Just to show you the lengths that I go to in order to cover certain topics on this blog, about two and a half months ago I bookmarked a page on the New York Times because I wanted to write about the topic. The topic, whether or not students should have homework in the summertime, poses an interesting set of questions for both the educator and the student and, ultimately, our society.
From a student’s perspective, isn’t summer vacation the long-promised break from the oversight of teachers and principals? I strongly believe that students of all ages should utilize their summer months to do everything that they should be doing. I put emphasis on “should” in the previous sentence because different students, at different ages, should be doing different things. For example, an athletic student in high school might be best served by spending his summers working a part-time job and spending the rest of his time preparing for the upcoming football or soccer season. Imagine if all student athletes had the benefit of three to four months of additional training during the summer. Wouldn’t that benefit their long-term goals as an athlete in college and beyond?
Similarly, some students should be spending their summer months working a little bit more than part-time jobs. Why? Because some students should be banking money to help bankroll their college expenses or to help their families succeed on an everyday basis. Which begs the question…how much is too much for our students to bear during the summer months?
Do our students really need to worry about how they’re going to score on a test during the first few days of schools when it is the middle of July? Further, for those students who must work a job or who have opted to take an internship in the summer – should they also be burdened with reading two or three books and putting together a book report on what they’re discovered?
Further, do educators need to be concerned about whether or not their assignments are being properly followed throughout the summer months? What happens when a student refuses to do their book report and other students see that he only gets a few points off his total grade in the class? Doesn’t the overall impact of summer homework then become less effective? And won’t students pass along that information to future generations?
I’m ambivalent towards the issue. Frankly, I think that instead of burdening our students with additional homework in the summertime, I think our society would be better served be educating our students on finding their own sources for information. In other words, teach our students at a young age that they should read the newspaper at least once each week and that they should read a news-based magazine at least once per month. And while on that topic, we should educate our students to understand that it is okay for them to read a magazine like Maxim or Glamour, but that they should not be using these outlets as their primary source of finding information.
If we could manage to restructure our educational system to educate our students towards real world ways of gaining new knowledge, we might be able to fix the growing gap between the test scores of American students versus our counterparts in Japan, Germany, and other Western countries. It all starts in youth, though. In this digital age, we need to teach our younger students how to find out information on their own and to know the difference between hard news, opinion, and entertainment.
Once we achieve that, we won’t have to worry about assigning homework in the summertime.