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Liberté, Egalité, and Leisure

In his quest to build a socialist paradise, France’s premiere, Francois Hollande, has a plan to ensure that young Frenchmen don’t inadvertently develop a work ethic: ban homework

Hollande argues that homework just  isn’t “fair.” Why not?  As David Azerrad reports at Heritage’s Foundry, it is because homework ”gives kids who get help from their parents a leg up on those who come from families where the parents are either absent or can’t help.” As David concludes, this perfectly illustrates how “equality of opportunity” can be twisted into “sameness of opportunity.”

Before you say “it can’t happen here,”  consider Larson v. Burmaster, a 2006 case in which a Wisconsin student and his father alleged that summer homework assignments violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The plaintiffs cited a series of “substantive due process” cases holding that the Constitution protects parents’ right to direct their children’s education and upbringing (I discuss this case in the opening chapter of my book, The Naked Constitution). And yes, it was tossed out by the trial court and the appellate court. But then, they laughed at the tobacco lawsuits at first.

  1. Richard Fulmer

    Let us all be mediocre in equality.  We shall aspire to the bliss of the cave dwellers – free of all possessions and sharing our absolute poverty in communal squalor.

  2. Garrett Petersen

    Didn’t you get the memo, Adam?  It turns out that wealth isn’t created by people, it issues from the bosom of Mother Gaia, and all that matters is how we distribute it.  I read it in the Journal of Wishful Thinking.

  3. DocJay

    One not need to imagine what the Eloi of H.G. Wells’ vision looked like, simply head to gay Paris and see them lounging languidly by the Champs.  Never mind those creatures from the Cites that most certainly will be coming for you.  I’ll add a final word to your title, Stupiditie.

  4. Cesar

    Homework is banned! French kids celebrate with misspelled signs.

  5. At The Rubicon

    The actual result will be that the gap will widen. Parents that care will either move their kids to private schools or they will assign their own homework to their children.

  6. Sola Fide

    C’est honteux !

    When my French wife hears this, she’s going to have apoplexy.  She’s told me about how much she used to have to study and do homework when she was in (French) school.  I, for one, am a bit skeptical that this type of change proposed by Hollande can effectively go through because school is VERY important there.  It is part of the culture.

  7. Adam Freedman
    C
    DocJay: One not need to imagine what the Eloi of H.G. Wells’ vision looked like, simply head to gay Paris and see them lounging languidly by the Champs.  Never mind those creatures from the Cites that most certainly will be coming for you.  I’ll add a final word to your title, Stupiditie. · 4 minutes ago

    Funny you should mention that – just two days ago I watched the 1960 version of The Time Machine, which I hadn’t seen in years.  The Eloi of the film do look like early hippies, with their mop-top hair.  I wonder whether the director George Pal was equated the Eloi with the emerging youth culture of the times.

  8. kesbar

    So to be clear, the French president would prefer that the education gap be smaller, even if it meant the poorly educated were even more poorly educated.

    There is no surprise here.  It matches their economic model.

  9. Erik Larsen

    What’z the big deel?  I never did homewerk and I terned out just fyne

  10. Crow

    Though we are unleisurely so that we may have leisure, the paradox is that for leisure to actually be leisure and not merely “spare time” in between the tyrannical demands of work, one must learn what it is to be leisurely in the proper sense: to appreciate the higher human faculties and their expression through the arts. And this takes much work when one is younger.

    But that aside, it does take a certain sinister French socialist genius to observe that children from stable families with caring parents do better in school, and therefore instead of pursuing public policies designed to promote stronger families–we can’t have that!–he proposes abolishing one more path were someone somewhere might distinguish themselves. 

    “I will make proletarians of you all!” he shouted, and they cheered, blinked, and submitted.

  11. Fredösphere

    Just when I start thinking the conservative view of the Left is unfair, they remind me just how badly we understate things.

  12. KC Mulville

    I’m just picturing how badly I would have gotten a yard-stick to the side of my head if I had suggested such a thing to Sister Bridget Mary.

  13. paulebe

    Not to be too much of a contrarian and certainly don’t want to align myself with one as toxic (to a conservative) as Hollande, but I’ve never quite understood the concept of “homework” anyway.

    Here’s what I’m getting at.  For a vast majority of students, an overwhelming majority of their day is spent at school.  All day!  Their parents then measure the effectiveness of their education based on the amount of work their child then must accomplish at home.  If that information is so doggone important, why couldn’t they have accomplished that during the school day?  Seems kind of inefficient to me.

  14. paulebe

    dreaded multi-post.

  15. danys
    paulebe: Not to be too much of a contrarian and certainly don’t want to align myself with one as toxic (to a conservative) as Hollande, but I’ve never quite understood the concept of “homework” anyway.

    Here’s what I’m getting at.  For a vast majority of students, an overwhelming majority of their day is spent at school.  All day!  Their parents then measure the effectiveness of their education based on the amount of work their child then must accomplish at home.  If that information is so doggone important, why couldn’t they have accomplished that during the school day?  Seems kind of inefficient to me. · 14 minutes ago

    Paulebe, there is not enough time in a school week to teach a novel or play without students reading the text at home. I’ve had to remind parents that reading is homework.

  16. Amy Schley
    paulebe: but I’ve never quite understood the concept of “homework” anyway.

    Here’s what I’m getting at.  For a vast majority of students, an overwhelming majority of their day is spent at school.  All day!  Their parents then measure the effectiveness of their education based on the amount of work their child then must accomplish at home.  If that information is so doggone important, why couldn’t they have accomplished that during the school day?  Seems kind of inefficient to me. · 3 hours ago

    Well, for one, it’s not “all day.”  It’s about 5.5 hours when you take out lunch, recess, class changes, and extra-curriculars like art and music. 

    Now, my ideal system would be four 50 minute lecture classes in the morning — rotated A – B every day — an hour break for lunch/recess, and then required study hall and “office hours” for four hours — student and teacher alike! — every afternoon to do all the “homework” and grading. Labs and extra-curriculars would be in that afternoon block as well, because if a student wants to do them, they have to accept the consequences.

  17. Robert Dammers

    It is always good sport to point the finger at the French (I’m born in England of Dutch parents), but one should remember that despite that idiotic strain in French Socialism represented by Hollande, they have, till now, retained a fearsome work ethic around education (as Sola Vide’s French wife rightly argues), in contrast to the trends in state education in the UK and US.

    The very high productivity statistics that France enjoys may be explicable by looking at exclusion of the less able from the job market, but again, the fact is, enough Frenchmen do seem to know how to work hard.

  18. Bradley Ross

    The French president has come to the right conclusion by the wrong reasoning. My three oldest are in 3rd grade, 2nd grade, and kindergarten. I hate their homework. 

    Good sleep is essential for the brain to process the information and learning of the day. I believe that play and physical activity are likewise essential for most students to retain what they learned. Kids need a variety of activities for optimal performance.

    Homework infringes on our family time in unwelcome ways.