Homework can’t replace teaching and application
Letter to the Editor
Recently, I read a commentary about how “Professors and adults, in general ... know what they are teaching and assign homework on topics they know are important,” a rebuttal to this week’s “An Inconvenient Truth” which talked about how students should not be overloaded with busywork. The commentator, I believe, misunderstood the context of the article.
In the article, titled “U. students should not be overloaded with homework,” the author makes the point that the article is not about the existence of homework, but its nature. I have to agree with her — homework should not be a substitute for true learning. While taking chemistry and French, teachers assign a large amount of homework and reading assignments that require practice and application. I am not going to learn how to speak French if I don’t practice and receive immediate feedback from my teacher. I am not going to learn how to solve basic chemistry problems if I am not shown how to work my way through a problem. As the article states, “textbooks are excellent reference tools, but if I wanted to learn about introductory macroeconomics from a textbook, I wouldn’t have had my parents shell out a college tuition.” It is not acceptable to substitute homework with class attendance if a course is introductory. For example, my psychology professor, Gary Brill, genuinely taught us about the basics of psychology, only using the textbook as a reference tool to reinforce what was taught in class.
The article states, “Often, the lecture reinforces the concepts gone over in the textbook.” Now, this makes test-taking easier, but true learning will never happen if we are simply told to read about a subject. Real learning is being taught how someone in the field thinks so the next generation can improve it. That is why I appreciate my professors this semester. My “Death and Afterlife” professors teach us the material actively instead of asking us to merely read about it at home. My French professor this semester teaches us different tricks to remember the conjugation of -er verbs, and makes us practice speaking. He doesn’t ask us to only read how to pronounce words in the textbook. Both are introductory courses, but the textbook reinforces the ideas of the lectures, not the other way around.
As I mentioned before, the author states, “Professors and adults, in general ... know what they are teaching and assign homework on topics they know are important.” This is flat out naïve. Most professors are researchers and masters in their fields, but it does not mean that they know how to teach their students.
In fact, I would venture to say most people do not know what they are talking about. People like to have an opinion even if they have no experience dealing with the specific conditions needed to form an opinion on the matter. Even the ideas of someone who has the qualifications to form an opinion, although not necessarily wrong, may not be the best solution or the best opinion on the matter. But who is to say someone is not capable of coming up with better ideas or opinions simply because they are young?
I, like the author of the article, am not saying homework is pointless. I am saying teaching through homework is pointless because it is not actually teaching. I am also saying just because one is an adult doesn’t mean one knows what one is talking about. It is our responsibility as the next generation to find better solutions, but how are we supposed to do so if we are told to read about the current system of doing things instead of actually being taught first-hand?
Maynor Moreno is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore.