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I think parents helping with, managing, or even doing their kids homework is a big untold story of how many families cope today with keeping their kids "in the game" of conventional school. So when it at times crosses the line from parents helping to parents doing, is that cheating or is it just what you have to do sometimes to help your stressed out kid survive and navigate the institution?  And doesn’t what seems to be a fairly common practice (at least around the circle of parents that I know) favor the kids who have parents that are academically talented, have the time to spend their evenings assisting their kids, and are driven by one reason or another to have their kids be judged as successful (rather than necessarily be successful) at school?

When I was in elementary school in the 1960s, we did not have a lot of homework, so I was blessed to have my afterschool time as my own, to do with as I pleased.  I had time to read many wonderful books and pursue all the things of interest to me that I could not do at school.  I don’t recall my parents ever being concerned about or managing my production of homework, though they would always help me if I explicitly asked them for help.

For example, when I did occasionally have a large written assignment to do, I would generally not want to do it, and would invariably put it off to the last moment.  Then a day or two before the due date, I would start writing what I wanted to be a comprehensive, well-written report, but would realize that I had not left myself the time to make my wish a reality.  My dad, the college English professor, would invariably see me struggling at the typewriter, and would volunteer to "help me" by writing some of the sections of my report and/or agreeing to "retype" (rewrite) my final draft. My dad assisted me in this way rather than by being the "homework police" like I and many of my parent peers would later be to our kids.

So if I got an "A" on my paper, due to my dad’s help, and my classmate got a "C" for work done on his own, weren’t my dad and I cheating the academic ranking system implied by these letter grades?  Wasn’t I falsely claiming the self-esteem that went with my teacher’s glowing appraisal of my report?  You would think the teachers must have suspected, but they never commented and always gave me top grades for my dad's work.  And what does it say about our competitive academic environment that I would rather cheat than learn and my dad would be more than willing to make it happen?

Now I have been a parent myself and interacted with many of my peers playing this same role, and from my experience, I think that parents managing their kids’ homework and test preparation has become fairly commonplace among middle-class families. I have close friends who routinely do homework with their kids, to the point where it has become a multi-hour nightly project for the parent-student team, managed by the parent to ensure the quality of the product that is turned in the next day, with hopefully more of the legwork done by the actual student.  But if the kids run out of steam or get bored and their minds shut down, the parents are there to make sure the work somehow gets completed and the assignment is properly turned in and that check mark in the teacher’s grading book is received.  From the way these parents tell it, and the snippets I have seen when I have visited them, it is a stressful experience for both youth and adult.

I feel like these parents are determined to, and even take pride in, exercising their skills and spending their precious free evening hours to ensure that their kids can navigate the increasingly difficult and often uninteresting requirements of school.  To fail to do so risks their kids becoming frustrated with the tedium, giving up, and being evaluated and ranked poorly by the now high-stakes educational institutions and endangering their chances of achieving positions of power and prestige in adult society.

I have certainly been there myself. Our son Eric always hated homework and in the later elementary grades started refusing to do all but the few assignments he actually found interesting. I would badger, cajole, and try to motivate him with rewards, generally to no avail.  He would tell me over and over that he did not mind his time spent at school, since he found most of the material interesting and liked interacting with the other youth and even most of the teachers. But when it came to doing additional schoolwork at home, that crossed a line and was a total imposition on time that should be his own.  I could never come up with a good counter to that, since I cherished having my own time outside of work hours, and I was never one driven to spend all my waking hours trying to move up the economic ladder.

In a middle school science class, Eric was doing fine listening to the teacher in class and then getting good grades on the tests. But many of the other kids were failing the tests, so in order to keep the majority of his students from failing science, the teacher changed his grading system, assigned homework every week, and made it half the grade. That way, even the kids who failed the tests, if they turned in all their homework, would get a passing grade and the teacher could avoid failing the bulk of his students.

So Eric, who was previously getting an A in the class based on test scores, did not turn in the homework because he thought it was pointless for him because he knew the material based on his participation in class. So he got a zero on fifty percent of his grade and went from an A to a D in science. He didn’t care because he was totally internally motivated, but the school cared and was threatening to sanction him from doing the after school drama activities at the school that he loved.  

His issues with homework and refusal to do it eventually soured his participation in school and his relationship with most of his teachers to the point where he would resist getting up in the morning and going to school (which eventually led to us pulling him out).  In a desperate attempt to keep him in this institution, I ended up doing a significant percentage of his homework assignments for him, with a nagging feeling that the whole thing was not right, but trying to rationalize it as the only way to keep him in school.

On the other hand, the alternative school where my partner Sally used to work as the school counselor explicitly told parents not to help their kids with their homework assignments. The teachers never graded the homework, and truly just wanted to see what level of work the kid could do on their own at home so they could see how to help them gain competency at whatever the skill was being learned. Many parents could not stand this policy and the homework would come in perfect, in syntax, spelling, etc., obviously not the kid's own work.
So among other things, this begs a question.  Are all us parents who spend all these hours doing homework with (or for) our kids gaming the system, and giving our kids a leg up on the kids with parents who, for economic or other reasons, are unable or unwilling to devote those hours every evening to share the stress and help their kids produce high-quality high-stakes homework? Is it worth the time and effort to do what we can to ensure that our kids have successful outcomes to move them along the standard academic path?

I think we are gaming the system!  How can the kid from an economically disadvantaged family, whose parents may not have the academic proficiency or the time to spend hours every night helping their kids with homework, compete successfully in this competitive high-stakes learning environment?  Is this what educational leaders are lamenting when they say that "parental involvement" makes a critical difference in the success or failure of a kid in conventional school?  Is this a key to the dilemma with so many schools in poor neighborhoods not having kids pass muster on all the high-stakes testing?

And when it comes to the high-stakes college entrance tests, kids from these same well-to-do families generally have access to the extensive informal test prep help from their parents and/or expensive private test prep classes and tutoring which I read is becoming a burgeoning industry.  How much is too much to spend to assure that your kid gets into a prestigious higher education institution?  And what about the rest of the kids who don’t have this advantage?

The one positive thing that No Child Left Behind might inadvertently accomplish, in my opinion, is to bring to light this very unfair situation, and maybe force us to rethink the entire education process for our youth.

Originally posted to leftyparent on Fri May 01, 2009 at 12:55 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

    •  If I could tip multiple times I would nt (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      beagledad, kjoftherock
    •  you have! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Justus, kjoftherock

      I know someone who helped with the discovery and reintroduction of the American Chestnut in elementary school (go find some leaves, ya?).

      But as a parent, there are lines. you can put consequences on how well kids do... or you can let them sink and swim.

      I think that there's a point at which grades actually matter (7th algebra for me). But before then, kids should be allowed to do what they want (i read constantly in class. even when i was done with tests)

      Jesus ain't comin', go ahead and put the Nukes back now.

      by RisingTide on Fri May 01, 2009 at 01:39:40 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I don't believe in grades at all... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Miss Jones, Preposterous Idea

        I think it is rude to boil a human being down to a number or letter that is all about ranking them against others rather than bringing out their unique gifts to support others.

        Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

        by leftyparent on Fri May 01, 2009 at 02:05:29 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Unfortunately.... (0+ / 0-)

          or not, depending on one's orientation, life is competition and ranking.

          If you've ever applied for a good job, or a promotion from among a peer group, you'll understand what I mean.

          Some win... some lose.

          Such is life.

          Now, we can perhaps discuss whether such an arrangement is "good" in absolute terms, but to think that it's ever going to go away is delusional at best.

          Some people are better than others, no matter what parameters you're assessing.

          --Shannon

          "It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees." -- Emiliano Zapata Salazar
          "Dissent is patriotic. Blind obedience is treason." --me

          by Leftie Gunner on Fri May 01, 2009 at 02:27:47 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Once out of school... (0+ / 0-)

            I have managed to live my life, including my work life, with a maximum of cooperation and a minimum of competition, trying to be the change I want to see towards an arrangement, as you say, that is good for everybody in absolute terms.

            Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

            by leftyparent on Sat May 02, 2009 at 06:30:39 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  You raise an important question (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      st minutia

      Ultimately, "Who is responsible for Johhny?"

      My answer is "Parents."

      I don't really care HOW Johnny learns, but I do care THAT he learns. If we look to our own experiences in school we can all remember the worst (Mr. Nannali- "You'll be corridorized son.") and the best (Mr. Phelps- "Let's go out in the yard and look at some real trees and rocks under the microscope.") teachers.

