My phone lines lit up like a Christmas tree.
As the host of a three-hour mid-morning talk show on CJAD radio in Montreal , I am used to dealing with topics that spark an animated reaction. However, I was not prepared this morning for the deluge of emotion when I suggested that all homework should be banned.
My proposal was simple enough: No more homework, not elementary school and not in high school.
Keep in mind that I am not talking about reading at home or working on a special project. That would be fine. I am talking about assignments that have to be done at home and handed in to a flustered teacher who hands them back days later when the material is long forgotten.
Doesn't homework help students get better marks? One study after another, including the latest one from the Australian Institute of Family Studies, is proof that it does nothing of the kind.
Not only is homework unhelpful, it's harmful.
For 30 minutes, one call after another proved that the idea of a ban struck a chord with parents. One mother of a 7-year-old girl was practically in tears when she told me her daughter, who used to love school, now hates it. Why? Because she is forced to do 90 minutes of homework assignments every day!
No wonder she hates school. She is seven, for heaven's sake. The child gets up at 7:30 in the morning. She's in school all day long. The bus picks her up at 3:45 to take her home. By the time she is dropped off, it's nearly 5:00. That day is long enough. She should not be forced to work for another hour and a half.
Give her time to be a child, to spend quality time with her family, to have fun with her mom without arguing day in and day out. If she knows the work, there is no need to do more of it. If she does not understand, there's no point in having her repeat her mistakes
Shocked at the prospect of doing away with something that is such a staple of virtually every school system across the continent, another parent called me to protest.
She said, "What are you talking about? I mean... we have to have homework. Otherwise, the kids won't have structure and they will just come home and fool around."
Good. That's exactly what they should be doing. They deal with structure from early in the morning until late in the afternoon. That's enough structure for an adult, much less a child.
It's time to 'fess up about homework. It is forced labor. Unpaid forced labor. Homework assignments provide precious little benefit and they cause unnecessary stress for the child and for the parent. Good teachers can get the job done in class. Those who can't just assign more homework.
Some schools are finally pondering the possibility of eliminating weekend or holiday homework assignments. That's too namby-pamby. Not good enough. It's time to stop the addiction to homework cold turkey.
If a student wishes to review some of the work of the day on their own, great. If the kids have to study for a test or exam -- no problem. But those millions of hours of useless make-work homework assignments? They have caused misery enough.
Homework is cruel and unusual punishment. Banning it will improve the life of students, parents and teachers in one fell swoop.
Reading at home or perhaps playing a musical instrument connected with school work, that's fine, but the homework assignments have got to go.
What will these kids do with all their new-found spare time? They will relax; they can have some fun; they can play outside; and spend time with their friends. Letting kids be kids -- what a novel concept.
After hearing what parents were telling me, I want to help them get rid of homework. We will start with Montreal. If -- make that when -- we succeed, perhaps we will set the example for the rest of North America.
If you agree, tell your friends and neighbors. If you don't agree, you better get back to the kitchen table. The homework is waiting.