Workloads: Do We have This Down?

In an article entitled "Overworked and underplayed?", (U.S. News and World report; Oct 2003) the author, Ulrich Boser, wonders why people are under the impression that America's youth are overworked in elementary/secondary education. A study revealed that most kids spend less than an hour a day studying; almost 40 percent of high schoolers surveyed had done no homework the night before; and most college freshman report that they spent just an hour a day - an all-time low - on homework during their last year of high school. Boser feels the reason people have such a misconception is partial due to the fact that they can't remember working at all as kids, and mostly because of a study done in 2000 that was misinterpreted. It was widely reported that homework more than doubled from 1981 to 1997 for children ages 6 to 8. But the increase included some students who went from no homework to a little bit, thus inflating the average. On the flip side, Boser says that it is easy to find individual cases of students up to their red-rimmed eyeballs in schoolwork, but states that "This is not your average student". So 'on the whole' are elementary/highschool students too burdened with school work? Are elementary schools preparing students for secondary education, or better yet, are high schools preparing students for college? Could this be some of the reason that nearly half of those who start college never finish with a four year degree?

1 comment:

Dr. Tufte said...

I don't want to start anything about how much people (in a group I'm no longer young enough to be part of) work.

But, I think it is pretty clear that the priorities of most secondary students don't feature schoolwork very highly. Whether that is a good or bad thing is another matter entirely.

BTW: here is some personal experience. I directed a Ph.D. program at another school for a few years. My experience was that American students almost always entered the program at the bottom because they had few skills and no committment. But, by the end of the program they were in the lead, largely because they were much better at juggling/multitasking than were foreign students.