My Photo
Blog powered by Typepad

Become a Fan

« Education: Nurturists must recognize Nature | Main | Generating ideas from all your staff »



Thank you! Some one FINALLY understands. I am a fed-up SMART male student who comes home from 6+ hours of high school 5 days a week to do more REDUNDANT homework that I already know. If I were to not do the homework, I would get a worse off grade then a student who is unintelligent. Subsequently, I am "less smart" then such students. I have had it. I have a 2.7gpa out of 4, yet a 1980 SAT score. The school system needs to focus more on intellect, rather than which student is the best zombie at home and does whatever their (poorly-trained) teacher instructs them to do, even if that means doing homework that the student may or may not already know.
Another note, the subject matter we learn is frankly STUPID.
Public schools need to implement more of a career-building curriculum. Not everyone wants to be a zoologist or english major. I sure as hell don't. In fact, once I graduate I would never want to touch or even see a textbook that explains why x=2 (Proofs), or an intricate solution to why snails poop on their heads. Probably 8% of students care about that and probably 5% want to go into those fields. Teach something that MATTERS, and is APPLICABLE to something. Think about it, x=2 is IMAGINARY! No one can build a career off of x!
P.S. Don't be fooled, "English" class is the high school version of kindergarten's "reading and writing skills", with a little dash of shakespeare and/or other outdated works that students (naturally) don't understand.
Back to the homework situation, turning in anything is, for the most part, a tender subject. IN MY OPINION, it is a bad habit to repeatedly turn in homework late, but then why did they make it so EASY to from the get-go? In 6th grade homework didn't matter, but all of a sudden in 7th grade homework counted as a substantial part of the grade?
When homework starts to actually influence grades, is when the education system needs to make late homework's 0's. Because that is when habits are easily made! If they enforce that, many of the (still motivated) middle schoolers would form a very useful and necessary habit. And if your school already does this, good job, you're one of the few.
I would greatly appreciate if the school system differentiates between a good student and a smart student.

C Dot A Dot

I would also like to add that the issue I have has always been there, at least since I first set foot in a classroom.

My parents switched my schools in grade six. Why? Because I would have failed if I stayed.

All the other kids in the class could summon the energy to open their notebooks and bother to study for 30 minutes a day. Even at that age, there was no "good feelings" from doing well on a test. No rush of endorphins or release of seratonin when I saw my grade. 30%? Meh. 95%? Meh.

I assigned--and still do--no value to institutional education. Is it a choice? Well, was it a conscious choice when I was 7 years old? No. Therefore, No.

Ask me about the financial crisis and I could teach a university level course on the subject.

Design a course to test random factoids and quiz-bites regarding the financial crisis where the only way to pass is to study from a textbook, and I would fail or barely pass.

In the past few years I have come to understand that courses and tests are not there to test intelligence or smarts. They are purely there to test WHETHER YOU HAVE PUT IN THE TIME TO PASS.

Each question on the exam could be prefaced in a manner like this:

Example uni question:

"DID YOU PUT IN THE TIME to memorize whether the Financial Services Reform Act contained in the Corporations Act 2001 was a result of the findings of the Henry Review or the 1993 Financial Services Reform Act?"

The question is actually phrased "Is the Financial Services Reform Act contained in the Corporations Act 2001 a result of the findings of the Henry Review or the 1993 Financial Services Reform Act?"

Now, I have a few questions for you readers:

1. What caused you to do your homework? Example: It's 5:30 in the evening, one student opens his/her book to study, the other goes for a bicycle ride. What drove the first kid to open their book to study?

I am genuinely curious.

2. How do I inform my mother of the bad news? I am visiting my lecturers and course convenors this week to try to remedy the situation, so I am holding back until then. How do I tell my mother that its not her fault that I'm a "smart kid but a bad student."?

C Dot A Dot


As I write this, my university is putting together a Letter of Exclusion for me. Meaning, that I am getting kicked out of Uni for doing poorly (failing majority of subjects) for two consecutive semesters.

I currently work 25 hours per week in the Finance industry. I just saw my published grades and I failed an entry-level subject which is supposed to prepare me for work I am already doing at a professional level.

I also failed a Marketing course, in which I am proficient enough in the material to have taught the course myself.

Why did I fail?

Lets see. I barely attended lectures, barely attended tutorials, did not complete quizes, and did not study for exams.

