Homework Hell

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Teachers assign homework, parents enforce it, and kids do it, right? Not necessarily. Teachers assign it, of course, but few parents enforce it, and lots of kids don't do it. In fact, a majority of teachers surveyed for Playing Their Parts, a new study by Public Agenda, a public opinion research firm in New York City, cite students not doing homework as one of their most serious professional concerns--and they blame parents: Seventy-eight percent of the teachers believe parents are barely involved in their children's homework. Meanwhile, parents have their own problems: Half of those polled by Public Agenda admit to having had at least one screaming fight with their children in the last year over homework. Following are dispatches--as recorded by Public Agenda--from the front lines of the homework wars:

"I don't feel I'm supposed to be involved in [my children's] homework unless they need help. That's their job to me." --parent, Chicago

"It was taking my daughter literally three hours a night. What are they learning in school that they have to do so much at home?...Me and my wife both talked to the teachers about it. Some of the teachers were supportive; some were kind of insulted by it." --parent, Chicago

"Mom and Dad are just not sitting together at the kitchen table helping their child with homework anymore. Junior is on his own, and they're off on their own." --teacher, Michigan

"My daughter is definitely self-motivated. I even worried because she never asked for help, but she was getting good grades. So I told my husband, 'Wow, we finally made it.' It's definitely good for her to do it on her own." --parent, Chicago suburb

"It's not so bad now, but when he was younger it was a real battle. It made me feel real bad. I wanted this time to be quality love time, and it couldn't be because of this homework. I have stayed up at night after putting him to bed and done projects for him, just to save that time. I have." --parent, Alabama

"Occasionally it's a bad parent, but I would say that many parents have job stresses that are horrendous. They have to travel, and they work tremendous hours. They're not intentionally neglecting their child; they just have too much on their plate." --teacher, Minnesota

Vol. 10, Issue 8, Page 59

Published in Print: May 1, 1999, as Homework Hell
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