      In the end, parents are the ultimate guardians of their children's future. My 13 y.o. has more homework than I had in my years in college. I will review his work, sometimes make "suggestions", but the end-product is his own. I will often keep my suggestions for him to review after he gets his paper graded. It seems to help with his clarity of presentation for the next assignment.

      My father is my best friend, guide and teacher.

  •  Homework is out of control (9+ / 0-)

    I started first grade in 1983 and let me tell you that my years 1 through 12 had a constant stream of a ridiculous amount of homework.  What ever happened to being a kid?  I remember Saturdays when I was like 10 when it would have been great to be building model rockets with my dad but instead I was doing book reports.  At FUCKING 10 years old!

    I'm sure it is only much worse now.  Honestly, having gone through it once, I am not really of a mind to repeat it now by having my own kids.  Back in my day (and place - working class Cincinnati), the expectation wasn't really on parents to be involved in all of this homework, so they could go about their lives.  Not so today, I'm afraid.  I'm an adult with varied interests and I'll be damned if I'm going to spend three hours every night back in 6th grade.

    Our culture of rote learning and teaching for standardized tests has got to stop.  If it doesn't, society can count me as one PhD astrophysicist who won't be passing on his genes.  

    All this wasted time learning and acquiring skills... And all along I should have just squinted to see Russia

    by fizziks on Fri May 01, 2009 at 01:07:55 PM PDT

  •  I hear you. I've had so many evenings ruined (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mkfarkus, beagledad, ilex, RisingTide

    by trying to help my ADHD son get through his assigments.  We keep on getting HW limits put into his IEP, but then his teachers really ignore them unless we call them on it.  It's a struggle, and he is showing some improvement - but it's a far cry than when I was a kid - I don't really recall my parents helping me with HW at all!

  •  interesting diary (5+ / 0-)

    Thanks for your thoughts. I share some of your concerns, yet I'm not sure I agree with your final paragraph:

    The one positive thing that No Child Left Behind might inadvertently accomplish, in my opinion, is to bring to light this very unfair situation, and maybe force us to rethink the entire education process for our youth.

    How exactly does NCLB do this? I'm not following you here. If anything, I see it making the disparities worse.

    I should also add that my stake in the matter is an unusual one. At 27, I have no children of my own and I don't anticipate having kids in the future. But I am a college-level instructor and I worry deeply about the state of American K-12 education. The students I see in my classes are increasingly unprepared with foundational knowledge vital for a college-level class (how to read a difficult text, how to write a research paper, etc.). This is in spite of rising test scores in my state.

    It seems to me that what needs to change is how we measure accountability, not the notion of accountability itself.

    •  I was trying to be ironic... (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      pine, beagledad, ilex, kjoftherock

      I too am deeply against NCLB and the high-stakes testing focus that it exemplifies, and feel that the testing craze is robbing our kids of the opportunity to really "deep learn" the things they are really interested in and have a talent for, that might better prepare them to seek higher education in those areas of their real interest.

      Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

      by leftyparent on Fri May 01, 2009 at 01:17:27 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  thanks for the clarification (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ilex, kjoftherock

        That makes sense. It's been a long week and my Irony Detector is broken.

      •  The past six weeks of my kids education (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        pine, LeanneB

        has been entirely disrupted by the NCLB-mandated testing.  First, the ramp-up with teachers throwing the regular curriculum aside as they make the kids practice the absurdly stylized format of the tests, then the three weeks of maximum stress while the tests are administered.  I've taken SATs, LSATs, and the Bar Exam, and this seems worse (in elementary school, no less) than any of those.

        "...we all of us, grave or light, get our thoughts entangled in metaphors, and act fatally on the strength of them."

        by beagledad on Fri May 01, 2009 at 02:00:28 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  I have told my kids over and over... (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      pine, Catte Nappe, Limelite, LeanneB

      ...the homework is not about getting the right answer, it's to get you to practice thinking. You may not need this specific answer when you get a job, but you need to know how to solve problems no matter what you do to make a living.

      Funny that nobody complains when the kid is on the football team or in the school orchestra and is required to practice every day, sometimes for hours at a time.

      "It is often pleasant to stone a martyr, no matter how much we admire him"...John Barth

      by Giles Goat Boy on Fri May 01, 2009 at 01:20:44 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Unprepared? (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Renee, ilex, st minutia, LeanneB

      Why would they be prepared if it was their parents doing their homework?

      "People who have what they want are fond of telling people who haven't what they want that they really don't want it." Ogden Nash (on universal health care?)

      by Catte Nappe on Fri May 01, 2009 at 01:59:08 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Because most of it does not really... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        beagledad, ilex

        contribute to their learning perhaps

        Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

        by leftyparent on Fri May 01, 2009 at 02:13:17 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Depends on what you mean by prepared (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Catte Nappe, ilex, st minutia

        Apparently they are well prepared indeed to foist off their work on others. Until they end up working with (or for) me. Or some other hard-ass who won't tolerate it. My motto in my current job is: we're all overworked and underpaid. STFU and get it done.

        •  I've had jobs like that. (0+ / 0-)

          Emphasis on "had," past tense.  Not a good way to build employee morale or retention, if it matters.

          "...we all of us, grave or light, get our thoughts entangled in metaphors, and act fatally on the strength of them."

          by beagledad on Fri May 01, 2009 at 02:27:17 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  If the work doesn't get done, (0+ / 0-)

            everybody ends up unemployed, and retention solves itself.

            "Job satisfaction" is overrated... I'll take a steady paycheck at a job I hate over work-happiness any day of the week. My job does not define me... it gives me money in exchange for time. If it was satisfying and fun, they wouldn't have to pay people to do it.

            --Shannon

            "It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees." -- Emiliano Zapata Salazar
            "Dissent is patriotic. Blind obedience is treason." --me

            by Leftie Gunner on Fri May 01, 2009 at 02:35:04 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  My Kindergartners have homework and even (4+ / 0-)

    know how to read already. They are assigned a weekly "book report" (actually, draw a picture related to the book and write or copy a parent-written sentence about the book) and weekly worksheets on the alphabet.

    They plan this homework for parental participation and, at the start, I got a lot of resistance from the kids. We made it fun and they do it on their own.

    But it's kindergarten homework. It involves crayons.

    I'm sort of agnostic about homework for kids this young. I like doing it with them (never for them) and seeing how they react to it, but they're so young.

    I spoke to a pre-school teacher about her kids' public high school. She told me she initially wanted her kids in the city's premiere school, but was told by parents with kids at that school that their kids were regularly up until 1:00 a.m. each night with their homework. She felt it was bad for them.

    •  Required academic work like that... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Renee, ksh01, coquiero

      for kindergarten and pre-school kids (even if done with crayons...*g*) I believe to be very developmentally inappropriate and risks damaging kids' ability to to manage their own development.

      Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

      by leftyparent on Fri May 01, 2009 at 01:21:25 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Could be. It's voluntary but I don't think that (0+ / 0-)

        changes the equation.

        My understanding is that because they start testing for NCLB in first grade, the schools feel they have to start them early.

        There's some resistance from other parents along the lines you mention. I'm not wild about it myself.

        If we weren't able to make it fun...if it involved nagging and tears, I wouldn't do it.

        Here's an illustration of how young they really are in kindergarten. At the end of his book "report," my son directs me to write (for him to copy). "I love you, Mrs. Yamaguchi."

        •  I have read articles... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          kjoftherock

          about parents who have their two-year-olds tutored in "pre-academics" so they have a leg up in rising to the top of the academic pyramid.  Other articles about five-year-olds experiencing school burn-out.

          Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

          by leftyparent on Fri May 01, 2009 at 01:38:56 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I've heard of that too but (0+ / 0-)

            thought it must be a myth, such a stupid idea.

            •  Here is info about the articles & links... (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              ilex

              TUTORED AT 2: TOO MUCH TOO SOON?

              Steven Uyeji is among a growing number of parents who pay private tutors to prepare their children for kindergarten. Some do it to instill self-discipline and confidence. Others want to give their kids a competitive edge in an increasingly high-stakes, high-pressure public school system. In addition, some parents seek out private tutoring when their children lag behind their peers during the first months of kindergarten, which has become more like the first grade of a decade ago.

              The nation's major tutoring companies have embraced the younger set by rolling out new programs for these budding clients, even those who haven't begun formal schooling. Parents pay large sums to prepare their tiny tots for school, with prices ranging anywhere from $100 to several thousand a month. Some education and child development experts believe it's too much academics too soon.
              http://www.signonsandiego.com/...