The Marketing course, I received 0 on an assignment worth 35% of my grade. I left the assignment almost complete on my computer for most of the semester. By the time I got around to handing it in, they would not accept it.

I passed one of the courses, MicroEconomics ... Barely ... Because I could do the equations in my sleep, and yet still did not study and did not hand in any assignments.

I work with professionals in the industry, but have trouble putting one iota of effort into first year university subjects.

Personally, there is no "pull" towards any curriculum I have ever been presented with since I began schooling.

I can summon the energy for last-minute study (the 'open the textbook 2 days before exam' kind), but that is a "push", external pressure.

All my friends from highschool have left me behind.


They were "pulled" towards the material.

In week 8 of a 13 week semester, they could summon the energy to sit down and open a textbook for 1hr a day. I could not.

I enjoy learning, and have been fascinated with my 'problem'.

If it helps any, I was diagnosed with ADD because in grades 0-3 I was utterly disinterested with the curriculum, and at that age I took out my boredom in disruptive and immature ways.

Since I'm "in the trenches" with this 'problem', here is a tip I can give for confused parents with kids like me:

The video games/computer/etc. is not the problem. It is a symptom. How?

There are a billion distractions from what the kid is supposed to do, and only one thing that is not a distraction.

A video game is a distracion. Take one distraction away and there are still a billion more distractions. Take the video games away? He'll use the PC. Take the PC away? He'll watch TV. Take the TV away? He'll play with friends. Ground him? He'll read a non-related book. Take the book away? He'll sleep.

Like pushing two polarized magnets together. It wants to go ANYWHERE except where you want it to go.

Why? I have lived and breathed this question for my whole life, I do not think there is an objective answer.

So, the solution?


Create "Pull" for homework. Liase with the school, and then offer rewards to your kid for successful completion of EACH assignment. $20 to $50 for completion of a major assignment. Don't take away distractions to try to "Push" him to the work. Create a reward for each small assignment. The reward should be based from how he spends his free time.

Yes, paying him to do his work seems a little strange, but understand HE WILL NEVER WANT TO DO IT in the manner it is otherwise presented. When he's 23 (like me), he'll be getting kicked out of university if he manages to get that far, and his life (like mine), will be characterized by 1. missed opportunities 2. chronic failure 3. wasted time 4. wasted talent.

I could never bring myself to ask my parents to create rewards for me doing my homework.

The result?

Now I have to figure out a way to tell my mother that I have been kicked out of university for the second time.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask.


An Intelligent Student Who Has Grown Accustomed To Failure.


I am having this exact same solution is to dual enroll him in high school as well as enroll him in some distance courses online. He's had this problem since 6th grade, now it's 10th grade...same thing.

The teachers say it's the child's responsibility to turn homework in on time, and I agree. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to "get" him to turn anything in on time. So, instead of constant negative feedback towards my son, I have to take different measures. The problem may go deeper than what the school teachers can help with. With all the school budget cuts and downsizing, the last thing I want to do is start blaming teachers for the problem. They have enough on their hands.

I've heard that maturity level may be a problem. My son is a year younger than all his classmates. But whatever it may be, the last 4 years of schooling hasn't worked that problem out.

Thinking back to high school, I remember taking an English college course, and all of a sudden my handwriting improved, my writing assignments got better/longer with more to say, and I rose above what I thought I could do. My particular problem was self-confidence. I say this, even though I got "good" grades.

Because it's my son in question, I'm interested in results. Doing the same thing with the same unwanted results is what I have been doing. Obviously I can't change the system, and don't want to burden the the solution is to personally take the time to teach my son myself in the best way I know how. I believe I will get the results I want. My son will take his love of learning, and match that to his grades.

New Balance Sneakers

The more you fight something, the more anxious you become ---the more you're involved in a bad pattern, the more difficult it is to escape. Do you understand?

electrostatic furnace filter

This is a very likable post. Thanks for sharing this.

smart but lazy

help or hurt my argument i'm gonna be truthful.i'm 17,male,and about fail my 11th grade year anless i find my fairy godfather.i work 16+hrs/wk, study4+hrs/week(on hard test weeks), and barely,if ever,do homework.

now the funny thing about this is ,i'm in the midst my lowest school low, and yet i took the asvap recently and got an 85.(the navy wants me in the neuc. prog.)even i somtimes don't understand how my ability to learn is soo high.i relate with the boy who copes with failing by not caring.

