In “Harrison Bergernon,” a 1961 short story by Kurt Vonnegut Jr., the American government of 2081 forces handicaps on everyone to ensure that no one is smarter, faster, more beautiful, or in any way better than anyone else. It’s supposed to be satire, but Vonnegut’s dystopian future could soon become reality if François Hollande, the Socialist president of France, has his way.
The New York Daily News reports that Hollande wants to ban homework in France in a bid to enforce social equality. Hollande is acting on concerns that children from wealthier families may receive assistance from their parents, while disadvantaged children do not.
As Dave Barry would (hopefully) say, we are not making this up.
The French president announced the proposal as part of a larger set of education reforms at La Sorbonne in Paris last week. Schoolwork must be done at school “rather than in the home if we want to support the children and re-establish equality,” Hollande said, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The Wall Street Journal pointed to an Ifop poll which found that over two-thirds of the country opposes the ban. (Ifop, the French Institute of Public Opinion, is the leading publisher of French market surveys.)
Hollande’s proposed ban has some precedent in France. In the spring of 2012, The Guardian reported that a group of French parents and teachers had sought a two-week boycott of homework in schools. The group complained that homework amplifies inequalities among school-aged children. On top of that, they said, it’s tiresome.
“If the child hasn’t succeeded in doing the exercise at school, I don’t see how they’re going to succeed at home,” said Jean-Jacques Hazan, the president of France’s other main PTA equivalent, according to The Guardian. “In fact, we’re asking parents to do the work that should be done in lessons.”