Below is an actual news story from the internet written by an American columnist. You may use it to construct your own TOEFL/IELTS format essay.
Do kids have too much homework?
There\’s a lot of talk about homework these days. Kids are getting too much of it, they say.
The last time I heard my nine-year-old Elina griping about homework, I had to be honest with her. I said, \”Honey, when I was your age, I had to do 25 hours of homework a day, and I had to do it barefoot. In the snow! While walking to and from school–which was uphill both ways.\”
That\’s one trouble with homework research: It\’s based on self-reporting, and memories can be fuzzy. To be honest, I don\’t remember actually doing any homework. I remember getting some, but not doing it.
So the question remains: Just how much homework are kids getting these days?
Time Magazine did a cover story about homework in January 1999. Maybe you saw it. It focused on a girl named Molly Benedict, who was then in sixth grade at the Presidio Middle School in San Francisco, California.
According to Time, on a typical night, Molly did the following:
– wrote a book report
– did 100 math problems (count them: 100!)
– labeled all countries and bodies of water on a map of the Middle East
– studied how blood circulates for a science test
– practiced the piano
– wolfed down a meal
– polished the book report
– A hundred math problems a night? Pardon me while I chuckle skeptically.
I had to wonder: Did Molly Benedict really exist? Or was she a composite of several kids with a dash of some reporter\’s preconceptions?
It turns out she\’s quite real; I talked to her mother, Libby. But it also turns out there\’s more to the story than what Time reported.
\”Did Molly really have to do all the stuff it said in the article?\” I asked.
Well yes, said Benedict with shy motherly pride: Molly was in an honors program and took on a lot of extra work–her homework load wasn\’t typical. This wasn\’t quite the response I was expecting, so I bored deeper.
\”Wasn\’t your daughter a hapless victim, crushed by the weight of meaningless assignments piled on her shoulders by a committee of heartless educrats? Time magazine picked your daughter as poster child for a critical national problem!\” I cried.
Benedict sighed. \”Yeah, well…. After reading some of the things we were quoted as saying in Time, I realized: You can\’t believe everything you read.\”
That\’s the truth.
What we need is some careful academic research. Children are doing a lot more homework now than they did in my day. This research was done by Dr. Sandra Hofferth at the University of Michigan. The numbers?
In 1981 sixth-graders did an average of 85 minutes of homework a week. In 1997 sixth-graders did an average of 134 minutes of homework a week. In short, homework increased more than 50 percent in 16 years. Some say the rise began with A Nation at Risk, a 1983 report put out by the Department of Education that claimed that American schoolchildren were falling behind those in other countries.
Other people say the trend goes back to 1957, when the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the first artificial satellite. Americans panicked when they realized the Soviets had beaten them into space, and in response, Americans began beefing up the curriculum in U.S. schools.
So the next logical question is: Does homework really help kids learn? It depends on who you believe. A study by Dr. Carol Huntsinger, professor of education and psychology at the College of Lake County in Grayslake, Illinois, says kids who get more homework in pre-school and kindergarten get better grades later and go to more prestigious colleges. But a study by Dr. Harris Cooper of the University of Missouri says kids who do more homework in elementary school don\’t score one bit better in the standardized tests now administered by many states.
In any case, if kids are now doing 134 minutes of homework a week, that comes out to about 26 minutes a night (33 1/2 if they\’re only getting homework four nights a week). To me, that doesn\’t seem like such a load. Which raises the real question: How much homework is too much?
Puzzled parents might find it useful to know the teachers\’ \”ten-minute\” rule-of-thumb: the right amount of homework is ten minutes for first graders, 20 minutes for second graders, and so on up. By that measure, sixth graders should be doing about an hour of homework a night–roughly twice what they are doing now, according to the Michigan study.
Dr. Huntsinger did a survey in October 2000. She asked 585 kids in grades 4 to 12 if they felt they had too much homework, and 67 percent of them said no, they had too little or just enough. There you have it from the kids themselves!
What about the 33 percent who said yes? \”It might be that your child is getting too much homework,\” says Tanya Friedman, the head teacher at my daughter\’s school. \”It might be that she\’s not ready for the level of work she\’s getting.\”
So the question remains: Are kids getting too much homework? And if so, why is it too much? As far as I can tell, people who say that kids get too much homework rest their case on four main points; but the other side has arguments too.
Point: Parents have their own agendas for their children\’s education. Homework forces them to compete with the schools for their own children\’s time, according to Etta Kralovec, coauthor of The End of Homework. In other words, schools get the kids for six hours a day or more. When do mom and dad get a turn?
Counterpoint: Homework can be family time. It gives mom and dad a window into the six hours their kid is away from them. Parents might look at homework as a chance to find out what and how their kids are doing during all that time. It\’s a chance to share in their children\’s single biggest activity.
Point: Children need time to pursue their own interests. There\’s more to education than \”reading, writing, and \’rithmetic,\” to quote National Public Radio talk-show caller Randy from Dallas, Texas.
Counterpoint: Homework doesn\’t have to be writing times tables. Harriett Cholden, a fifth-grade teacher at the Francis Parker school in Chicago, Illinois, and coauthor of The Homework Handbook, says the big question is not how much homework kids are getting, but what kind of homework.
Point: Parents are too busy in these harrowing times to help their children agonize through 26 minutes of homework a night. According to Etta Kralovec, many parents report they don\’t have time to serve on school boards because they\’re tied down at home, helping their children with their homework. The homework deluge thus contributes to a weakening of community.
Counterpoint: It isn\’t the parents\’ homework. The parents\’ job is mainly \”to create an attitude, to show an interest,\” says Cholden. In short, the parents should focus on building a homework-friendly environment.
Point: Homework isn\’t fair, says Debbie Faigenbaum, doctoral fellow at Stanford University and a former middle school teacher. All the kids at a given school have the same resources when they\’re in school; but once they go home, it\’s a different story. Some kids have their own rooms, desks, computers. Others don\’t.
Counterpoint: Some say the school day should be longer. (This is, in fact, one of directions Kralovec and her coauthor, John Buell, propose exploring.) And Huntslinger points out that many schools and churches have free after-school tutoring and homework programs. Instead of lobbying for less homework, working parents might press for more programs like these. They\’d get some much needed childcare in the bargain as well.
My own opinion varies. Sometimes I think homework is like spinach: A little goes a long way, but you should have some. It\’s good for you.
At the same time, I\’m impressed by a point Kralovec makes. Seems some folks are just scandalized by the idea of kids not getting homework. It\’s like proposing that the Earth is flat. It just isn\’t done.
But why should any proposal be so beyond the pale of consideration?
Perhaps part of it comes from people like me. I had homework, why shouldn\’t my kids? In fact, as you may recall, I had to do my homework standing on one leg barefoot in the sleet. Although, come to think of it, the temperature never dropped below 70 where I lived, so it couldn\’t have been sleet. Must have been heat. Or whatever.