mabe i'm just biased but i see nothing wrong with giving extra time to those who need it.if we can give special assistance to students with phisical disabilities then why can't we give it to students with inabilities to adjust to the corrent learning sytem.i could keep going but i'm just here to for answers to a problem.

i can see clearly that this year i'll have to make life altering decitions.i want to be a chef.i'm joining a branch of the military to pay 4 collage,but there are alot of other oppertunities being laid out b4 of them is the navy nuc. program.they are offering me things that are really opening my eyes to new possibilities.but tho i'm confident that learning is no problem i'm hessitant to even give it a second look because i'm scared that i just cant make it in a school intensive u have any advice to help me get over my fear of acedemic failir.


I am 22 and struggling to get back into college after a three failing semesters in a row. I look back at my schooling, and I have a couple observations for you.

1. Smart kids are being left behind, and mediocre students are being rewarded.
Example? I did more reading and studying on my own outside of school, than most of my classmates combined. I was /never/ rewarded for this behavior. If you don't follow the mold, they cut you down. I was punished for being passionate about studying topics and concepts I didn't understand as opposed to the mindless drivel provided by my school. At my high school the curriculum centered around rewarding those who were on time, not those who were academically honest about reconciling some of the finer details before handing a paper in. I learned a lot of important stuff without the aid of my teachers, who had no idea how to relate to my learning style. I have to wonder if the number of female teachers coincides with 36% of boys being out-of-sync on test day. Food for thought.

2. I've been late my whole life. I have a fundamental problem with the estimation of time. All I know is, when I hand in something, I make sure I did it right, or I don't do it at all. If I already know it and it's just an issue of wading through mindless blather for hours on end, then I'd rather spend my time reading about something worthwhile. Kids have priorities, too. Pass high school, hit a community college hard, and go to an ivy league. Don't waste your time on homework.


Hello, I would like to add my thoughts. I am 20 years of age, I have always struggled in school. I have only been late a few times to work. I have a great job, that pays well. I live on my own, and pay my own bills without help. I just took out my roth IRA. My friends and family seem to think I am smart. I do however suck at school. Its not that its hard...its just the teaching styles in my opinion. Some students such as myself who work 40+ hours do not have time to do 3-4 hours worth of homework. I also find that I dont learn to much by homework. I also would say if you think that turning in homework late makes you irresponsible....then you need to go out more and meet more people. I turn in my homework late...but i am still able to pay my bills on time and make it to work on time. so STFU before you judge students as being irresponsible for turning homework in late...or maybe I am just a hybrid variable in this hypothesis...?

John Doe

You must have deadlines. Period. The problem is that smart boys know the inflated value of homework and test grades. When it is easy to cram in the information the night before, spit it out and forget it, why would you memorize it. Plus our culture does not reward smart boys who make good grades with status. Nerd and Geek is generally derogatory. We need less homework. Maybe leave it to papers, projects, and reading assignments only. Why should boys be expected to teach themselves through homework when teachers can't even apparantly teach them? One more thing, and this is huge, boy's have no competitive drive to make good grades. Post grade rankings on the walls. Post test scores with names. Leave off the bottom 25% if you need to be PC touchy feely nice, because that is obviously what the real world is about. Try giving the A students extra holiday time. Let the slackers catch up while the nerds are setting by the pool reading Guns, Germs, and Steel (shameless plug). Maybe give trophys. Big ones. It's silly I know, but non-jocks always hated jock's trophy cases. Napolean said something about men dying for a little piece of ribbon. Wise up. Female teachers are going to teach like they wanted to be taught. Geniuses (male and female) probably would prefer to learn on their own. Accomadate, guide, and monitor them. We need to overhaul a couple things holding back smart kids in general, not just boys.

