of public school education.
The redeeming grace is that there is no limit to education of the human mind. Unlike a fish that can never leave the water to ascertain what “wet” feels like, we can depart the institution and rediscover the joy in learning, through home education.
Stop cleaning up after the gardener.
Nothing should deprive or dissuade you the parent from the privilege and obligation to educate your children. Parents, you are already home schooling, and after all, they’re YOUR kids.
Sam Sorbo is an actress, film producer and home schooling mom. She has authored “They’re YOUR Kids: An Inspirational Journey from Self-Doubter to Home School Advocate,” and “Teach from Love: A School Year Devotional for Families,” (Broadstreet, August, 2017). She also stars in the upcoming “Let There Be Light” in theaters, October 27th, 2017.