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[Susan notes: Kudos to Abeles and Kohn. My research in the past showed me that 95% of homework is useless and abusive. I doubt that has changed. I think family conflicts over homework is a very serious issue. This sentence is a masterstroke: The critical question is whether children must be made to work a second shift after spending a full day at school.]

Published in New York Times

To the editor

Re The Trouble With Homework, by Annie Murphy Paul (Sunday Review, Sept. 11):

True, the trouble with homework isn't limited to quantity: it can be counterproductive even in limited amounts. But a lot of it can be damaging even if we approve of the assignments themselves.

We also dispute the suggestion that the only important issue is whether homework advances "learning."

First, the research cited concerns how many facts students can memorize, a matter less consequential to anyone with more ambitious intellectual goals, like helping students think deeply and enjoy doing so. (Homework seems to be the single most effective way to destroy children's curiosity.)

Second, this research doesn't support homework, per se. The critical question is whether children must be made to work a second shift after spending a full day at school. The available data say no, particularly with younger students. So do the many anecdotal reports we've collected of teachers and entire schools that have eliminated homework, with very encouraging results.

Finally, tweaking assignments to maximize the number of facts retained ignores homework's effect on children̢۪s social, physical, artistic and psychological development. We worry about not only the other activities that homework displaces but also the exhaustion and family conflict that it often causes.

Vicki Abeles and Alfie Kohn

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