A Teachable Moment

Former local teacher union pesident Morty Rosenfeld periodically attempts to make sense of the increasingly senseless world of public education.

Homework Therapy?

Doesn’t it strike us that there is something wrong with our schools when we note that a tutoring industry worth $100 billion has sprung up to meet the needs of an overwhelmed generation of students who find it impossible to cope with the academic demands made of them without significant help? So overwhelmed are many of them that the New York Times reports the development of a new niche in the tutoring industry – homework therapy. That’s right – home work therapy sessions costing $200 to $600 for a 50 to 75 minute session.

It has seemed to me that we have confused piling work on to students as raising academic standards. We’ve created a climate in which students can never do enough. Take more courses! Only taking two AP classes? What’s wrong with you? School has become the sum total of too many adolescents’ existence. Rare are the students who find significant hours during week days to just relax, hang out with friends or play non-competitive sports for fun. Those that do carve out some space for themselves tend to be seen as lacking seriousness. You’ve got to build your resume. You’ve got to get into that top college, to get a top job and earn a top salary.

When will we realize that the existence of a burgeoning tutoring industry strongly suggests that we have unrealistic expectations of student performance? When will we see that the work we pile on young people has many of them expressing psychological symptoms that have brought into being coping strategies like homework therapy? When will we remind ourselves that children need unstructured time to play, to explore the things that bring them joy? When we do, we will put an end to the senseless hours of homework we expect of children who have already put in six or seven hours of academics in school.

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