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In Homework Wars, Student Wins a Battle: More Time to Unwind on Vacation

Sean, 15, convinced Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan, one of the nation's most competitive (cynics might say cutthroat), that it needed to restrict homework during vacations. Like the earnest boy in "The Emperor's New Clothes," Sean pointed out what seemed obvious -'" that long vacation projects ruin the chance to recharge, catch up on sleep and spend time with family and friends.

The principal, agreeing that vacations are "down time" and should not be used to "heap on homework," responded by suggesting to teachers that brushing up on Shakespeare would be a fine spring-break assignment; writing an entire play would not.

Similarly, Celia Oyler, associate professor of curriculum and teaching at Columbia's Teachers College in New York, sees homework as "a great social divider," pointing out that students living in crowded tenements may not have a quiet corner with an uncluttered table. She suggests that it may not be wise for teachers to pile on homework at high schools filled with students on the verge of dropping out. "Where the kids are already behind, not very motivated and stressed out by their community, how do you make school a place where kids can be successful?" she asked.

This article appeared in the April 4, 2007 edition of the New York Times. previous page