              A BURNOUT AT 5: WHEN DID KINDERGARTEN BECOME A FULL-TIME JOB? If parents are being advised to wait until age 6 to enroll their kids in school, and the first-grade curriculum is now taught in kindergarten, the kindergarten we once knew has effectively been eliminated. No wonder there is a drive for universal preschool. Preschool is the new kindergarten, writes L.J. Williamson. The reason schools have pushed down the curriculum to younger students? Higher test scores mean more cash, because the state pegs teacher bonuses to academic performance index improvements. So now children are being prodded to work at a level above what may be developmentally appropriate -- especially for those children with "late birthdays" who actually start kindergarten at 4 -- so the schools can earn bonuses for improving performance. But at what cost to the kids? It seems that advocates of universal preschool believe the solution to problems in our schools is to simply add more school. Yet if the funds proposed to create universal preschool were used to boost teacher salaries and hire more classroom aides, it could make a big dent overnight in the so-called teacher shortage.
              http://www.latimes.com/...

              Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

              by leftyparent on Fri May 01, 2009 at 02:16:13 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  there's also a movement to keep kids back (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                ilex

                a year...have them start kindergarten at 6. My niece has a September bday and it's been wonderful for her. Top of her class and well adjusted.

                My kids were born in March, so I couldn't do that.

                Here's my experience:

                They are right...pre-school is more like kindergarten. However, it's not like kindergarten in that though they teach things earlier, they must do it in a different way. An age appropriate way or it doesn't work. So kids are learning some numbers and alphabet earlier, but they can't learn it in the way we learned it because they learn differently at 4 than they do at 6.

                It's not that I think this earlier start is a good thing. I don't have much choice in the matter. However, I see a big difference each year in how things are taught.

                Frankly, one of the things that bothers me the most (and you'll probably think this is silly)...but my son is exhausted all the time. He goes to bed on time and wakes up only a little early, but when he's at home on weekend days, he passes out at 2:00.

                We used to get naps in kindergarten.

                As far as the tutors go, well, I think that stuff is a waste of time and money. I feel bad for the child whose parents are that overanxious.

                •  Nothing Silly (0+ / 0-)

                  About sleep deprivation.

                  I've got cheerful kids. They sleep about 11 to 12 hours a night.

                  We homeschool. My kids go to bed earlier than most kids we know who go to school. They're just sitting down to breakfast when the school bus goes by.

                  Sleep is probably more important to a developing brain than quite a lot of what we consider important to learning. And studies have found that high school aged kids need even more sleep than elementary school kids, which few of them get.

                  •  I moved them both back to 8:15 (0+ / 0-)

                    My son will get up between 6:30-7:00 but his twin, my daughter will sleep until 9:30 if I let her.

                    Thing is, my son gets up early no matter when he goes to bed. And that kid can turn on the crank when he's tired.

                    Wow, can't believe people have the fortitude to home school. You must be very patient.

          •  That's because (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            pletzs, ebohlman

            the parents are yuppie douchebags who want to be able to parade their kids' preschool test scores in front of the other yuppie douchebags whose approval all of this is really about.

            George Carlin called them "obsessive yuppie diaper sniffers" and said that what they were doing to their kids was a sophisticated form of child abuse.

            "Kindergarten entrance exams??!?? Jesus Christ, the poor little fuck can barely find his dick!"

            --Shannon

            "It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees." -- Emiliano Zapata Salazar
            "Dissent is patriotic. Blind obedience is treason." --me

            by Leftie Gunner on Fri May 01, 2009 at 02:38:50 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Good questions (6+ / 0-)

    Are all us parents who spend all these hours doing homework with (or for) our kids gaming the system, and giving our kids a leg up on the kids with parents who, for economic or other reasons, are unable or unwilling to devote those hours every evening to share the stress and help their kids produce high-quality high-stakes homework?

    I would say no, you are not helping your kids if you are doing their homework. If you are devoting hours every night to your kids' homework, I don't think you're gaming the system. I think your kids are gaming you. Sorry if that's harsh.

    "It is often pleasant to stone a martyr, no matter how much we admire him"...John Barth

    by Giles Goat Boy on Fri May 01, 2009 at 01:14:43 PM PDT

    •  I don't think it is harsh... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      beagledad

      I think you are right!  But I don't think we should have an education system that so many people would want to "game".  Learning should not be a competitive exercise!  Our education is out of balance.

      Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

      by leftyparent on Fri May 01, 2009 at 01:23:50 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes. things are out of balance (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Justus, LeanneB

        ...but I guess I don't have a problem with the homework as much as the standardized tests. The homework has helped my kids learn to get organized (easy for my daughter, still a challenge for my son.) I do wish they would occasionally assign my kids an actual piece of literature to read. That would be refreshing.

        "It is often pleasant to stone a martyr, no matter how much we admire him"...John Barth

        by Giles Goat Boy on Fri May 01, 2009 at 01:36:13 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  But when homework is made high-stakes... (0+ / 0-)

          then the system is rife for gaming.

          Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

          by leftyparent on Fri May 01, 2009 at 01:40:16 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  my parents ran my life... (0+ / 0-)

          until i hit college.

          Jesus ain't comin', go ahead and put the Nukes back now.

          by RisingTide on Fri May 01, 2009 at 01:44:47 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  when you say ran your life (0+ / 0-)

            do you mean did your homework for you, or made you do your homework?

            in college were you prepared for the differences in work load between high school and college?

            I have been a selfish being all my life, in practice, though not in principle. - Jane Austen

            by st minutia on Fri May 01, 2009 at 01:46:21 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  in college there was a much lighter workload (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              mbzoltan, Giles Goat Boy

              but I was completely unprepared for independent thought, and to a large degree still have not learned my degree.

              They would do my homework for me, but mostly in terms of not letting me have friends, making sure i was involved in 10 different extracurriculars, school 7 days a week, yadda yadda.

              everything to get into the best college.

              Jesus ain't comin', go ahead and put the Nukes back now.

              by RisingTide on Fri May 01, 2009 at 01:51:09 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  sounds like our neighborhood (0+ / 0-)

                the kids are little success robots.

                •  I think that's one of the dangers... (0+ / 0-)

                  my niece says she is now into being a "grade grubber"

                  Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

                  by leftyparent on Fri May 01, 2009 at 02:17:49 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  I see the college grade hounds (0+ / 0-)

                    EVERYTHING is about the grade.  And the big one I hear--"But I did all the work!  I worked hard!"

                    That's great--it doesn't guarantee you an A, though.  The work has to be done according to A standards.

                    And then they complain to the Dean.  If only they took the energy and analysis they spend on the grade chasing and applied it to the assignments.

                    •  I wonder what would happen to you (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      ilex

                      if you failed every student in a class.

                      Ideally, if you could defend each grade, the answer would be "nothing".

                      Of course, I graduated from a program with an average GPA of 2.6...

                      Engineering profs don't do grade inflation. In fact, I suspect that many  of them intentionally lowered the peak of their distributions, just to make a statement against the rampant inflation happening elsewhere in the school.

                      --Shannon

                      "It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees." -- Emiliano Zapata Salazar
                      "Dissent is patriotic. Blind obedience is treason." --me

                      by Leftie Gunner on Fri May 01, 2009 at 02:42:29 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                    •  yeah, well, you haven't failed a professional (0+ / 0-)

                      copyeditor for splitting a fucking infinitive.

                      There's a reason some people complain to the Dean -- sometimes it's actually justified.

                      The dean couldn't do anything either, because "if you have more than five grammar mistakes in the final paper, I will fail you".

                      Splitting an infinitive!

                      Jesus ain't comin', go ahead and put the Nukes back now.

                      by RisingTide on Mon May 04, 2009 at 08:49:19 AM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

              •  are you satisfied with that? (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Justus

                would you do it the same way for your own children?

                I have been a selfish being all my life, in practice, though not in principle. - Jane Austen

                by st minutia on Fri May 01, 2009 at 01:59:40 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

              •  The programmed path to success... (0+ / 0-)

                like it or not!

                Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

                by leftyparent on Fri May 01, 2009 at 02:17:13 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

      •  Even in the 70's when I was in public school (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        beagledad, ilex, st minutia

        all the teachers talked about why we had to do well in school. It was so we wouldn't be stuck in blue collar jobs. I think the competition is built into capitalism, and has been taught to us by our public school system to some extent.

