They'll never know if someone has their six.
Because they won't know what it means.
Friends, Romans, countryman, lend me your ears.
It all started when, at an event where young people were also present, I learned that their classmates couldn’t tell time on a traditional non-digital round clock. Telling them “top of the hour” meant nothing. Telling them there was a bogie at 8 o’clock meant nothing—heck, half of the movies from the 1980s, they won’t understand, and not for the usual reasons.1
I’ve already ranted and raved about the cursive writing thing enough on past blogs, and probably will again someday on this blog knowing how I am, but this clock thing seemed a bridge too far.
Consider that I met a gal (I think it was a gal, I’m not sure) a few weeks ago with the weirdest hair and incredibly fast texting skills while in line at the post office. Too bad that young lady didn’t know how to actually mail a letter.
Even after she dropped it in the large metal container, she didn’t tip the handle to dump the letter forward. An older fellow—after the rest of us oldsters stared at the letter/package drop nervously knowing a crucial final step hadn’t been completed—finally got out of line and tipped the handle in so her letter wouldn’t be grabbed by some passerby.
A few months back when I hopped on The Facebooks to manage a client page, I saw several posts of moms complaining about the homework their children had to do. They were kind enough to take a picture of these unbearable worksheets and assignments that were an unbelievable burden and I was completely confused.
It looked like what we had to do as kids.
You may remember the drill from the prehistoric ages.
You’d lug home piles of workbooks and textbooks and notebooks and then sit down at the dining room table or the desk in your room and finish phonics, math, social studies, English—all the joys. Heck, we had to even write out the questions and then write the essay answer for some teachers, which seemed pointless then and would make it on some mom’s Facebook page now, but sneakily forced us to practice writing in conjunction with the topic at hand.
Curious about this homework complaint, I started to do some digging and found that this isn’t uncommon, parents complaining about homework and insisting it’s outrageous that their child should bring any work home from school to do at home. I also discovered parents sharing content that suggested it’s not important to learn math or whatever subject it was that their child struggles with, couching it in language that they’re good at something else and precious children and that’s all that matters.
Yeah, they’re precious children, but this country is full up on people relying on gadgets for everything, completely at the mercy of the Great EMP in the Sky.
Is this current crop of 20-30-something parents looking for justification? Taking revenge on the education realm that they had struggled with in school? Would my mom, or my classmate’s moms, ever do such a thing? I recall the disciplinary actions taken by the school against students with parental support and I can’t help but think probably not.
Here is the really icky truth, which drops untidily in all the self-esteem, self-love, and self-belief with a great, giant splatter: your child needs to learn the 3 R’s, and then some.
Sorry, but he or she does.
Your child might not get good grades and feel bad about it, but they need to buckle down and learn it to the best of their ability. It is unfair to justify not learning because it’s tough, not fun, or seems to reward hard work with a fail or lackluster reward instead of the Big Win.
Good life lesson: hard work doesn’t always give you the reward you think you deserve. As adults, we know that sometimes in life, you can work hard, do your very best, put forth excellent work, and be punctual and organized and:
Get all the work dumped on you that other lazy co-workers can’t seem to do.
Get slapped with excessive overtime.
Get scolded by union workers for making them look bad and being told to slow down your output to not throw off the curve (true story).
Watch as others make it on the 40-over-40 list.
Have the IRS swoop in and take away the fruits of your labor.
Have awful managers and bosses who take the credit for your work so your effort becomes their victory.
So why would we tell kids that if they work hard they can accomplish anything and be whatever they want and that hard work equals great grades, great opportunities and brings great understanding when we know in our adult lives that’s not really the case?
“You don’t need to know these things in real life anyway, Junior,” goes the response when a child does poorly in some subject.
Do not let your child be the young woman at the store who had to ask me how to calculate 25% off the sale rack. She needed to know fractions, percentages, and yes, even basic algebra, for use in her life.
Anyone who tells you that you don’t need such things in “real life” and that you’re wasting your time is lying.2 You are at a serious disadvantage if you can’t do basic math, if you aren’t able to read and comprehend, write decently, and know even basic historical facts.
The math thing really drives me nuts. “What am I going to ever need this stupid fraction stuff for? Calculating the area of a rectangle? Solving for n?”
How about…way more often than you’d imagine? Sooner or later you’re going to need that geometry or to solve for some unknown quantity.
Baking, cooking, construction, electrician, calculating the purchase of yard or home improvement supplies based on square footage, shopping, tipping, adding up your grocery cart, calculating reward points—you need to know math. Math doesn’t come perfectly easy for me. It was the lowest-scored portion of my ACT test. But I know I need to understand at least the foundational use of it.
If your child works super hard at math or reading or whatever class it is that’s a struggle and gets a poor grade, why would comforting them by suggesting it’s stupid to learn that, anyway, be useful to them?
And the homework thing?
It’s not just what you need to learn, but that we all need to learn how to learn.
“It’s just busy work to all those answers and essays.”
No. It is practice in writing which, if you’ve seen kids’ handwriting today, they could sure use more of.
“It’s cruel to expect kids to spend so much time at school and then bring work home.”
Sure, the public school day is burned up in a lot of wasted time. But if THEY CAN’T READ THE CLOCK does it matter? And how much time is wasted in front of screens at home?
Learning can happen anywhere. The habits of study definitely should not be siloed as a “school” thing. Instead of becoming dramatic on social media about your poor child crying at home because of worksheets or essay questions, maybe take away the screens and make them do the work and then let them play outside.
Work happens in life everywhere, not just on the job.
Learning happens in life everywhere, not just at school.
Working and improving ourselves has to be woven into the day, not compartmentalized to school, church, work, or the gym, so that when we come home we drop down in front of the screen and play video games and eat crap or become human slugs.
Homework is not just busy work. It’s an age-appropriate way for a younger human being to begin learning about time management, delay of gratification, and not relying on the groupthink that comes from in-school collaborative work.
The process of learning, of repetition, of working at home—it’s all part of the peripheral lesson of discovering how to learn and the habits of learning that are going to segue into adult life in either a structured learning-focused life, or a chaotic sit-back-and-relax life.
It’s a discipline.
Generations of kids before hated doing homework and cried and moaned about it, but their parents didn’t take to social media to gripe and legitimize that whining. Those kids did the work and played outside and had extracurricular school activities and they somehow fit it all into one day, because no screens were eating into it.
This is harsh, I know. But we have a serious problem in upcoming generations regarding education and their ability to think and function.
There are always kids out there who are exceptions, whose parents and schools insist they learn even if it seems unnecessary or inconvenient now.
But there’s not enough of them.
They can’t tell time. They don’t know how to mail a letter. Cursive handwriting is like a secret code. They don’t want to do work at home. They just want to stare at a screen. This is not a joke.
I felt sad for that young woman at the post office. She was at a serious disadvantage. We can’t send kids out into the world like that just because they want to diddle around with their phones or watch TV instead of doing schoolwork.
We have to do better.
“The Breakfast Club is a movie about nothing! All they do is talk!” my friend has repeatedly told me. He’s completely wrong, of course. It’s a movie about everything.
I will save my rant on the need to learn history, a basic grasp of the Bible if you want to understand traditional literature and many figures of speech in the English language, and another round at why cursive writing is important for another day. You’re welcome.