Litmus Test: HomeFun

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by MARK WEST 03/25/11

Litmus Test: HomeFun

I want to preface this by saying that Quantum Learning has many good ideas. One hypothesis of Quantum Learning that I feel needs to be tested is renaming homework to homefun. The hypothesis goes something like this: "Why is homework so boring and stressful? because it is called homework and not homefun."

Well, conventional wisdom, like that of William Shakespeare says, "What’s in a name? that which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet" (Romeo and Juliet, ACT II, Scene II, Lines 47-48). So, let's ask "What's in a name? That which we call homework by any other name..." or should we? Perhaps we should make this apply more to the teacher, so that the instructor may see it through the eyes of the student?

Scenario 1: Does Calling Work Fun Make It Fun?

If you told me, "I graded 400 tests lasts night and I was up until 11 p.m." to which I replied, "Wow! You certainly took home a lot of fun!", do my words A) make the work seem more like fun or B) make me sound like a sarcastic smart alec? To my ears, "Wow! You certainly took home a lot of work!" sounds more sympathetic and caring.

Scenario 2: Applying Fun to Duties

Perhaps if we called Bus Duty "BusFun", teachers would like it better? Or does BusFun sound patronizing? I personally could see people calling it demeaning, demoralizing or even mean-spirited. After all, we're obliged to do Bus Duty as part of our responsibilities as a teacher, just as students are obliged to complete "homefun" as part of their duties as a student.

Consider 2010 Tennessee Code Title 49 - Education Chapter 3 - Finances Part 3 - Tennessee Education Finance Act of 1977 49-3-359 - BEP funding for teacher's supplies, duty-free lunch periods, school nurses and reading coordinators. The duty-free lunch period bit is in that because there was a time in Tennessee when teachers had Lunch Duty. If we renamed Lunch Duty to "Lunch Fun" how many teachers would like to sign up for "Lunch Fun"? Yeah, I didn't think so.

Scenario 3: Using Quantum Learning Research Against The Term "HomeFun"

In the Quantum Learning FADE model, the A stands for Atmosphere. One of the ideas of Atmosphere is that "Everything Speaks: Everything from surroundings and tone of voice to distribution of materials sends a message about learning." Hmm... if our phrases could be misinterpreted as sarcastic, patronizing, demeaning, demoralizing or mean-spirited (any one of those adjectives), should we use them? BusFun, anyone?

Scenario 4: If Calling It Fun Makes It Fun, Then Why...

If calling it fun makes it fun, then why (numbers as of 3/25/2011) does the FaceBook group called I-HATE-when-teachers-call-homework-HOMEFUN have 2,225 people who like it and Its-not-homework-its-homefun have a "whopping" 17 people who like it?

Why are there also groups called Just-cause-you-call-it-homeFUN-doesnt-make-it-fun-teacher and I-hate-it-when-teachers-call-homework-activities-for-homefun-ITS-NOT-FUN?


In George Carlin's diatribe on changing the word Shell Shock to softer words like Combat Fatigue or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, his introduction makes a hypothesis:

"I don't like words that hide the truth. I don't like words that conceal reality. I don't like euphemisms, or euphemistic language.

And American English is loaded with euphemisms. 'Cause Americans have a lot of trouble dealing with reality. Americans have trouble facing the truth, so they invent a kind of a soft language to protect themselves from it, and it gets worse with every generation.

For some reason, it just keeps getting worse. I'll give you an example of that. There's a condition in combat. Most people know about it. It's when a fighting person's nervous system has been stressed to its absolute peak and maximum. Can't take anymore input. The nervous system has either (makes a clicking noise) snapped or is about to snap.

In the first world war, that condition was called Shell Shock. Simple. Honest, direct language. Two syllables, Shell Shock. Almost sounds like the guns themselves. That was seventy years ago.

Then a whole generation went by and the second world war came along and very same combat condition was called Battle Fatigue. Four syllables now. Takes a little longer to say. Doesn't seem to hurt as much. Fatigue is a nicer word than shock. Shell Shock! Battle Fatigue."

In calling Homework "HomeFun" are we living up to George Carlin's hypothesis that "Americans have trouble facing the truth, so they invent a kind of a soft language to protect themselves from it"? Afterall, fun is certainly a nicer word than work.

For years, when children came home from school, good parents have asked, "what homework do you have?". Those good parents aren't using a bad phrase. Not only is homework in the dictionary, but according to Merriam Webster, it's been there since 1683. Here's what Merriam Webster says about Homefun. People used to say, "Ain't ain't a word, 'cause it ain't in the dictionary." Well, ain't made it, so I can say that "Homefun ain't in the dictionary." I hope we keep it that way.

Just say "NO" to "HomeFun" (and BusFun and LunchFun).