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Why Homework Should Be Banned Exposition

My phone lines lit up like a Christmas tree.

As the host of a three-hour mid-morning talk show on CJAD radio in Montreal , I am used to dealing with topics that spark an animated reaction. However, I was not prepared this morning for the deluge of emotion when I suggested that all homework should be banned.

My proposal was simple enough: No more homework, not elementary school and not in high school.

Keep in mind that I am not talking about reading at home or working on a special project. That would be fine. I am talking about assignments that have to be done at home and handed in to a flustered teacher who hands them back days later when the material is long forgotten.

Doesn't homework help students get better marks? One study after another, including the latest one from the Australian Institute of Family Studies, is proof that it does nothing of the kind.

Not only is homework unhelpful, it's harmful.

For 30 minutes, one call after another proved that the idea of a ban struck a chord with parents. One mother of a 7-year-old girl was practically in tears when she told me her daughter, who used to love school, now hates it. Why? Because she is forced to do 90 minutes of homework assignments every day!

No wonder she hates school. She is seven, for heaven's sake. The child gets up at 7:30 in the morning. She's in school all day long. The bus picks her up at 3:45 to take her home. By the time she is dropped off, it's nearly 5:00. That day is long enough. She should not be forced to work for another hour and a half.

Give her time to be a child, to spend quality time with her family, to have fun with her mom without arguing day in and day out. If she knows the work, there is no need to do more of it. If she does not understand, there's no point in having her repeat her mistakes

Shocked at the prospect of doing away with something that is such a staple of virtually every school system across the continent, another parent called me to protest.

She said, "What are you talking about? I mean... we have to have homework. Otherwise, the kids won't have structure and they will just come home and fool around."

Good. That's exactly what they should be doing. They deal with structure from early in the morning until late in the afternoon. That's enough structure for an adult, much less a child.

It's time to 'fess up about homework. It is forced labor. Unpaid forced labor. Homework assignments provide precious little benefit and they cause unnecessary stress for the child and for the parent. Good teachers can get the job done in class. Those who can't just assign more homework.

Some schools are finally pondering the possibility of eliminating weekend or holiday homework assignments. That's too namby-pamby. Not good enough. It's time to stop the addiction to homework cold turkey.

If a student wishes to review some of the work of the day on their own, great. If the kids have to study for a test or exam -- no problem. But those millions of hours of useless make-work homework assignments? They have caused misery enough.

Homework is cruel and unusual punishment. Banning it will improve the life of students, parents and teachers in one fell swoop.

Reading at home or perhaps playing a musical instrument connected with school work, that's fine, but the homework assignments have got to go.

What will these kids do with all their new-found spare time? They will relax; they can have some fun; they can play outside; and spend time with their friends. Letting kids be kids -- what a novel concept.

After hearing what parents were telling me, I want to help them get rid of homework. We will start with Montreal. If -- make that when -- we succeed, perhaps we will set the example for the rest of North America.

If you agree, tell your friends and neighbors. If you don't agree, you better get back to the kitchen table. The homework is waiting.

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Now there have been questions about whether primary school kids should be given homework. Some researchers say there's no proof it helps kids to get better grades when they're older. Now before you start celebrating, it's important to know that not everyone agrees with this view and many teachers and parents still think it can be vital. So who's right? Sarah has a look at the debate.

SARAH LARSEN: It's four o'clock. You're home from school. You've had a snack and walked the dog and then it starts; homework.

KID: Tonight I'm doing some stuff about clouds so just looking at the clouds and seeing what sort of clouds they are and predicting the weather.

While it might not be your favourite pastime, lots of people think it's an important way to teach you about the world.

VICKI ATSALAS: Don't forget that whatever you don't get done in class you'll have to do for homework.

Ms Atsalas is a homework fan. And no, she's not mean. She just thinks it can really help kids - reinforcing the stuff they learn at school and building extra knowledge and skills.

VICKI ATSALAS: I also know that in the beginning a lot of my students don't agree with that but with the skills that they develop even they can see the benefits.

KID 1: Think homework is beneficial. I don't enjoy it but I think it is helpful to get life skills that you use later in life.
KID 2: You learn life skills as in like juggling work with your commitments.
KID 3: I think it will help me when I'm at a job and at high school I think it will help me when I'm studying for a test.

These guys say regular homework has helped them work efficiently and get organised; the sorts of skills they'll need later in life.

VICKI ATSALAS: When they get older there are going to be more responsibilities put on them and they'll be able to manage them much better having acquired these skills beforehand.

But how much homework is too much homework? And does it actually help kids to get better marks?

They're the sorts of questions Professor Richard Walker was trying to answer in a book he helped to write about Homework.

ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR RICHARD WALKER, UNIVERSITY OF SYDNEY: Generally speaking what we're saying in this book is that less homework is better and that the quality of homework has to be improved.

He says for primary school kids, homework won't necessarily lead to better marks.

Some schools like this one choose to give none at all.

MARC WEDDING: We don't feel like there’s any significant gain to be made in student’s education when it comes to homework.

Marc Wedding says when you're in Primary School you need to time to be a kid without stressing about homework.

KID 1: Reading books, going outside playing sport being active in bike riding or various other sporting activities they will have more impact in their lives rather than doing repetitive tasks.

KID 2: I like to play with my dog, feed my birds and then read some books that I got from the library.

KID 3: Considering you go to school for six hours you don't need to do any homework afterwards.

If you do have to spend some of your evenings like this experts say it's not necessarily a bad thing. While it might not guarantee you straight A’s, they say it can teach you to manage your own learning and organise your time. As long as it's quality homework; stuff that's interesting and stuff you can work on with your parents.

When you're in primary school afternoons are precious but so is your education. So where do you stand on the homework debate?