Jewish World Review Dec. 24, 2002 / 19 Teves, 5763

David Grimes

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Consumer Reports

Parents shell out for missed homework | Adding some much-needed stress to the holiday season, a Texas judge is issuing tickets to parents of kids who habitually fail to do their homework.

Officials at Houston's North Shore Middle School issued misdemeanor criminal citations last week to 48 parents of the homework-averse. The citations, which are like a traffic ticket, could carry a fine of up to $185.

Even worse, the parents had to stand before Harris County Justice of the Peace Mike Parrot and listen to a lecture about the importance of finishing homework.

Making parents look over their children's shoulders while they do their homework is a cruel and unusual punishment that is expressly forbidden in the Constitution, or at least should be. A parent who is seeing to it that his child finishes his math assignment or book report is a parent who is not taking a much-needed nap or slouching in front of the TV watching "8 Simple Rules for Dating" or "America's Funniest Home Videos."

Overseeing homework often requires a parent to venture into his son's or daughter's bedroom, thereby exposing the parent to a host of potentially dangerous fumes, microbes and airborne pollutants. There is also the very real possibility that something small and beady-eyed could leap from the piles of dirty clothes on the floor and bite the parent on the ankle. Whether the small, beady-eyed thing is a rat or a neighbor's child, the parent would be wise to make sure his tetanus shots are up to date.

The longer you wait to help your children with their homework, the longer it will take for them to figure out you're an idiot. A parent who reveals too early that he is not comfortable with simple addition is a parent whose advice on financial matters is not likely to be taken seriously in later years.

It is the child's responsibility to do his or her homework and it is the parents' responsibility to give the child plenty of space, preferably in the most distant room or someone else's house. You do not want to be easily accessible if your child has a question about logarithms or the symbolism of the white whale in "Moby Dick."

It is also good training for kids to come up with creative excuses why they didn't do their homework.

In today's sophisticated, fast-paced society the old line "my dog ate my homework" will no longer fly or hunt, as it were.

Potential excuses include:

  • "It has progressed on my list of priorities."

  • "There has been a shortage of food in my house and my homework contained necessary dietary fiber."

  • "I was followed on the way to school by spies so I had to eat it so it wouldn't fall into enemy hands."

  • "I was at a rally last night demanding better pay and benefits for our hard-working teachers."

  • "I was working so hard on my Spanish homework that when I got to yours, I couldn't think in English."

  • "I didn't do it because I didn't want to add to your already heavy workload."

  • "I lost it fighting this kid who said you weren't the best teacher in the school."

  • "I was too emotionally traumatized after seeing on last night's news the tragedy and human suffering unfolding in (insert country or place of your choice)."

  • "Where is my homework? I'm sorry, my attorney has advised me not to answer that question."

  • "My grandmother sat on my laptop."

    These are just a few of the reasons why parents should not be held accountable, let alone fined, when their kids don't do their homework.

    I had some others but my wife used them as a dryer sheet.

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    JWR contributor David Grimes is a columnist for The Sarasota Herald Tribune. Comment by clicking here.


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    © 2002, Sarasota Herald Tribune