I’d like to welcome you to a discussion that takes place between Tessa and me on a bi-weekly basis: my crazy notions about education. I would like to pitch a few ideas to the world at large and see where they land, if you don’t mind.
1. Assigning homework to kindergartners is bullshit. If you want to see how to turn your child’s insane wide-eyed imagination into total drudgery and automaton-like conformity, just take a look at this graph:
I’m sorry, kindergarten is for EATING CRAYONS. It is for finger painting, then putting your finger in your butt. It is for spilling shit all over creation, laughing so hard you wet your pants, and thinking boys are doo-doo heads. As stated in this excellent article in today’s NYT, “a flotilla of research shows homework confers no benefit — enhancing neither retention nor study habits — until middle school.” Did you hear that? MIDDLE SCHOOL.
2. Assigning homework AT ALL is bullshit. Yes, this is where I sound like crazy “I wanna raise the drinking age” guy, but I’m serious. When I was in high school, our day started at 7:30am, and if we did anything artistic or sports-related, we got home at 8pm. Then we had an AIRCRAFT CARRIER load of homework for each class, doled out by teachers who didn’t think any other teacher gave out homework. There were actually not enough hours in the day to be attending school, and even if there were, that’s all you did with your fucking life: you attended school.
I loathed it. I didn’t have one millisecond to pursue any interest in the world I once had. All those weird skills I tell you about, like ham radio, calligraphy, odd languages, composing, carpentry? All begun in junior high, when I still had time to breathe. In the real world, you might have a suck-ass job, but if you’re smart, you leave the job at 5 and come home to do whatever you want. You’re at school from early in the morning to late afternoon… why the fuck do you have to bring it home with you?
Don’t give me that line – used above – about improving “retention and study habits”. All that means is that you’re temporarily retaining knowledge to be vomited out at test time, then promptly forgotten. As for study habits, why can’t you learn that at school itself? Take a class in “using your time wisely” or some shit, so when you come home, you can get on your bike or just lie back and daydream. That’s where most money-making ideas come from anyway.
3. School should start no earlier than 9:30am. Show me a high-schooler, and I’ll show you a fucking somnambulist. Teens have drastic chemical changes in their nervous system that force them to stay up later, while also making them need nine hours or more sleep. Personally, I slept-walked from 1981 to 1985, and only partially woke up for UNC. Story after story shows how later starts would benefit attendance, test scores, academic achievement and sports. Yet there’s always some asinine Puritan moral high ground that accompanies early risers – traditions no doubt handed down from our farming ancestors, you know, like whipping kids with a leather pitchfork strap – that’ll keep our school fettered to the godawful early morning.
I don’t know, I hated school, almost every minute of it. I hated the inefficiency of those vast hours spent doing busywork, the arbitrariness of testing, and the gargantuan slabs of homework for homework’s sake. Don’t get me wrong, I would have loved to have engaged in endless projects that taxed my imagination and my deductive skills, something that forced me to break something down and rebuild it. Hell, I could have even dealt with boring-ass trigonometry and backwater poli-sci if I weren’t so damn tired and didn’t have to take it home.
maybe I just wish it was all like this