French president François Hollande recently announced that he wants French schools to put an end to homework. That is certain to thrill school children in the nation, but the reason for Hollande’s war on homework will likely puzzle many French citizens.
President Hollande wants to end homework in order to level the playing field for the nation’s students. As France 24 reports, Hollande told an audience at The Sorbonne, “An education program is, by definition, a societal program. Work should be done at school, rather than at home.”
He went on to explain that it was unfair for students with parents who are engaged with their schoolwork to gain an educational advantage over others, whose parents do not offer such support.
Hollande wants to neutralize the impact of parents by keeping students at school longer. As France 24 notes, French students are already staying at school longer than students in many other nations, often leaving the school “only at 5 p.m. or 6 p.m.”
The more hours students spend in the government’s schools, the less hours they are at home — where inequity abounds.
As Dylan Matthews of The Washington Post explains, Hollande argues for the elimination of homework, “not in terms of student learning but as a way to equal the playing field for all students.” Further, “Poor children, he argues, are less likely to get parental aid for homework, and so requiring homework can widen the achievement gap.”
Hollande is right about the inequity. Children whose parents are not involved, for whatever reason, are surely at a serious disadvantage. Every effort to help them should be made. But even if homework is eliminated, the inequity will remain.
The reason for the inequity is clear, and it doesn’t begin when the child starts formal education. It starts at the beginning of life and in the earliest stages of infancy and childhood. Parents who talk to their children and, even more importantly, read to their children, give their children a priceless head start. Parents who spend time with their children and are involved in their school work, offering encouragement and accountability, increase that advantage. Involved and engaged parents give a child a priceless advantage.
There is another dimension to this picture, but one that most political leaders will not acknowledge. The presence of two parents in the home at least doubles the opportunity for a child to get the needed help. The breakdown of the family is a major part of the background to this problem.
The only way for this particular inequity to be eliminated is to remove children from the care of their parents and to raise them as wards of the state. Such proposals have been made by statists ranging from Plato to Lenin. To a lesser degree, similar arguments have been made in this country by educational leaders such as philosopher John Dewey. Adding even more hours to the school week is just a further step in that direction.
This is the logic of statism, proposing the state as the answer to inequities it cannot possibly resolve, and marginalizing or subverting the family in the process.
This story from France should prompt all of us to do a little homework of our own, reminding ourselves of the central importance of the family.
I discuss this story and more in today’s edition of The Briefing: A Daily Analysis of News and Events from a Christian Worldview. Listen here.
Publication date: December 6, 2012