Is homework necessary? Author presents pitch for education reforms

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






Author Alfie Kohn lectures students in the Carol Channing Theater. Photo by Chris Hackett

“The problem is not with the kids, it’s with the system,” author Alfie Kohn said in a lecture to students on the benefits of progressive education on Jan. 25 in the Carol Channing Theater at Lowell.

Advertisement

In the lecture, Kohn discussed the key differences between progressive education and the traditional system. Progressive schools focus on teaching students to think and doubt, while schools focused on achievements merely train students to be robots, according to Kohn. He also criticized the classic rewards system. Kohn argued that the students who complete an assignment for good grades, praise or any other external incentives are less likely to develop a real interest in the subject or to challenge themselves to do better.

Kohn also explained his reasoning for opposing standardized testing, competitions, grades and homework. According to Kohn, these traditional forms of assessments are unreliable reports from a teacher’s view on a student’s performance. “Tests are artificial pencil-and-paper exercises that measure how much students remember and how good they are at the discrete skill of taking tests,” Kohn said. “That’s how it’s possible for a student to be a talented thinker and yet score poorly.”

To further illustrate the nonessential nature of grades and homework, Kohn presented a case study from a high school history teacher in the East Bay. The teacher gradually assigned less homework as the semester proceeded, and by the time he stopped assigning homework completely, his students’ performance produced surprising results. They began to relate current events to the subject and their interest in the curriculum was significantly raised.

“Alfie represents a new theory with more student involvement and a healthy direction for education to move.”

Several teachers agreed with Kohn’s ideology or adopted his ideas to use in their teaching methods. “I feel that I actually embrace and practice a number of his ideas already in my teaching style,” English teacher Sydney Recht said. Starting in this semester, Recht has begun to provide more in-class reading time to her AP Literature students as an effort to lessen their homework loads.

Some teachers who attended the lecture stated that it wouldn’t change their homework policies. However, two teachers, who preferred not to be named, implemented new modifications in their grading policies after attending Kohn’s lecture. Both teachers declined interviews with The Lowell.

Some don’t agree with Kohn’s system. Sophomore Christopher Ying doesn’t believe Kohn’s proposed system should be implemented. “While I do agree that there are huge problems with the American school system, getting rid of everything is far too extreme and would do more harm than good,” Ying said. In his opinion, homework and tests are still necessary for measuring the strengths and weaknesses of students.

By organizing this event, Parent Teacher Student Association President Stan Goldberg aimed to expose the Lowell community to ideas about education reformation. “Alfie represents a new theory with more student involvement and a healthy direction for education to move,” Goldberg said. “By bringing him here, we allow everyone to hear the ideas and to give feedback to teachers and administrators as to what would be reworked here at Lowell.”

Author Alfie Kohn lectures students in the Carol Channing Theater. Photo by Chris Hackett