The inalienable right to sloth

Here’s a candidate for stupidest lawsuit:

A suburban Milwaukee teen and his dad are suing the boy’s math teacher for assigning homework to be done over summer vacation.

They are seeking to bar homework assignments over the summer.

Betsy points out the kid doesn’t have to do the homework, as long as he’s willing to take the zero.

Update: Here’s a link to a story with more details:

Peer Larson, 17, had lined up a dream camp counselor job last June, but honors pre-calculus homework turned his summer into a headache.

“It didn’t completely ruin my summer, but it did give me a lot of undue stress both at home and at work,” the high school junior said Thursday. “I just didn’t have the energy or the time for it.”

Larson and his father sued in Milwaukee County Circuit Court seeking the end of summer homework across the state. They argue that homework shouldn’t be required after the required 180-day school year is over.

“These students are still children, yet they are subjected to increasing pressure to perform to ever-higher standards in numerous theaters,” the suit said.

Honors courses require some summer work, administrators say. If Larson didn’t want to meet the higher standard of honors math, he could have chosen the regular math track. He wants the prestige of honors math without the stress.

About Joanne

Comments

  1. The article didn’t say what the 17-year-old student’s plans for the summer were so I’m not sure calling it the “inalienable right to sloth” is fair. Among my peers at that age, I had friends running businesses, pursuing intellectual pursuits that they didn’t have time for during the school year (including one friend who got a patent for his efforts), working at a large variety of jobs, or travelling.

    Kids aren’t all study wonks waiting to be handed busy work from their teachers, and summer is a necessary change, allowing kids to mature in a less prison-like environment.

  2. Here in my school district the year-round elementary schools keep all four tracks in the same class. They send home workbooks for the off-track kids to do while they’re out so they can stay “caught up” with the rest of the class. Expecting parents to be involved with their kids’ education is one thing, but expecting parents to BE the teacher for three weeks out of every twelve?

  3. This is high school. Are we talking about AP or general math courses? What, exactly, is the homework? Is it new material or review material so that they can get going quickly at the beginning of the next school year. If it is review material, the easiest thing to do is tell the kids that there will be a quick, one week review of material at the beginning of the school year and then there will be a test. If it is new or preparation work for the next year, then it becomes a judgment call. What kind of work is it, how much work do they have, and is it something they can do by themselves without parental or outside assistance. This can also be done without grading the work. The teacher can just assume that the kids did the summer work and expect them to keep up with the pace. This isn’t necessarily bad. It depends on the kids, level, and course.

    Is this for the same teacher? Is it an agreement between a couple of teachers, or is this part of the curriculum. Suggested readings and work during the summer is common for all grades – even workbooks. Doing these workbooks is not necessary (wink, wink) but imagine if your child is the only one who didn’t do the work. Last summer my grade-school son had to spend quite a bit of time finishing his workbook (not review work, but preparation for the next grade work). I don’t have a problem with it because it isn’t an onerous amount of work. It’s a judgment call.

    Some of the tasks, however, “required” the assistance of a parent. That is a pet peeve of mine, where the school directs the parent because they want to make sure that we parents stay involved. Thank you, no. For the basics, I expect my son to do his own work, and for everything else, I don’t need direction and parent assignments from the school.

    I have mixed feelings about summer work. Requiring specific work over the summer that will be graded in the fall is just asking for trouble. And, suing the school over it is just asking for a big STUPID sign to be hung around your neck. Part of my mixed feelings has to to with the incredible amount of time wasted during the regular school year.

    Peer Larson. Milwaukee? Hmmm. I will have to listen to Prairie Home Companion this week.

  4. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Sue? For this? I hope some judge whacks this dysfunctional duo and assigns them community service this summer.

  5. Jack Tanner says:

    ‘Kids aren’t all study wonks waiting to be handed busy work from their teachers, and summer is a necessary change, allowing kids to mature in a less prison-like environment.’

    Yeah – that doesn’t mean you can sue because you’re assigned homework.

    ‘I hope some judge whacks this dysfunctional duo and assigns them community service this summer.’

    For what? It’s not a crime to file a frivolous lawsuit.

  6. For what? It’s not a crime to file a frivolous lawsuit.

    No, but it probably should be. We oughta go to a “loser pays” system.

  7. Vivacesunshine says:

    Actually, there are laws on frivolous lawsuits and you can be penalized for filing one . . . though that rule is not used as much as it could be these days.

  8. “Expecting parents to be involved with their kids’ education is one thing, but expecting parents to BE the teacher for three weeks out of every twelve?”

