Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Educational Value

from "The Black Album," by Hanif Kureishi

Serious reading required dedication. Who, now, believed it did them good? And how many people knew a book as they knew "Blonde on Blonde," "Annie Hall," or Prince, even? Could literature connect a generation in the same way? Some exceptional students would read hard books; most wouldn't, and they weren't fools.

The music her students liked, how they danced, their clothes and language, it was theirs, a living way. She tried to enter it, extend it, ask questions. It wasn't a pleasure telling people that culture would benefit them, particularly if they couldn't see what it was for. As it was, they were constantly being informed of their inferiority. Many of them regarded the white elite culture as self-decieving and hypocritical. For some this was an excuse for laziness. With others it was genuine: they didn't want to find the culture that put them down profound.

from "Brain Candy" (a recent article in the New Yorker), by Malcolm Gladwell

One of the ongoing debates in the educational community, similarly, is over the value of homework. Meta-analysis of hundreds of studies done on the effects of homework shows that the evidence supporting the practise is, at best, modest. Homework seems to be most useful in high school and for subjects like math. At the elementary-school level, homework seems to be of marginal or no academic value. Its effects on discipline and personal responsibility is unproved. And the casual relation between high-school homework and achievement is unclear: it hasn't been firmly established whether spending more time on homework in high school makes you a better student or whether better students, finding homework more pleasurable, spend more time doing it.


Blogger fred burgess! said...

Ankush had this to say about this entry:

"I respected the subject of the post in which Gladwell was quoted. You neglected to mention, however, that not only was the article you quoted not about homework -- which suggests, to put it mildly, that the passage you quoted was probably not thoroughly vetted by his editors -- but that very recently Gladwell had been called out on the validity of his inferences from social science data by, well, scientists. As far as I'm concerned, don't feed the animals."

11:50 AM  

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