The 10-minute homework solution

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It’s nice to know that when I write something here, somebody “out there” responds. And in the case of my column last week on homework, the someone “out there” is trying to do something about it. And now we unveil the “10-minute solution” to the homework problem.

City Councilmember Peter Vallone said he was “thrilled” to read last week’s column lamenting the state of the workload dumped on our schoolkids, if only because he agrees with every word I said. But he adds it’s not just the high school kids who are getting hit with excessive amounts. Kids in middle school, or sixth through eighth grade, are also getting three to four hours a night!

So now Vallone is ratcheting up his campaign to cut back on homework. He is relaunching a resolution in the city council, urging the city’s Department of Education to take action.

“Whereas,” the resolution reads, “numerous books and articles in recent years have questioned the value and amount of homework assigned to school children …
“Whereas … excessive amounts of homework have a harmful impact on school children, by turning learning into drudgery, diminishing creativity, contributing to child obesity, and depression…..

(I like these “whereas” lines… they make things sound so official and absolutely correct!)

“Resolved… the City Council calls on the Department of Education to limit… homework to 10 minutes on any given night, and include one homework-free night a week…”
In the other “whereas’s” that I skipped, Vallone cites a University of Michigan study that says the amount of time spent on homework for kids aged six to 17 has increased 51 percent since 1981, and that between 1980 and 2002, the percent of tenth graders spending more than ten hours a week on homework increased from seven to 37 percent!

Vallone also echoed the frustration of kids asking parents for their help. “Everything’s changed. With the exception of history, I’m not much help.”

The 10-minute homework solution comes from boiling down research that indicates less homework means more learning. Vallone told me: “So much of that homework time can become family time.”

Vallone’s suggestions are a breath of fresh air, a jolt of common sense for an education system that is way out of whack. So far, he says, the Department of Education has been resistant to his ideas. “They are caught in old-school thinking.”

But there is one group that is very receptive: parents. “Some come up and give me a hug saying, ‘It’s nice to know somebody understands.’”

Another receptive group: the kids. Vallone told me he actually repeats his anti-homework mantra when he speaks at school graduations, adding: “Now if I can only get the voting age down to eight years old, I’ll be all set!”