March 12, 2008
A creeping malaise exists amongst British children, it seems. In February 2007, the United Nations Children Fund labeled U.K. youths the most unhappy in the western world. And why? The Association of Teachers and Lecturers, a national teachers' union, lays the blame at homework's feet. It has therefore proposed assigning to primary students no homework at all and setting strict limits for the amount that may be demanded of secondary students. The ATL's motion, on which it will vote at an upcoming conference, includes this: "Children should be able to explore, experiment, and enjoy their learning without feeling pressured." First, this is clearly an awful strategy that won't make students generally happier and will make them dumber. Second, it's odd that the same types who argue that schools can have only a minor effect on the academic achievement of their pupils (because family situation counts for so much more) are the same ones arguing that schools have an enormous effect on the happiness of their pupils. And third, prove us wrong: Find for us an angsty adolescent whose foremost aggravation is homework (and not unrequited love, say, or war), and we'll give up this think-tank thing for good.
"The anxiety epidemic: Why are children so unhappy?," by Richard Garner, The Independent, March 11, 2008