Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The Current on Homework

This morning I was a guest on the CBC Radio show The Current with Anna Maria Tremonti. The topic was homework, about which I apparently never lack for things to say. Tremonti is a great interviewer, and I was happy to be able to share my family's homework "story." But there's much more I wish I could have said. For instance, I wish I'd mentioned the recent CAMH study showing disturbingly high levels of psychological distress among Ontario high school students; I would have liked to wonder out loud why there's been so little interest in figuring out the root causes of teen stress. But maybe I didn't raise that question because I know the answer: It's much easier to implicitly blame kids for their own troubles and individualize the problem of stress (by offering coping mechanisms and time management guidance) than it is to acknowledge one's complicity in perpetuating a school culture of overwork that harms kids. So once again there's an elephant in the room of the debates about teen mental health. (Spoiler: its name is homework.)

Here's the link to the interview.


  1. I am very eager to listen to this interview. I definitely have many of my own concerns with homework, and this is a topic that I've thought about a lot over the years. Some parents really want homework, and I think that this might be because they want to know what's happening at school. With increased parent engagement, would the desire for homework, decrease? I don't know how all of this plays out at a second school level. Also, how do all subjects play into this discussion? If we think homework is necessary for language or math, what about The Arts or physical activity? If students were encouraged to move more and get outside more for "homework," would this make a positive impact on their mental health, and ultimately, on their academic achievement? I'm definitely still wondering a lot on this topic. I'm curious to hear what others say too.


  2. Hi Aviva,

    Thanks so much for your comment.

    That's a really good point about better or increased parent engagement possibly mitigating parents' demands for homework. Though I also think that ideally homework could be slightly more differentiated--so, given to those who (or whose parents) want/demand it, but not seen as the default for all kids. I do agree that a moderate amount of homework for math makes sense. The problem, especially at the secondary level, is that the math homework takes 2-3 hours/night, but then kids also have homework from their other 6 or 7 courses. It's definitely a problem and one that I do believe has implications for students' mental health, but I concede that there are no easy solutions.