THE DAILY STANDARD welcomes letters to the editor. Letters will be edited for length and clarity and must include the writer's name, city, and state.
I read with interest David Skinner's The Homework Delusion. I am in the midst of my first year as a public school teacher and I am daily assessing the role that homework will play in my classroom.
As I prepared to become a teacher, I vowed that I would be one teacher to defy the trend and give students regular, substantial, and meaningful homework assignments. After several months in the classroom it has rapidly become apparent why many teachers are choosing to give little or no homework: Many students care so little about their academic performance that they simply will not do it, particularly if it requires any degree of independent or critical thought.
My average homework completion rate for my standard level classes stands at about 50 percent. The students completing the homework are almost always the ones who need to do it least. In May my students will have to pass the Virginia Standards of Learning for World History I. Every time I rely on a homework assignment to reinforcement learning I am jeopardizing the performance of my weakest students. Because of the intense pressure to maintain high SOL pass rates I am deliberately scaling back on homework or modifying it to involve less independent thought.
The fact that I am caving in disgusts me, but it is the reality of the situation. I acknowledge that modern adolescents have many activities, sports, jobs, relationships, hobbies, etc., competing for their attention. Although I disagree that these should take time away from homework, I acknowledge that they do and must incorporate this into my classroom practice. Thus, I can understand the declining importance of homework in American high schools. I see it as a reaction to the realities of the modern testing regimen and the increase in adolescent distractions. I see no easy solution.
As an ex-teacher and parent I would add to David Skinner that some kids have too much homework and many need better homework. Does an assignment really improve subject mastery? Or is it a thoughtless exercise in applying a simple formula for essay writing? How many repetitions of a kind of math problem are helpful for a given student? Is the unit of study just a sacrifice on the altar of political correctness or passing education fads? Or is it really building a knowledge base of general understanding? Does the novel just comply with currently desired integration with social studies, or is it really fine literature?
I have never understood why anyone blames the Jews for Jesus' death. (Larry Miller, Passions) I'm Catholic and was taught that this was why Christ came to Earth. Anyway, Jesus's death lasted 40 hours or so and then He rose from the dead. Why doesn't the Resurrection enable people to forgive those who killed Jesus? Weren't their acts a fulfillment of prophecy and wasn't it God's will that it happen as it did?
I am amazed that no one at the New York Times realizes (or do they?) that by creating a special beat for "this strange, alien species called conservatives" they are perpetuating the image of the right as exactly that: some weird animal, not easily observed in the wild. (Terry Eastland, The Times's Conservative Problem) At the same time, they only cement their (deserved) image as the monarchic mouth of liberal Big Media. Then again, perhaps this is all just a field guide to help leftist politicians and the literati recognize their quarry and better defeat it.
Hugh Hewitt is right: There are two Americas: "NewYorkafornia," and the rest of us (The Real Two Americas).
Clearly the media feel that Ralph Nader damaged Al Gore's candidacy in 2000; and Gore's success was clearly high on the wish-list of most media organizations. (Matthew Continetti, Anti-Nader Media Bias)
However, as I recall our Constitution, any qualified person is permitted to stand for election to the office of the presidency. Has something changed here? Or is the media so infiltrated with Democratic party operatives and strategists that it feels qualified to criticize anyone who avails him/herself of that privilege?
Political parties have had a vastly negative impact on our republic--just as many of the Founding Fathers expected.
Is it the media's responsibility to do a hatchet job on John Kerry? (Fred Barnes, What Goes Up . . .) Please go back four short years and recall the free ride Bush received from the press. The National Guard story was barely mentioned. Bush's horrendous business career received little coverage. This election will be a referendum on Bush's presidency. The president and his surrogates may pound away at Kerry, but in doing so, he may expose himself as someone who can't or won't defend his record and only hopes to win by attacking. The voters will ultimately decide if they want four more years of Bush or a fresh approach. My sense is that Bush fatigue is setting in and will only grow.
Dick Cheney's Gridiron Remarks once again show the clear difference between Republicans and Democrats--and for that matter liberals and conservatives: Republicans and their conservative brethren have a sense of humor. One can only imagine Senator Hillary Clinton sitting stony-faced with clenched jaw listening to a fantastic joke her people never had the vision or sense of humor to write.
Granted, I am a 75-year-old workaholic cardiac anesthesiologist. Homework makes more common sense that all of the educational psychology studies done on a Federal Grant. Unfortunately common sense comes from being burned by experience and educational psychology comes from researchers earning a living by writing grants and papers.
Part of learning is developing the habits that permit one to learn. Prior to that one needs to learn the communication methods and skills necessary to participate in the learning encounter. An important factor in imprinting knowledge and skills is to have repetitive experiences in varying environments that expose the learner to the substance to be learned.
Another way for Hugh Hewitt to view Madeleine Albright is to say, WOW, I can't believe someone who said something as nutty as this was ever Secretary of State.
Boy, we really dodged a bullet there.