        I don't think it is right either, that if your parents are in an economic situation that they can "help" you with your homework then you will do better either. What that means is that there are many children who have no real chance at success educationally. And then when they fail we can point at them and say they didn't really try.

        What? Too bitter?  

  •  I had kind of the opposite experience (16+ / 0-)

    I used to play guitar in a storefront Episcopal congregation in a Southside Mexican barrio in Chicago.  One of the local gang leaders called my from Mexico over the summer and said his parents had sent him to live with relatives because his car had been fire-bombed and his life had been threatened  He asked me if he could stay with me for his senior year in high school - he wanted to be the first in his family to graduate.  (He knew my foster son and thought I might take in another kid temporarily)

    So, he came to live with me on the far Northside and jumped on the subway at 6:30 each morning to go to the far Southside for school.  I was able to help him with homework, particularly math - something his own parents couldn't do since they left school at about 6th grade.  So for the first time in his high school career he actually brought his books home and studied.

    At the end of the first marking period he handed my his report card (bursting with pride).  It was all A's and B's.  I (somewhat facetiously) blew up at him!  He was totally confused, " but this is the best report card I've ever had."

    "That's why I'm angry," I replied and told him that all it took for him to get A's and B's was to go to class, pay attention and do his homework - he had wasted the first three years of high school.  He just grinned.  

    Next I told him that he should go to college.  "College!....Me?"  It wasn't something he had ever considered.  But he took the ACT test and got into the only two schools he applied to - DePaul University in Chicago and Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island.  He chose J&W because if he left the state for college, the gang he belonged to would let him "walk" (leave the gang without getting a "violation" - i.e. a beating).

    He graduated several years ago with a degree in international business and $250,000 in the bank (he worked during college and invested the money, then unloaded his stock before the tech bubble burst).  He was also elected President of his fraternity at the end of his sophomore year.  

    So, I never discount the importance of homework help - even if the kids don't want to do their homework.

    This so-called tax cut...is a sham...if I am not getting one then America is not getting one. - Rush Limbaugh

    by mkfarkus on Fri May 01, 2009 at 01:16:11 PM PDT

    •  Nice to hear a success story... (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mkfarkus, Miss Jones, esquimaux, ilex

      The youth you mentored really took ownership of his own path forward, which is the key I think.  Too many kids these days seem to be just reluctantly following a path that their parents have programmed for them.

      Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

      by leftyparent on Fri May 01, 2009 at 01:27:40 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Exactly! (6+ / 0-)

        I worked for almost four years with gang members on the Northwest side of Chicago prior to this.  One thing I learned was that I could help the kids who had at least some goal of their own.

        One thing I forgot to mention above, especially with regard to the math.  He sometimes found himself unable to understand new concepts the teacher taught.  I would sit down with him and explain them.  Inevitably he would say, "Why didn't the teacher explain it that way?" Then he went ahead and did his homework problems flawlessly.

        This so-called tax cut...is a sham...if I am not getting one then America is not getting one. - Rush Limbaugh

        by mkfarkus on Fri May 01, 2009 at 01:52:15 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  good for you (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mkfarkus

      thank you.
      As a former teacher who gave home work, i disagree with the diarist frequently and so out of courtesy do not comment on his/her diaries.

      But my students in inner city Buffalo had TOO much time on their hands and surely they could sit and review the textbook and answer four questions in order to be ready for hands on experiment the next day.  If they couldn't do that then they could sit in the corner and finish up before joining the group for a cooperative lesson.
      These kids often didn' t have parents that could help them much but it was more about changing the locus of control to the student. Where the student now exercised his/her will to make the decision to comply with my required assignment.  

      Home work is a habit too. Making time to review the day or reflect on the learning is a good thing.  Making notes, lists and a plan of action evolves from early quiet time in a household where people have time to think. Not constantly entertained or endless repeats of Jerry Springer baby daddy dna results.

      If you love Austin .....Please!!!! Watch this video: http://strikeproductions.com/brackenridge-field-laboratory.html

      by TexMex on Fri May 01, 2009 at 02:33:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Getting kids to comply, in my opinion... (0+ / 0-)

        is in no way the same as teaching them responsibility and self-control, which I believe has to be self-initiated and not externally mandated.

        Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

        by leftyparent on Sat May 02, 2009 at 06:48:29 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  homework has turned into a nightly battle (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    beagledad, ilex, kjoftherock

    for our older son, in 11th grade.  he says he's done it, won't show it to us, and then either has not done it or forgets to turn it in.  Like the comment above, A on tests, F on homework = D or F as final grade.  we are looking at alternate schools, aware the clock is ticking on his K-12 education...before he gets shut of of adult opportunities comepletly.  

    •  I hear you... but am concerned.... (5+ / 0-)

      that we think "the clock is ticking" and that there is one train to the future and our kids damn well better be on it or they have thrown their lives away.

      Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

      by leftyparent on Fri May 01, 2009 at 01:29:05 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  are your children old enough to know what (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Catte Nappe, Justus

        they want to do career-wise?  i don't have children of my own, so i do not have this nightly homework struggle.  but i am a public librarian who sees her share of struggling students.

        i think i understand what you're saying about self directed interests and wasting time on busy work.  Children need time to be children and not overburdened with 3 hours of homework.  learning should be fun and not burdensome.

        But learning stuff sucks sometimes.  school is hard, especially when you're studying something you're not interested in.  that is true in high school, college (ivy league or community), trade school, your career.  successfully completing something you don't want to do (like homework) teaches you something, too.  something that might be at least as valuable in the long run as having your parents do your work for you.

        I have been a selfish being all my life, in practice, though not in principle. - Jane Austen

        by st minutia on Fri May 01, 2009 at 02:08:41 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I feel strongly that an education system... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ilex

          is out of balance when it teaches kids that "learning sucks sometimes" and encourages them to stop learning as soon as they possibly can get away with it, have a burger and enjoy watching American Idol or the race for the presidency...*g*

          Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

          by leftyparent on Fri May 01, 2009 at 02:22:08 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  for the vast majority of humans (myself included) (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Catte Nappe

            learning is hard.  that's what i mean by learning sucks.  learning a foreign language, when you start in high school instead of at birth is hard.  learning to draw perspective is hard.  learning how to solve word problems in algebra, learning to play the piano or basketball.  all of these things are hard unless you are one of the lucky few with innate ability the majority of us don't have.  that does not mean they are not worthwhile.  

            i guess i don't see where the

            encouragement to stop as soon as they can possibly get away with it

            comes from.  unless it's parents that say, "you don't have to do learn this if it bores you, i'll do it instead."

            I have been a selfish being all my life, in practice, though not in principle. - Jane Austen

            by st minutia on Fri May 01, 2009 at 02:33:28 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  I totally agree with you (0+ / 0-)

          and hope he finds his passion!

    •  I know someone who was only able to graduate (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      beagledad, ilex

      from high school by acing a state test (there was money in it for the school if he graduated).

      went to college, failed out, spent years wandering around doing warehouse work...

      went BACK to college, and finally passed algebra on the fourth try. Is still in college for physics. Last seen insisting that calculus is way easier than algebra.

      Jesus ain't comin', go ahead and put the Nukes back now.

      by RisingTide on Fri May 01, 2009 at 01:48:02 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  why is this ok with you. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Catte Nappe

      he says he's done it, won't show it to us, and then either has not done it or forgets to turn it in.

      we are looking at alternate schools

      You know his pattern of behavior yet you blame the school?

      I am out of here because I am too much a teacher to read about people not addressing things at home then blaming the schools.

      (And the internet comments don't give a clear picture of what is going on, so dumbasses like me jump in and get critical of parents.)
      I am just never understanding how parents who have more control over their children than teachers and schools can't/won't make their kids do their school work and then expect other adults (unrelated to the kid) to be more successful without parental support.

      I just don't get it.  Mostly that "it's us against them" attitude.

      "Schools are bad because my kid is doing poorly."

      "Schools are bad because I think my kid works too hard."
      "Teachers are bad too much union blah blah blah....."
      see ya guys on a different diary.....

      If you love Austin .....Please!!!! Watch this video: http://strikeproductions.com/brackenridge-field-laboratory.html

      by TexMex on Fri May 01, 2009 at 02:44:27 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I don't see it as blaming the school... (0+ / 0-)

        but acknowledging that this sort of school, this particular learning path may not be the right one for this kid.  As my mom always said, "kids will tell you what they need", and it sounds like this kid is saying with his behavior, even unconsciously, that he is not comfortable in this environment.

