Letters to the Editor: Schools teach kids not to slack off. How would no more homework help?

Kindergarten teacher Jennifer Klein collects crayons from students.
Kindergarten teacher Jennifer Klein collects crayons from students at Lupine Hill Elementary School in Calabasas last November.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: Reading your editorial favoring a school grading system that deemphasizes homework and task completion, I though what great news this might mean to journalists. Just turn your articles in whenever, no consequences, and don’t worry about work outside your official hours.

Advertisers, turn in your ad copy whenever. Delivery folks, take your time, because deadlines don’t matter. Custodians, clean the toilets whenever you feel like it.

Now, to real life: There are very few tests given once we are adults, but there are many daily chores that must be done and deadlines that must be met. My job as a teacher is not only to educate my students, but also to turn them into employable and responsible adults.


That means daily practice with a routine that becomes ingrained. Completing homework teaches a student organization and planning; it also improves academic skills and reinforces knowledge.

Kathleen McCarthy, Torrance


To the editor: After raising a family of seven quite successful students and teaching public school for 10 years, I agree with your editorial about homework and grading.

I graduated from Reed College in Oregon, a school that deemphasizes grades and is renowned for sending many alumni to graduate school. As students we got many comments on the margins of our papers and tests followed by a conference with the professor or our advisor.

I was also influenced by a book I read early in my career pointing out that if you gave a test on the first day of school, some children would ace it, others would have mixed results, and some would fail. If you did a good job, by the end of the term, everyone should do fairly well on the test, even those who initially failed. The grade should reflect the knowledge gained.

I did my best to follow this advice, and I am encouraged that people are once again considering what education is really all about — and it certainly should not be about averaging test scores.


Sharon Toji, Irvine


To the editor: Letter writers brought up important issues on homework and education. Missing, however, was the fact that students are different, with different interests and talents. The human race depends on this diversity.

As the late psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi pointed out: “If we were all more or less alike, humans would grow into narrowly specialized organisms. It would be difficult for us to adapt to changing conditions.”

An important function of school is to help students discover and develop their interests and pursue their strengths. Overemphasizing “requirements” not only leads to boredom, it also doesn’t result in as much learning as encouraging students to engage in tasks they find natural and interesting.

Plato understood this: “Bodily exercise, when compulsory, does no harm to the body; but knowledge which is acquired under compulsion obtains no hold on the mind.”

Stephen Krashen, Los Angeles

The writer is a professor emeritus of education at USC.