It seems that Father really did know what was best.
For years, actor Robert Young lectured America's youth on the lasting value of studying hard and being prepared to live productive lives in his role on the popular radio and television sitcom of the 1950s and the 1960s. Father Knows Best is regarded as an example of the paternalistic nature of American family life in those days.
The value of homework was often cited, much to the chagrin of the featured children.
And now MetLife, long a friend of American education, releases a study that lends voice to the importance of homework in the current environment. The study reached out to public school teachers, principals and department chairs in helping to determine outcomes.
Most parents now believe in the value of homework in a highly competitive society, and they see homework as important and needed to help students learn more in school.
According to the study, minority parents are more likely than non-minority parents to believe that homework is important and helps students in school and in the future. Importantly, parents who do not believe homework is important appear to be more alienated and less connected to their child's school.
Minority parents are determined to see their youngsters get a competitive edge.
Frequently overworked and underpaid, teachers like homework because it encourages a sense of responsibility and critical thinking. Furthermore, more than half of them frequently use homework to help their students to practice skills, to prepare for tests, to develop good work habits, to develop critical thinking skills, and to motivate them to learn and develop relevant interests.
Teachers do use homework as part of the assessment process.
The timely study pointed to the fact that highly experienced teachers (20 years or more) are more likely than new teachers (five years or less) to believe in the value of homework.
Senior teachers and administrators see homework as an important aid for students in reaching their goals after high school. In defense of the younger teachers, they are less prepared to create out-of-classroom assignments, but that will change with time.
Parents, for the most part, believe that teachers assign about the right amount of homework, and three-quarters of the students in the study report that they have enough time to do their assignments. Parents believe a quiet place for study is important, while most students engage in other activities while doing homework.
Teachers and parents agree that the quality of homework is less than excellent.
Among the findings of the study are these:
¢ More than eight in 10 teachers (83 percent) believe that doing homework is important, and more than nine in 10 (91 percent) agree that doing homework helps students to learn more;
¢ Likewise, more than eight in 10 parents (81 percent) believe that doing homework is important, and nearly nine in 10 (89 percent) agree that doing homework helps students learn more; and
¢ Over three-quarters of the students (77 percent) believe that doing homework is important, and almost seven in ten (69 percent) agree that doing homework helps them learn more in school.
Most parents view homework as an opportunity for parent-child communication, and that opportunity should not be lost. It should be nurtured.
MetLife has been sponsoring relevant educational studies for 24 years, sharing the perspectives of those men and women and children closest to important issues of learning.
Who would have thought that Father's wisdom would have survived so many changes and so many decades? Robert Young lives!
- Gene A. Budig is a College Board professor in New York, and was past president of Major League Baseball's American League. He served as a chancellor/president of three major state universities, including Kansas University, for more than 20 years.