        Families need profoundly different educational options, including conventional instructional schools, alternative schools and help with homeschooling, to find a path forward for their kid that works best for them and helps bring out their unique gifts they can contribute to the world.

        Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

        by leftyparent on Sat May 02, 2009 at 06:54:55 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Never did homework in High School (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    beagledad, ilex, RepTracker

    Graduated in 1974 with a B+ average.  If I couldn't find time to do assignments during the school day, they didn't get done.

    On parents doing the homework: If the parents are doing the homework, then all that homework is not doing the students any good, is it?

    •  Parents doing homework... (0+ / 0-)

      is helping the kids navigate their educational institutions and make it to the next level, for better or for worse.  The kids without that help or more likely to crash and burn along the way and give up.

      Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

      by leftyparent on Fri May 01, 2009 at 01:41:57 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Or (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Catte Nappe, TexMex, ilex, st minutia, Justus

        I have a friend (not well off financially) who's a sophomore at college.

        The rich kids who had all the help and the striving parents pay him $15 a page to write their term papers.

        He's doing alright. Don't know about the rich kids (maybe there's a future George W. amidst them).

      •  Is this for them? or for You? (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        TexMex, mbzoltan, st minutia

        Simian has a good comment just below this, on the lessons you are teaching the student when you do the homework for him or her:

        Here's what I think he's learning:  One, I'm not capable of doing the work myself.  Two, how well I do is completely out of my control.  (It's the teacher's fault for assigning too much homework; mom (or dad) will take care of the grade.)  Three, mom (or dad) thinks it's OK to game the system.  And four, I'm going along with gaming the system, which maybe makes me a cheater.

        Are those those four lessons you want your child to learn?   I would hope not.

        I disagree that kids are "more likely to crash and burn."  Rather, they are more likely to find their own way.  That way may not be the way you had envisioned for them, but it is their way and it is their own.  If you define it as "crashing and burning" then that is on you, not on them.

        •  I disagree with that comment. (0+ / 0-)

          Not that I have kids of age doing homework, but I expect I will take an active enough interest in their work that they'll get a lot of advice from me.

          I'm honestly not going to be concerned about grades but about learning, and I may even be more exacting than their teachers since I will hope my kids are getting some enjoyment out of it.

          The fault here lies with assessments, not with parents that aide their children. There should be nothing wrong with partaking in your child's studies.

          I do agree that a parent can diminish a student's interest by completing assignments as though the student were incapable.

          But there are other ways to go about it.

          Look at these people! They suck each other! They eat each other's saliva and dirt! -- Tsonga people of southern Africa on Europeans kissing.

          by upstate NY on Fri May 01, 2009 at 02:07:33 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  For many (but certainly not all) kids... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ilex, Justus

          I believe that conventional school does not create a positive environment for real learning, causing the crash and burn like my son's case.  After healing his wounds he launched on a path outside of school and is moving forward with confidence with his life.

          Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

          by leftyparent on Fri May 01, 2009 at 02:27:39 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  i see a lot of parental frustration here about (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Catte Nappe, Justus

        homework.  and this seems to be one of many issues for our struggling education system.  but, lots of kids don't want to do homework.  i'm not so sure doing it for them is helping the child learn anything other than they don't have to do boring stuff they don't like. that's an attitude no college professor or employer is looking for.

        I have been a selfish being all my life, in practice, though not in principle. - Jane Austen

        by st minutia on Fri May 01, 2009 at 02:19:12 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I think it was parents... (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          beagledad, ilex, st minutia

          that pressured schools to be so focused on homework in the first place, thinking somehow that homework was the mark of a rigorous education, and completing homework the mark of a successful student.  Now the parents seem to be doing a significant part of that homework... how ironic.

          Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

          by leftyparent on Fri May 01, 2009 at 02:31:44 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  so true. i see parents that come in to the (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Catte Nappe, ilex

            library and ask for books on [insert topic of the day] and don't even bring the child with them to the library while researching the assignment!

            I have been a selfish being all my life, in practice, though not in principle. - Jane Austen

            by st minutia on Fri May 01, 2009 at 02:36:45 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  Homework hadn't become the fetish then (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Catte Nappe, ilex, Justus

      that it is now.  I had the same experience around the same time.  The only high school subjects in which I found homework to be necessary were math and chemistry, and then it was a matter of studying and learning, not completing mindless busywork.

      "...we all of us, grave or light, get our thoughts entangled in metaphors, and act fatally on the strength of them."

      by beagledad on Fri May 01, 2009 at 02:04:33 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Yeah, you are gaming the system. (9+ / 0-)

    I agree that homework is the bane of the modern school system.  Your story shows how out-of-hand it has gotten.  But there's a much bigger issue here, for you, I think.

    You're not doing your son any favors by doing his homework for him.  What are the lessons he is learning from this experience?  Here's what I think he's learning:  One, I'm not capable of doing the work myself.  Two, how well I do is completely out of my control.  (It's the teacher's fault for assigning too much homework; mom (or dad) will take care of the grade.)  Three, mom (or dad) thinks it's OK to game the system.  And four, I'm going along with gaming the system, which maybe makes me a cheater.

    Each of those lessons is potentially damaging to your son's development as a person as well as his self-esteem.  Are those lessons worth getting in a homework assignment on time?

    The first time my daughter came up against a paper deadline such as the one you describe, in (I think) 8th grade, she was nearly paralyzed by panic.  She didn't know what to do first, since she clearly (she thought) had no way to finish that paper as well as her other heavy assignments.  I saw my role as one of moral and emotional support.  Instead of writing the paper, or parts of it, for her, I told her the story told by Anne Lamont in "Bird by Bird."  She calmed down and started in on it one step at a time, and finished the paper and her other work.  She felt a strong sense of accomplishment at having done it, giving her much-needed confidence and bolstering her  self-esteem.  She went on to post an incredible high school record and in a little over a month will graduate summa cum laude (assuming her last semester grades hold up) from Harvard.

    This is not to say that there is no place for parental tutoring should the situation call for it.  My son would turn to me for help on writing assignments much more frequently than did my daughter.  I would try to help him understand the concepts, and let him work it out, not do the work for him.  A time or two he presented me with near-final drafts and asked me for comments.  I never re-wrote anything, but I did suggest ways in which the paper could be improved.  He hasn't posted as-stellar a record as his sister, but he clearly benefited from working it out himself.

    If the homework really reaches the level where you have to do the work for your child to keep up, it is excessive.  It's then up to you to contact your child's teacher and raise the issue with him or her.  I did this on two occasions, one for each child.  (The teacher wouldn't budge, BTW.)  Possibly it's a time-management issue instead of a too-much-homework issue.  (In our cases, it was a little of both.)  But even if you can't get the teacher to relent, believe me, even if your friends continue to do their kids' homework for them, you'll help your child a lot more by letting him take responsibility for his own work.

    Kids.  Sometimes you have to let them fall down so they learn they can get up.  Sometimes you can help them through adversity.  But you can't live their lives for them.

    In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for; as for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican. - H.L. Mencken

    by Simian on Fri May 01, 2009 at 01:36:53 PM PDT

    •  I agree with you that... (0+ / 0-)

      I, like many other parents, was gaming the system trying to help my kid, and that you have to let kids make mistakes, learn something from the experience, and then dust themselves off and do something different.

      My point is that gaming the system is a widespread practice, particularly of well-to-do, well-educated parents who take advantage of their skill and time to do what they can to help their kid navigate and beat the system and be the one (instead of the kid without the parental advantage) to get to that prestigious university and that top job.)  Though I did not say it in so many words in my post, I think that whole thing is hypocrisy and corruption, which tends to be what happens in a system that is hierarchical and big on ranking.  In this paradigm, everyone you encounter is your opponent, and you have to determine which of the two of you is the superior and the inferior.

      I will have to do a post on that whole patriarchal hierarchy thing.

      Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

      by leftyparent on Sat May 02, 2009 at 07:06:55 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yeah, I got the point. (0+ / 0-)

        My point was that gaming the system in that particular way is actually harmful rather than helpful.  Parents who are educated and have means still give their kids advantages that poor kids don't have, but doing kids' homework for them is not, IMO, one of the ways they (ok, we) do that effectively.  The kids that truly excel will have had to learn self-reliance.

        In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for; as for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican. - H.L. Mencken

        by Simian on Sun May 03, 2009 at 01:07:10 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Ruining the curve (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Justus

    Interesting. I never thought of it that way, but I sense you are right. Luckily we are off the "homework" train. Or conversely, all our work is homework.

  •  Homework sucks. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TexMex, fizziks, ilex, Justus

    My experience from a half-decade of homework-shepherding (so far--there's much more to come) is that nearly all of it is pointless busy work.  Loading kids up with more homework is the simple-minded and easy response to any perceived problem with education, similar to the way increasing the jail population is the simple-minded response to social problems involving adults.

    I seldom did homework when I was a kid, and still I managed to learn enough to get into college and, later, into law school.  Most of the useful and interesting things I know have come from my own reading, not from formal education.

    That said, some essential learning requires drills and repetition--things like multiplication tables in elementary school, or redox equations in high school chemistry, and much of post-algebra math.  That's the exception, though, and it doesn't justify the avalanche of busy work dumped on younger kids.

    "...we all of us, grave or light, get our thoughts entangled in metaphors, and act fatally on the strength of them."

    by beagledad on Fri May 01, 2009 at 01:48:53 PM PDT

    •  Not all pointless... some projects done at home.. (0+ / 0-)

      can explore and involve learning much of the wisdom of your family that you could not explore at school.  Also reading a good book can be better done on your own rather than during group time at school.

      Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

      by leftyparent on Sat May 02, 2009 at 07:08:37 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I edit homework but do not write it, but... (4+ / 0-)

    I do it by asking questions like: what did you mean here, it sounds like you are saying x, did you mean that or y. I have also explained essay structure, the meaning of a syllogism and what logical as opposed to emotional argument is, some tropes that I learned in rhetoric, etc. I have also spent many nights quizzing on chem and bio. But I have never done the work.

    OTOH, there is no question that my daughter has a big head start because we are able to assist in teaching her in ways that are unavailable to those less educated. No use to pretend that when it comes to verbal facility, analytic thinking, writing, and study techniques, my daughter is getting an education out of school as well as in school. Is this unfair? Maybe, except we make her do the work, we're both too tired, and in my case lazy, to do it for her.

    So how do we level that advantage? It seems silly to prevent children from learning from their parents, so how do we get resources to the students who need them. One of the problems I have seen personally is that since my daughter comes equipped, so to speak, she gets much more favorable attention from teachers. They treat her at a different level from some of the other students. I think this is human, what teacher doesn't like a good student, but it is also a disservice to those who have more challenges.

    Academically it is like my daughter was born with a silver spoon in her mouth. Agree very much that something to bring more to less advantaged students is necessary, but what? I see overworked teachers with classes that are too large struggling with students who don't think studying is cool or useful. In my daughter's school such attitudes are prevalent, and one of her best friends is set to flunk out because she has lost motivation, and this young lady is imho smarter than I ever was at that age, but her parents don't seem to care. This all worries me very much because I am seeing it at close range.

    Good diary, very thought provoking, tipped and recced.

    Yes we did, yes we will. President Obama

    by marketgeek on Fri May 01, 2009 at 01:49:52 PM PDT

    •  Excellent reply (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      marketgeek

      I can't see how anyone would stop a parent from taking an active interest in their child's schoolwork or homework.

      I had a good chunk of homework to do as a kid, and unlike some here, I did get a lot out of my formal education. I rarely found it to be a total drag.

      Then again, that was 20 years ago. Things may have changed.

      Look at these people! They suck each other! They eat each other's saliva and dirt! -- Tsonga people of southern Africa on Europeans kissing.

      by upstate NY on Fri May 01, 2009 at 02:10:03 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Where do you see anyone arguing against (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        mbzoltan, st minutia, Justus, marketgeek

        taking an active interest in their child's schoolwork?  It seems to me the question here is whether or not it's okay for parents to do their kids' homework assignments for them, rather than providing guidance as the children do the assignments themselves.  The former is clearly a bad idea; the latter is what parents should simply be doing.

        Proud to be an American, once more.

        by LeanneB on Fri May 01, 2009 at 02:16:48 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Well, I read the diary as being primarily (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          marketgeek

          interested in questions of equity and grading.

          If I'm helping my child with their homework, and other parents are not, then inevitably my child will come out ahead.

          You don't have to do your child's work for them to come out ahead, but participating in their schoolwork gives them an advantage over many. That by itself will skew the assessments.

          Look at these people! They suck each other! They eat each other's saliva and dirt! -- Tsonga people of southern Africa on Europeans kissing.

          by upstate NY on Fri May 01, 2009 at 03:13:36 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  It should not be about competition... (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            upstate NY, marketgeek, LeanneB

            and I believe we, our kids, and our society will be badly served if it continues to be so... so much talent will be lost in the drive to work our way up the pecking order.

            Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

            by leftyparent on Fri May 01, 2009 at 03:16:38 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Good point--parent involvement (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            upstate NY

            is critical. And it may not matter how much the parents know about the subject. Case in point: I help my daughter study for her biology tests. The stuff they are teaching is so far beyond anything that I learned in high school and college that not only can I not give her answers, I am clueless.

            Nevertheless, we struggle through with me learning as I go, and she does well because of the iteration of the subject matter.

            Yes we did, yes we will. President Obama

            by marketgeek on Fri May 01, 2009 at 06:30:03 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I worked with my daughter on 9th grade math... (0+ / 0-)

              Geometry.  The drilling on the algorithms and the iterations helped her barely pass tests, but now she hates Geometry and knows less about it than when she started.

              Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

              by leftyparent on Sat May 02, 2009 at 09:23:49 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

    •  I think the point is that learning should not... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      marketgeek

      be a competitive exercise!  Everything an adult can do to help a kid learn should be a plus!

      Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

      by leftyparent on Fri May 01, 2009 at 02:34:28 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Agree LP (0+ / 0-)

        How do we get people to engage? The people in my community who are passionate about education are the overeducated types like me.

        One of the problems is, imho, that all of our education is oriented to college prep, and there are students who are not and have not been interested in college. There is almost no education that is oriented toward becoming a skilled tradesperson.

        This might sound like I am dissing trades, but to the contrary, the trades now need people who are sophisticated in the use of spread sheets, and mathematics at the trigonometry level at least, not to mention the ability to write clearly and concisely and do it via email and word processing programs. It may not be college prep, but there is a significant educational gap occurring in the skills needed for competing in trades as well as at other college degree occupations.

        Yes we did, yes we will. President Obama

        by marketgeek on Fri May 01, 2009 at 06:44:14 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  It's easier for parents to do this in the lower (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Catte Nappe, ilex, Preposterous Idea

    grades- but what happens when the kid gets to middle school or beyond? In the early grades each teacher sent home a list of the homework for the week so each parent could make sure the work was done. This was the only time that my boys ever did their homework. Once they got to middle school, where the teachers suddenly expected that every child must magically become responsible, that no notification was ever sent- until the failing grades came home. They had a homework hotline- but it used code words that only the kids understood - so that never helped me with my kids. And in high school again- no syllabis with assignments and due dates, just an online listing of the grades and missing assignments. That was at least a little better.

    I always went back to the same question- what is the purpose of school- to learn the requisite material, or to demonstrate that you can demonstrate an ability to complete busy work. Our high school has a policy- no matter what grades you get on tests, if you don't do your homework you fail.- It's nuts. But so is the philosophy that unless you are college material you don't matter. My son was told he needn't register or show up for the ACT since he wasn't college material. Now he is attending community college- getting As in the subjects he likes, but struggling with the writing assignments he's always hated. It's tough, but at least he is my last one in school.

    •  I agree... no homework and you fail is nuts! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ilex

      Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

      by leftyparent on Fri May 01, 2009 at 02:36:46 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  i guess i don't see what's so awful about (0+ / 0-)

      requiring kids to do homework.  excessive homework, no.  homework for pre-school, no.  doing homework as part of your school requirements for appropriately aged children is unreasonable?  i don't think so.

      shouldn't there be more to learning than test results?  i'm confused about what parents want.  is there too much emphasis on tests, or not enough?

      I have been a selfish being all my life, in practice, though not in principle. - Jane Austen

      by st minutia on Fri May 01, 2009 at 02:42:17 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  *Sigh* Just went through this, this week. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Catte Nappe, beagledad, ilex

    Both kids had double math homework, on a bad night.  Activities after school, so no homework until dinner time, and my spouse had a meeting to attend.

    Rather than focus on the weaknesses we found helping or going over the homework, we had to press on to finish the homework.  And this is different from when I grew up.

