Two intriguing conversations happening as of late in the sphere of academic homework. Which one grabs your attention more...and why?
In one corner, Yahoo's home page takes us into an outsourced call center for on-line tutors to help little Billy and little Mary deal with their HS calculus homework. $2.50 an hour. Moms and dads just can't get enough of this virtual hand-holding. Super bright Indian professionals making a pittance in comparison to what they'd get if living in the US...allowing our over-privileged youth and parent populations to rest easy at 10pm before the big Physics quiz the next morning in Mr. Pillars class.
In the other corner, edu-pundit Alfie Kohn is hitting the airwaves, bookstore signing lines, and any other bullypulpit to wage a pedagogical jihad against the homework flag wavers. If you have been living under a not-so-educational-system rock for the past few weeks or months, you may have missed the publication of his latest book, The Homework Myth, which challenges one and all to prove that any study -- seriously, any study, big or small -- proves that homework has a value-added link to intellectual or academic progress. Asks parents and teachers alike to prove why they send little Billy and little Mary home with a Spongepants backpack full of worksheets and heavier-than-thou books to read each night.
Again, which story does more to fire up your intellectual and educational synapses this fine Friday in September?
- More curious about the rising trend of inexpensive tutoring services that align our kids with global call centers?
- Or the argument against homework in the first place?
In order to take the premise a bit further outside of the cliched box, I suggest that we try a curiosu merger. Imagine that iTunes can figure out how to knock the Indian-tutor-per-hour price down to .99cents to match your 15 year old's latest Artic Monkeys download, and imagine that Alfie can get teachers to merge these call centers into an interactive project called 'research' within their 47 minute class. Just imagine. Not an either or. But a win-win, and/and. And perhaps than we can both return the evening to kids being kids (and arguing over eating their broccoli instead of how many more hours of social studies they have) and also allow all socioeconomic groups to take full advantage of advanced tutoring (and beginning to leve the long-term playing field rather than further skewing it on the gotta-get-into-the-best-college feeding frenzy that this tutoring business is really suggesting).
And then the world will really get flat and we can all hip-shake our way into a brave new way of imaging the future of learning.