Challenge Success Survey Expected to Show Parents That Kids Have Too Much Homework
To the Editor:
This Wednesday evening at PHS we will hear the results of the Challenge Success Survey conducted earlier this year. PHS parents already know all too well what they are likely to show: our kids have too much homework. Academic pressure is endangering their mental health and putting them at risk for behavioral health problems. As we address this problem, it is important to keep in mind that our “race to nowhere” culture is more than a wellness issue — it is also a civil rights issue. By making course grades so dependent on work done outside of school, we are creating a tremendous bias against low-income and language-minority students. Many of these students have jobs; others do not have the necessary technology to complete assignments at home. Some may just be normal teenagers, who have taken on family responsibilities appropriate to their age and development unlike the typical upper middle class child, whose parents, or paid help, act as a pit crew providing all services necessary so that they can spend countless hours on homework. The talent and potential excluded by this homework regime is disproportionately that of poor and minority students.
It is no secret that public school is a powerful instrument of social reproduction, but shouldn’t we be working to mitigate this effect rather than contributing to it? Less homework is a step toward more equitable educational opportunity, in addition to being a much-needed mental health initiative. Parents may be concerned that the current system is needed to propel their students toward acceptance at elite colleges, but academically-motivated students now have myriad resources available to prepare themselves for high-stakes tests. An oppressive homework load is neither an appropriate nor an effective way to do it.
Bold leadership is needed to put the brakes on our academic arms race. We need school administrators to act quickly to make long overdue changes to the school schedule and the school culture. In Princeton, we don’t need to keep up with the Joneses — we are the Joneses — and we have a responsibility to make it possible for all of our kids to reach their full potential.