    Remember when we were against torture, before we were for it?

    by pshaw on Fri May 01, 2009 at 02:00:40 PM PDT

  •  We are defunding education at all levels (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ilex, st minutia

    Read this from Andrew Delbanco: http://www.nybooks.com/...

    This diary is about potential inequities in schooling, and Delbanco focuses on that through most of his article. The rest (NCLB, too much homework) are symptoms of the devaluing of education.

    Before the crisis, their chances were already diminishing. Over the last three decades, the United States has been backtracking from its post–World War II commitment to expand access to college. Starting with the GI Bill, the immediate postwar decades had seen a huge infusion of federal money into old (by American standards) universities to support defense-related projects, including not only scientific training and research but language and area studies, as well as the creation of many new institutions—notably the two-year community colleges—aimed at providing virtually universal higher education. By the last quarter of the twentieth century, the United States led the world in the proportion of young people in college.

    This primacy was achieved by a distinctively American blend of public and private money—a hybrid approach that has existed in some measure ever since the Massachusetts General Court, in the 1600s, granted income from a public conveyance (the Charlestown ferry) to Harvard College, and paid its president directly from the public treasury. Such early examples of public subsidy of private institutions—which now takes the form primarily of tax exemption for the college and tax deductibility for the donors—amounted to a sort of matching challenge, since citizens were expected to follow the lead of the magistrates and make donations of their own.[10] Today, the distinction between public and private remains ambiguous as "flagship" state universities raise billions of dollars toward the establishment of private endowments. At the University of Michigan, for example—just completing a $4 billion capital campaign—there is periodic talk of "going private," which, supporters say, would allow it to hike up the discounted tuition rate for Michigan residents and thereby compensate for the loss of public funds.[11]

    But the public–private partnership that did much to democratize American higher education has been coming apart. In 1976, federal Pell grants for low-income students covered 72 percent of the average cost of attending a four-year state institution; by 2003, Pell grants covered only 38 percent of the cost. Meanwhile, financial aid administered by the states is being allocated more and more on the basis of "merit" rather than need—meaning that scholarships are going increasingly to high-achieving students from high-income families, leaving deserving students from low-income families without the means to pay for college.

    In 2002, a federal advisory committee issued a report, aptly entitled "Empty Promises," which estimated that "more than 400,000 students nationally from families with incomes below $50,000" met the standards of college admission "and yet were unable to enroll in a four-year college because of financial barriers. More than 160,000 of these students did not attend any college because of these barriers, not even a two-year institution." Two years later one leading authority pointed out that "the college-going rates of the highest-socioeconomic-status students with the lowest achievement levels is the same level as the poorest students with the highest achievement levels."[12] In short, bright and focused kids from poor families are going to college at the same rate as unfocused or low-scoring kids from families much better off.

    Look at these people! They suck each other! They eat each other's saliva and dirt! -- Tsonga people of southern Africa on Europeans kissing.

    by upstate NY on Fri May 01, 2009 at 02:15:52 PM PDT

    •  Important point... but off on a related tangent (0+ / 0-)

      Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

      by leftyparent on Fri May 01, 2009 at 02:40:36 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Well, the article was mainly about (0+ / 0-)

        inequities in the school system.

        It's evident to me that I interpreted the original diary differently, as I thought its most salient point was about assessment and educational inequities in the system, which this article is speaking to.

        Look at these people! They suck each other! They eat each other's saliva and dirt! -- Tsonga people of southern Africa on Europeans kissing.

        by upstate NY on Fri May 01, 2009 at 03:14:52 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Fair enough... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          upstate NY

          I probably need to make the point more explicitly that it feels to me like a system out of balance because it is way too much about getting the best position in the pecking order rather than developing the unique gifts of each individual.

          Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

          by leftyparent on Fri May 01, 2009 at 03:18:28 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  The Case Against Homework: (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elfling, ilex, Justus

    I haven't read this yet, but it might be worth a look:

    In The Case Against Homework, Bennett and Kalish draw on academic research, interviews with educators, parents, and kids, and their own experience as parents and successful homework reformers to offer detailed advice to frustrated parents.

    "...we all of us, grave or light, get our thoughts entangled in metaphors, and act fatally on the strength of them."

    by beagledad on Fri May 01, 2009 at 02:22:04 PM PDT

  •  Your son sounds like me. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blindcynic, ilex, Justus

    I refused to do homework for the same reason, because I already knew the subject.

    A major problem is the pressure on teachers to move kids through the system.  No Child Left Behind focuses resources towards those kids who will likely fail the class.  Unfortunately, this robs students who know the material and would like to progress.

    Meritocracy is the only way we can solve this.  In my elementary school we had a gifted program which aggregated the top performing students district-wide into a couple classes.  These were, by far, the most valuable years I spent in public education.

    Funding for the program wasn't allocated for our junior high or high school, so it was quite a shock when we were dumped back into the general classes.  So little was expected.  Classes seemed to drag on endlessly as we would take turns reading from a book far below grade level.

    Coping with the boredom usually involved reading an Isaac Asimov novel or practicing my stand-up routine.  Eventually found for more interesting things to do, like skip school and smoke pot.  Such a low intellectual stimulus level leads to mischievous behavior.

    We need to start looking at education in a competitive fashion.  Leave the children behind if they can't read.  Group students more heavily by academic level as opposed to age.  Our global advantage in education has been slipping for decades.  We need to reverse our course or prepare for a decrease in relative global influence.

    Thanks for the diary and good luck navigating our public education system.

    Every man is guilty of all the good he didn't do. ~Voltaire

    by RepTracker on Fri May 01, 2009 at 02:24:44 PM PDT

    •  I disagree... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Justus, RepTracker

      I think rather than increasing the ranking and routing of our kids, we need to let them make their own choices and pursue what interests them.  A classroom full of kids who all want to be there and are interested in the topic is a hugely different thing than many of the classes we remember where half the kids wanted to be anywhere else than where they were.

      Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

      by leftyparent on Fri May 01, 2009 at 02:45:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  There is common Ground Here (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ilex, RepTracker

        But viewing it from differing angles.

        You both seem to agree that it is a poor choice to have a class half full of students who are unwilling and/or unable to engage with the subject matter.

        •  Yes thanks... that is good common ground... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Justus

          to stand on to move toward effective self-directed learning.

          Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

          by leftyparent on Fri May 01, 2009 at 03:02:36 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Good observation. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ilex, Justus

          After review, my rant did sound too negative without proposing specific reforms.

          Grouping students based on aptitude and field of interest is something that I would advocate.  9th-12th grade should allow a heavy focus of study in a desired field (math, science, literature).

          If we broadened the scope of specialization through the district, that may allow each HS to act as a "magnet" for interested students.

          Every man is guilty of all the good he didn't do. ~Voltaire

          by RepTracker on Fri May 01, 2009 at 04:10:49 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Yes please. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            pletzs, RepTracker

            I was one of the bored kids in school.  "A" s on tests, "F" s for homework.  Read books all day to get through it.  Sometimes 2 or 3 books a day.

            I would totally vote for ending education by age.  Different people have different aptitudes, so maybe you would be in the equivalent of 2nd Grade Math, but 5th Grade English.  

            And, no, I don't think that the child will be socially traumatized if all children are educated this way.  Think old school...as in one room school house with all ages of children together.  Worked then and I don't see why some version of this wouldn't work now.

            I HATED school passionately.  Soured me on education in general.  I'm sad now that I didn't even really try to go to college because I saw it as just 4 more years of awful.  Didn't comprehend the difference.  

            So we have education factories of one size fits all instruction that doesn't create the optimum outcome for most.

            Slower learners getting frustrated at being behind, faster learners frustrated at being held back, and the middle of the pack either falling behind or held back depending on the mix of students in their class and the quality of their instructor.

            With standardized test prep and loads of busywork homework for all.

            •  Don't be soured on education forever. (0+ / 0-)

              I dropped out of my state university after a couple semesters as it seemed to be exactly as you feared, more of the same.

              There are schools out there which cater to our personality type.  CalTech and ArtCenter, depending on your area of interest, are each amazing places to learn.

              Every man is guilty of all the good he didn't do. ~Voltaire

              by RepTracker on Fri May 01, 2009 at 06:00:40 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  I agree its not a race... or should not be (0+ / 0-)

              Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

              by leftyparent on Sat May 02, 2009 at 07:12:08 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

    •  leave the children behind if they cant read??!??! (0+ / 0-)

      great idea.

