French president actually considering a ban on homework

posted at 3:21 pm on October 16, 2012 by Erika Johnsen

It’s actually come to this. For the sake of creating a more level playing field for students who might not have home lives as conducive to productive learning as others, the national — I repeat, not some local or regional government or association or something, but the national — French government is actually floating a plan that would disallow schools from assigning their pupils homework, via TIME:

Last week, Hollande reaffirmed his pledge to make education one of his main domestic priorities by outlining key strategic changes to revitalize France’s school system. It’s a sweeping package of changes meant to reform a system critics claim is outdated and inefficient, but for headline writers it boils down to one concept: the French President wants to outlaw homework. “Work should be done at school, rather than at home,” Hollande emphasized on Wednesday.

He also proposes reducing the average amount of time a student spends in class in each day, while stretching the school week from four days to four and a half. It’s a bid to bring the country more in line with international standards and to acknowledge some of the current system’s shortcomings. Even the homework isn’t just an empty populist gesture — it’s meant to reflect the fact that many of the lowest-performing students lack a positive support environment at home.

I realize France probably has a different educational culture and customs than what we’re used to, but this is just insanity borne of shooting for “fairness” at every turn. What’s next — will French President Hollande actually propose preventing what he deems to be too-ambitious students from doing extra practice work outside of class on their own personal initiative, because it might give them an unfair advantage? Thankfully, as the WSJ points out, it appears that while this might be every child’s dream come true, most French adults aren’t really into the idea:

Here we begin to wonder: Are the French losing their mind? Fortunately not. More than two-thirds of the country would oppose the ban, according to an Ifop poll, so there’s hope that even in the land of égalité there’s some recognition that state power cannot equalize everything. It’s also reassuring to know that a majority of French adults believe there’s something to be said for instructing children in the need for personal initiative and responsibility, regardless of excuses or circumstances.

I’m not sure how or why trying to apply these kinds of redistributive socialist tactics to education is supposed to “help” French students progress, develop, and learn; the result will be the same as applying socialism in the economic sector, i.e., less wealth/knowledge creation for everybody. I suppose you can try to make everyone’s formative circumstances as fair as possible, but guess what? Life isn’t fair, and learning to adapt to that reality is part of being a mature adult — but then again, as the WSJ concludes, “perhaps [Hollande's] ideas about homework say something about the kind of citizens of the future he wishes to see.”


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