Francis was a sweet, innocent boy. It was a beautiful Friday afternoon in early June. The sun was shining and Francis wanted to go outside, but he couldn't. Francis' friends were skating in the street. He can see his friends. But he won't be joining them for a some time time. Why not? In front of him, right on his desk there is an empty sheet of lined paper with just one letter A on it. His job is to fill the paper with a lot more A's.
Do you remember your first homework?
What we are witnessing is Francis' first homework ever. It will take him about twenty minutes to fill the whole sheet of paper with his clumsy As. With practice he'll improve. In time his A's will become legible and even show some sort of boyish elegance. But for now he is suffering. He can't even begin to fill the page because he is melting away from bitter resentment of the unjustice at hand.
The actors involved in our little scene are Francis, Francis' teacher, Francis' parents and of course Francis' friends. Francis just completed his first week of school. And his teacher gave the students their first assignment to complete over the course of the weekend. All the other kids, it seems, came home from school, and ran right outside to play. Francis' parents however asked Francis to complete his homework first – before Francis is allowed to go outside and join his friends.
What's in it for the teacher?
The structure relevant to the teacher is his students´ learning. The teacher chose the homework according to the students´ abilities. Not too much, not too difficult, not too easy. The teacher did not tell them when to do the homework, just to have it ready on Monday morning for school.
He wants to learn and be successful at school. He also aches to go outside and play.
The structures relevant to Francis are more complex: he aches to run outside and frolick in the sun with his friends. He wants to learn ans be successful at school. He wants to satisfy his parents' expectations. Francis' parents hold yet another structure to be relevant: Francis' character development. They want him to practice his self dicipline and internalize the rule that work comes before play.
Homework too is an ethical matter
With the very first homework we receive we enter a world of ethical decisions and presuppositions. Who says that by forcing Francis to finish his homework before the beginning of the weekend the parents don't rob him of the experience to be responsible for his own time management? Maybe the teacher could have adjusted the homework to make it more playful?
Who says studying has to be work and may not be play at the same time?
Who says studying has to be work and may not be play at the same time? Why is there such a thing as homework anyway? Many schools do without, what are their reasons?