      I have been a selfish being all my life, in practice, though not in principle. - Jane Austen

      by st minutia on Fri May 01, 2009 at 02:47:34 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm being serious, allowing an illiterate student (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ilex

        to keep moving through the system is a waste of time for both the student and his classmates.  Until a student can read at grade level, they should be held at that grade level.

        Every man is guilty of all the good he didn't do. ~Voltaire

        by RepTracker on Fri May 01, 2009 at 04:22:35 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  So you're fine with (0+ / 0-)

          your 10-year-old daughter having classmates who are 14-year-old boys? The Law of Unintended Consquences, you know.

          Most research shows that holding kids back just makes them more likely to drop out. The solution lies elsewhere.

          [miscellaneous observations]

          Some years back, I read about an interesting entrepreneur in the publishing world. He created a line of juvenile fiction books specifically aimed at dyslexic kids. The idea was that, say, a seventh-grader who was reading at a third-grade level could read a novel that was written at a third-grade level in terms of vocabulary and syntax but featured twelve-year olds engaged in typical twelve-year-old activities, as opposed to the mainstream third-grade-reading-level novel featuring eight-year-olds engaged in typical eight-year-old activities.

          If you're going to try to group young kids by ability levels, the only decent way to do it is to apply the same double-blind protocols that the pharmaceutical companies have to use when submitting new drugs for approval. Otherwise, history shows that which track a kid gets assigned to depends almost entirely on which side of the tracks he lives on.

          There is nothing so practical as a good theory—Kurt Lewin

          by ebohlman on Fri May 01, 2009 at 09:55:31 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Isolating kids with only others their... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            RepTracker

            own age I think is very unnatural and leads to lots of problems, kids comparing themselves constantly with peers and loss of the opportunity to mentor younger kids and be mentored by older.

            Because schools become such a high-stress situation, it brings out all the bullying type issues that would be much less so if kids were somewhere they were comfortable and actually wanted to be.

            Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

            by leftyparent on Sat May 02, 2009 at 09:29:22 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  Yeah, my son was the same way too.... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ilex, RepTracker

      even so far as to purposely not study or listen in Class, then prove that he could read the book, or look stuff up and get good (enough) grades in spite of the teacher, because class was so boring.

      we did find, however, that one (1!) high school in the county had an IB program (international Baccalaureate) that was different from the AP track, and not necessarily more difficult, but it was a different track. It was a considerable expense to us, not for school charges, but to drive him 30+ miles each way because the county had no transportation for him (School was in town, we lived out in the mountains). We didn't get any tax break for not using the country school busses, either.

      The virtue of the IB program (and this is true somewhat of AP as well) is that the students self-select to be with more people who are like them  - smart and motivated - and guess what? They have a higher bar to achieve, and peer pressure and personal desire encourages them to achieve things they never thought they could.

      So, eventually when he got to College he found that while there were some dummies and slackers in class, he could mostly get all the help he wanted from his profs, who were trilled to find a kid who asked questions and gave some thought to their papers. He had realized how much of his success essentially came from motivation. He eventually graduated double major with honors, took the motivation thing seriously, and joined Army Special Forces. He now cheerfully jumps out of airplanes, and knows he can do anything if he wants to bad enough. And nothing in civilian life with be as hard as SF.

      So, I agree with you, and sometimes the best message to send to kids is that they have to make their own mind up to achieve things. Some kids respond to a family culture that encourages that, and some need peer pressure, to be in a group of achievers.

      Competition is good. Social promotion is not. Life is inherently about competition, and part of growing up is to learn how to compete, how to lose gracefully, and how to win gracefully.

      "red hair and black leather, my favorite colour scheme" - Richard Thompson

      by blindcynic on Fri May 01, 2009 at 02:57:03 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Self-inspired competition among peers... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        blindcynic, RepTracker

        is a very different thing to externally directed routing by the "man"...

        Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

        by leftyparent on Fri May 01, 2009 at 03:04:50 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  We don't pay taxes to have OUR children educated (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        beagledad, RepTracker

        We pay taxes to have our children's peers educated. That is part of the social compact in this country.

        I heard a note of resentment from blindcynic, and I sympathize. I'm shelling out big bucks for AP tutoring and SAT prep.

        But - even if we have no children of our own, it is to everyone's benefit that the next generation be educated. I could generate my own electricity, but I would still pay the utility to make sure that electricity is available everywhere in town.

        Public schools, like public utilities, keep this country from turning into a third-world nation of estates and shanty towns.

        BushCheney Inc. - They lied to me, they lied to you, they lied to our troops.

        by jjohnjj on Fri May 01, 2009 at 03:36:39 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Good point... at least that is the goal! (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          RepTracker

          Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

          by leftyparent on Fri May 01, 2009 at 03:50:33 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  No resentment implied (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          RepTracker

          I do resent the fact that, when my children drove to school here in the mountains in MY car, not only don't I get any taxes back for not using the inefficient school bus route, THEY CHARGE ME $100 for the priviledge of having her park MY CAR in their goddamn taxpayer-funded lot.

          Well, that felt better.....(and no, I'm not over it...)

          And you are exactly right that all of us need to pay for education for all of our kids.

          But when I go to a convenience store and I can add up the total in my head faster than the slacker cretin using the cash register, I might reveal some of my resentment.....

          and finally, I have to say that overall I have no big problem with schools here (Colorado), teachers are doing a great job with what they've got, but it could be better. As I've noted in comments in other diaries, the US, especially by funding education by property taxes, shortchanges our kids big time. Both my kids spent some time being educated overseas, and let me tell you, they didn't go to party schools. And you can have an adult dinner with wine, even if you're only 18.

          "red hair and black leather, my favorite colour scheme" - Richard Thompson

          by blindcynic on Fri May 01, 2009 at 05:46:11 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Thank you for articulating (0+ / 0-)

        what I was poorly attempting to convey.  Competition is healthy and vital for motivation.

        Every man is guilty of all the good he didn't do. ~Voltaire

        by RepTracker on Fri May 01, 2009 at 04:17:38 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  An Important Diary (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Catte Nappe, st minutia

    I'm definately rec-ing this.  

    I continually tell my son, who is 10 and homework-adverse, "This is your life, not mine"

    The system sucks, big-time, but he's got to find a way to negotiate through it.  I tell him, "I'm here to help, here to support and encourage, but ultimately it's your choice to succeed or fail."

    When I feel like teachers are getting out of line or making mistakes (like mis-grading a test that he studied his butt off for, and came home with a bad grade), I'll go to bat for him.  If he screws up and doesn't study or does shoddy work, he hears about it, for sure.

    It's hard coming to grips with the fact that he may not be an A student like I was, or a gifted athlete like his Dad.  We're coming along, though, as is he, and I'm confident that even in this f***ed up school system, he'll find his way.

    I feel sometimes like being a parent is as much of an education (if not more) as my 17 years of school!

  •  Great topic! I have an un-motivated 11th grader (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ilex

    who should just be allowed to stop taking classes for a year so she can focus on her true loves: sports and shopping for clothes. She could then go back to academics when she's ready.

    Keeping kids on the "conveyor belt" of education is what does the most harm.

    I often find myself in the position the diary describes. I help my daughter with writing because the teacher grades the homework, but will not or cannot take the time to show her how to improve it.

    Someone has to "model" a standard of good writing for the student. Ordinarily, one acquires this from reading books. But this student just never developed an appetite for reading... we read to her every night when she was little. But it just didn't take.

    So, if she's done the work with time to spare, we sit down with her 1st draft and correct spelling and punctuation. But more importantly, we look at the sequence of ideas, break excessively long sentences into shorter ones, and replace words with others that give more correct meaning.

    If she starts late and finishes her work at 11:30 at night, I save her draft and edit a copy, which she turns in at school the next day. We go over the changes later.

    It's not fair that my student gets graded for our combined effort, while another must work alone. But my daughter is learning things that she does not learn in the classroom - and her writing has improved this year.

    We won't get a second chance at this. I say damn the grades. If the school isn't teaching my child how to write competently, then I will.

    BushCheney Inc. - They lied to me, they lied to you, they lied to our troops.

    by jjohnjj on Fri May 01, 2009 at 04:07:09 PM PDT

    •  I agree... and we did that by letting our kids... (0+ / 0-)

      "unschool" instead of going to high school.  They were not "schooled" in math, science, social studies and English like their "schooled" peers, but they are eloquent speakers, good writers, quick thinkers and are moving forward happily and without undue stress with their lives.

      Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

      by leftyparent on Sat May 02, 2009 at 07:15:58 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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