    Parents are teachers every damn day of their lives. Kids learn by example and parents are the people who introduce their children to the world. Kids learn more from their parents than they do their teachers. Maybe more people need to be aware that the role of parent includes the role of teacher.

  9. Suzanne said: “Expecting parents to be involved with their kids’ education is one thing, but expecting parents to BE the teacher for three weeks out of every twelve?”

    lindenen said: Parents are teachers every damn day of their lives. Kids learn by example and parents are the people who introduce their children to the world. Kids learn more from their parents than they do their teachers. Maybe more people need to be aware that the role of parent includes the role of teacher.

    I *am* aware of that, lindenen. For the record, I home-school my own son because I refuse to subject him to the whims of the school district here. Unfortunately this school district serves a majority of parents who both work – sometimes two or more jobs each. The kids are latch-key in the afternoons, and especially during the off-track time. There isn’t anyone at home to play teacher for these kids (assuming anyone at home speaks enough English to decipher the assignment – and that’s NOT a given here) – that’s why the parents send them to school. Since many of the kids don’t/can’t complete the “off-track” work to “keep up” with the rest of the class, EVERYONE is held back EVERY time a track comes back on.

    I apologize if I wasn’t clear in my original post. 🙂

    As far as the question at hand, ie. summer homework for high school: I got the impression from the article that it was a significant amount of “preparatory” work for an AP math course. Having taken AP Calculus in high school myself, I find it interesting that the advanced math track at the school in question apparently doesn’t adequately prepare its students in the year before the AP class. At my school the “advanced” track that sent you to AP Calculus was started in ninth grade with a set sequence of courses – and while if you wanted to “break in” to that sequence somewhere in the middle you did have quite a bit of catching up to do (this almost never happened), if you took the classes in the right order, all the preparation was done before June, and then briefly reviewed the following September.

    Maybe the faculty in the Math department at the school in question need to sit down and align their curriculum a little better. I find it hard to believe that EVERY student is actually doing the summer coursework – even as prep for an AP class.

    Suzanne in Utah

  10. In the long-ago when I was in high school (the 70s), I took AP English courses. I didn’t get handed any homework for the summer. But those were in the bad old days, when they actually taught students during the school year. (Or perhaps I should say, had time to teach the students since there apparently wasn’t as much bureaucratic dreck for the faculty and student body to slog through every day, and as well the idea that students have any reason to object to the amount of homework given wouldn’t have occurred to most parents.)

  11. As a former teacher (completely disabled now) and former AP student, I can’t fathom REQUIRING summer homework. Perhaps this is a new trend of which I’m unaware. Giving a limited amount of concepts/practice to review and keep fresh is one thing. Requiring work that will be part of next year’s grade is unreasonable. A simple review the first few days should suffice.

  12. Walter E. Wallis says:

    As a Palo Alto parent and grandparent, my main concern is correcting the erroneous ideas in science and social matters that are dribbled over the process.

  13. For what? It’s not a crime to file a frivolous lawsuit.

    No, it’s not, but it can be a basis on which to subject a party and/or the party’s attorney to sanctions. Look up Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure; most if not all states have analogous provisions, though the extent to which they’re enforced varies considerably from one jurisdiction and even one judge to the next.

    No, but it probably should be. We oughta go to a “loser pays” system.

    You’re talking apples and oranges. Just because someone loses on the merits does not mean their claim was frivolous from the outset.

    Moreover, while I’m the last person to shill for the plaintiffs’ bar, a pure loser-pays system is a lot easier said than done, especially also given the Seventh Amendment and its state analogues protecting civil jury trials, which make the US radically different on this point from the rest of the world.

    Does a plaintiff deserve to be stuck with multiple lifetimes’ worth of white-shoe civil defense firm attorneys’ fees just for the misfortune of filing a NON-FRIVOLOUS but losing case? The defense firm would probably prefer that the responsibility for their fee NOT shift away from their wealthy client to plaintiffs who would be difficult to collect against and probably seek bankruptcy protection. Indeed, what if the defense firm then sued the bankruptcy estate and lost? Would THEY then be on the hook to the federal bankruptcy trustee because of “loser pays”?

    The contingency fee, for all the trouble I do think it generates, has a place in providing access to the civil justice system for genuinely meritorious plaintiffs who otherwise couldn’t afford it. A balance has to be struck: more aggressive imposition of sanctions for frivolous claims, caps on non-economic damages and tightened restrictions on ever imposing punitive damages, but not pure loser-pays.

Trackbacks

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