Is 6 Hours of Homework a Sane Idea?

My brother will attend the soon-to-be charter high school that I spent much of the past four years suffering in with incompetent teachers, last minute power point projects, standards, busy-work tests, lunch lock-downs, and a lack of democratic privileges that adults take for granted everyday outside of the workplace (which traditional school closely resembles). He had an interview with the program coordinator, who really confirmed for me just how much I was lied to for the past four years. Out of this man’s mouth was lie after lie about how rigorous the work is, and how the school is geared toward success and how he and others are there for guidance. From many of his AP Spanish students  the fact is that the norm for him was to rarely be present in the classroom. The Program Coordinator said that the following situation is normal:

A teacher may give you 100 pages to read one night and expect you to have a presentation due tomorrow.

I don’t know about the charter school version of my failing school, but when I attended, the norm WAS ad-hoc assignments, but only because a teacher was absent or didn’t know what to do. It certainly wasn’t 100 pages plus a presentation and then I thought, What?! Is that even appropriate?! Many will already jump on the bandwagon of agreeing with the PC’s statement, because that’s “how it is” in college. Even still you have to wonder why that’s so normal and why that is an appropriate way to gain knowledge. Anyway, getting away from myself here, on to the point…

So the interview was awful. My brother, my parents and I sat before the PC, both the PC and my brother lying. My brother failed to mention that he didn’t do well in Algebra because he was not interested, the honors class was treated with games and field trips while the regulars weren’t, and the teacher came out second semester saying that she was “gonna be a beast” about grades and work. He was scared, intimidated and discouraged by his experience. Instead the boy said that he didn’t do enough cheating work to get through the class. The PC asked, “Well how many hours a night do you do homework?”
“Um…two…or three,” my brother weakly replied. But you see, even there information is missing. My brother spends two or three hours a night cheating to get through uninteresting assignments or zipping though the subjects he is interested in, so that he can turn to his strategy games for self medication and mental escape after a long day of teasing, harassment, and boredom.

“Well, coming into this school, you’re going to need to spend 6 hours on homework, to improve your grades, because that’s the level of achievement we demand here.” After sketchy responses and silence from my brother, he was accepted because my parents and especially I was present on academic probation. The PC knew that there was not enough information to accept him and if he wasn’t being nice, he would have rejected my brother. I wish he would have, so that we can all finally beg my mother to accept homeschooling.

After the interview my mother was enraged. She was already upset that the boy has a 2.8 gpa and that he doesn’t care about school. She says she will not buy an iphone for him if he does not get out of academic probation and start caring about school. Right away I identified the numerous failures of traditional schooling and parenting. My brother does not care, Not because he does not enjoy or care about learning, but because he has no say and choice in what he wants to study. The GPA obviously is not a good motivator when compared with interests and passion, and is not even a good indicator of intelligence. I received excellent grades at that school, even grades I didn’t deserve such as an A in Geometry due to a mixture of cheating the system standards and teacher incompetence. Getting those A’s didn’t show that I was smart enough to understand Geometry and all the other classes I no longer remember. Yet parents fall for this and other ploys like test scores to stand as judges of their child’s mind.

Punishment and reward, while it will encourage someone to do as they are told, will not encourage genuine care to learn and understand something. Such extrinsic motivators only serve to create objectives of avoiding the punishment and gaining the reward. If my mom wants him to care, then her iphone threat and anger will have the opposite effect of turning him off from any meaning he will get in his lessons. But I conclude that by care she means that he does as he is told. She is not looking for him to really care, she just wants the results of high scoring and ranks. My brother will spend much of the first semester cheating and doing the bare minimum and using the path of least effort to get an A. When I was his age, I noticed that the math teacher liked quiet students, because he had poor class control. He spent an hour  every class on three problem warm-ups and expected a portfolio of our work. So I gave him what he wanted. I sat quietly and where I was told to sit, kept all the warm-ups that I cheated on by letting him give the answers at the end, and I got my A. We all do this, and I’m being upfront about it to make a point of the pitfalls of the “well meaning” aims of traditional schooling. “Educators” butter their hands up more and more these days with standards and tactics, hoping to soothe youth when all that does is allow us to slip away even faster.

Lastly, my mom said that my brother will no longer be able self medicate slack off with games and computer recreation. She said that if 6 hours is what he needs, then he will do it. Why? Because he’s a boy. A black boy. Despite how he was raised and what environment he was raised in he must struggle to get away from the prison system. Apparently things are easier for me because I can marry somebody rich. So these are her goals for him, while she continues to be the only one in the family who continues to be unaware of his interests and inherent nature. I gave thought to how willing she was to do all of this. So he spends six hours on schoolwork during the day, plus 6 hours toiling at night. Let’s see um… that’s a 12 hour WORK day! My brother is sensitive, something else my mother feels is out of touch with what’s normal and therefore needs to be “nipped in the bud.” These upcoming nights and days will be hard, and it ANGERS me to think about the extra humiliation and pain this boy will have to endure. There will be many tears.

From example I have seen that students on academic probation are mostly offered humiliation, NOT help from the principal at this school, even going so far as to bring up GPA’s and scores at student assemblies.  The way things are going on is ridiculous, but many parents eat it up while they ironically hope the best for their children.


Posted on July 15, 2010, in Bureaucracy, School. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I know how that boy feels what is that mother thinking treating him in such a indescribable way if I was that mom I would have gave him that Iphone and say are you ready for homeschooling.

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