Sandy Beasley

Dear Mr. Draves,
My 16 year old is failing in school and it doesn't bother him at all (help)
I recently read your article on boys and bad grades.
I am very interested in learning more on the subject. I have a 16yr. old son. He does well in Math, but does poorly in classes like English. (his worst subject.) He is failing in most of his subjects and he doesn't seem to care. He is very intelligent. Although you wouldn't know it by his grades. He doesn't know skills such as note taking, or writing term papers. When I asked his teachers about why he doesn't know these skills, they reply most boys that enter High School don;t know these skills. It is not taught anymore.
My son loves video games and the computer. He spends hours on video games each weekend. I don't let him play on school days. He says he'd like to be a lawyer, but with his grades, I don't see college for him. He doesn't have interest in cars or driving as boys in the 1980's did.
I don't know what to do. How can I help him succeed in life. All he talks about is getting a job. But, I want his grades to improve or he will not pass High School.
Thank you for your time.
Sandy Beasley

RESPONSE: Your son probably cares very much. But like millions of boys not getting the right teaching, this is the only way for him to deal with it. A separate email reply referred Ms. Beasley (and other mothers) to "Tips for Parents" at

Terry Newman

My son barely made it through high school but was recruited into the Navy Nuclear Engineering program because of his ASVAP scores. The Navy made sure that each "student" was successful by creating an environment that made it hard not to succeed. Part of this environment included a long day in the classroom and in-class study groups.
I was thinking that perhaps in high school if kids were kept in class longer (learning, not being babysat) with a smaller amount of homework to be done on the outside that kids would be more successful? I remember coming home from school with a math assignment and not even knowing where to start; there hadn't been enough in-class practice to reinforce what I was learning.

Mary M Wisniewski

Thanks again for your time (for a recent interview on Smart Boys Bad Grades). The magazine article (with interview on SmartBoys,Bad Grades)will finally be coming out this week and should be posted online soon. If you go to and then click on "currents" that's where my article will be. I'll send you a link once it's posted.
Thanks again,

Julia Dozier

Thank you for your fine research and writing for the Smart Boys, Bad Grades report. As the mother of a 2nd grade boy, this is a phenomenon that I plan to track and do what I can to avoid or reduce this syndrome. As an educational administrator, I plan to do what I can to address this issue at this level.

One comment in regards to your writing: When you were giving examples of turning in homework late and describing Dylan and Tristan (pg. 9), you indicated Tristan's race, but not Dylan's. Was it necessary to point out Tristan's ethnicity for this example? If so (and I'm not sure why it would be) then perhaps you should indicate's Dylan's ethnicity as well.

This may seem like a very trivial issue, especially in light of the much bigger picture that you were addressing (extremely well). However, as long as we point out people's ethnicity, (specifically those who are not Caucasian) in our conversation and writings I believe that we perpetuate the racism or "separate-ness" that is rampant in this country. As I very strongly suspect that is not your intention, I thought I'd bring this to your attention.

Thank you again for your report.

Julia A. Dozier
Economic Development/Contract Education
Chabot-Las Positas Community College District
5020 Franklin Drive
Pleasanton, CA 94588


As a college professor and a mother of a boy who turned in 3 assignments in 4 years of high school, I am eagerly waiting for your press conference. Homework must be designed to reinforce a concept that has not been mastered yet or it is of no value. I just graded a stack of tests where the students missed questions similar to the homework assignments. So what did they learn from doing the assignments? Apparently, nothing. My son did well on the tests in high school but because he didn't do the assignments barely graduated. We were assured that all he had to do was the assignments to pass the various classes - not demonstrate that he had learned anything. So why did he need to take the class? These are the students who in college think that if they dl the work but still do not understand the material should pass the course.

Erik Holden

Solutions #1 and #2 are out of synch with each other. Solution #2 says to the student you are responsible for your learning and will be rewarded for your knowledge (read effort).

Solution #1 says even though you did not meet expectations set out in advance, you will also be rewarded.

We should not coddle boys in this way. The truly smart boys will hand in their homework on time or pay the consquences. It is that simple.


Just stumbled on to this page. The rest of the world doesn't accommodate "turning in homework" (or whatever our lifelong realities are) late, so why would we train our young people to be irresponsible? Why do you refer to penalizing students for late or missing homework as unfair? That's ridiculous.


Just stumbled on to this page. The rest of the world doesn't accommodate "turning in homework" (or whatever our lifelong realities are late, so why would we train our young people to be irresponsible? Why do you refer to penalizing students for late or missing homework as unfair? That's ridiculous.

William Draves

Terry, thanks for the clarification. Of course, all students should be able to turn in homework late. There are some girls who are penalized unfairly for late homework as well.

Even worse, many girls are told they know English or Math simply because they turned in the work on time. These recommendations will encourage teachers to help girls learn more too.

Terry Newman

These are interesting ideas. I'm wondering...would you also allow girls to turn in homework late? It seems as though there would be a lot of backlash from girls or their parents if they couldn't also do the same as boys.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)