A Capital Idea

In this here treatise, I am going to propose a solution to the problem of parents having to spend countless hours helping their children with their homework, thereby releasing them — the parents — from this obligation so that they may pursue other interests, like sleeping. Now that I have your attention, allow me to explain.

I have three children presently making their way through our school system. Just about every night, at least one of them brings home a mound of homework. This gives me an opportunity to see what they’re up to at school, and after puzzling over many of their homework assignments and projects, I have come to the inescapable conclusion that what kids learn these days is nothing short of astonishing. I mean, they’re learning stuff that I studied in my second year of engineering at university!

This is also the problem, and the reason why parents are spending upwards of 18 hours per day per child helping out with homework. But thanks to my proposal, I am confident that this figure can be cut in at least half.

With all the advanced material our kids are learning, I believe that the time is ripe to grab the bull by the horns and make a mental note that this is a very irresponsible thing to do.

Seriously, it’s time to drop two of the three “R’s,” these being “ritin” and “rithmetic.” We’ll hang on to “reading” since this is the only “R” that makes sense anyway.

Let’s look at writing, or to more specific, penmanship. I am not opposed to having our children learn to write, per se, say, for example, as good as me can, but rather, to drop all the time spent on teaching kids how to print in block letters, and how to write in cursive in letters. This is bad for their self-esteem, because eventually, around the age of five days, they discover the computer keyboard. Hence, by the time they learn to write manually in school, they already recognize that this is a complete waste of time, that they can never produce the quality of a “Times New Roman” or “Arial” font. So their self-esteem takes a hit when a caring parent comments that they need the equivalent of a Rosetta Stone to interpret their scrawling.

So, no more practice printing and writing letters on acres of horizontal lines. Time saved in Parent Homework Years (PHY): 1.5 years.

Next on the chopping block is arithmetic. Since the dawn of the Information Age, memorizing times tables, knowing how to find the root of a number, and coming to the realization that logarithmic operations were derived solely for the purpose of tormenting students, have all been rendered obsolete. The Information Age has evolved to the point where functional scientific calculators are packed into boxes of cereal as prizes. In my day, all I got out of my box of cereal was a small plastic top.

So put the times tables in the trash and start enjoying the six o’clock news again. PHY saved: 3.1415926535.

Finally, we come to the real bane of parental homework, and a source of student angst of monumental proportions — memorizing State Capitals.

Up here in Canada, we only have a handful of provinces and territories, six or seven by my reckoning, and they all have simple names for the capitals, like Iqaluit, Tuktayuktuk, and St. John’s. But down in the US, there are what, 60 or 70 states? And each state has a state capital, and they’re nothing like what you would expect.

Take Florida for example. What’s the state capital? It isn’t all the big cities that everybody knows about, like Miami, Orlando, Daytona, or West Palm Beach. No, it’s Jacksonville, whoever he was. Or is it Tallahassee? Nobody knows!

Fortunately, one state, Indiana, has made the name of their capital very simple to remember: Indianapolis. See? They took the name of their state and tacked on a “polis” to reflect what a bustling metropolis their beautiful (it is beautiful, right?) state capital is.

As an aside, while we’re on the topic of metropolis, I will never forget an event that took place in Toronto in the '80s. This was when Howard Cosell and the crew from ABC came to Toronto to comment on a Toronto Blue Jays game for Monday Night Baseball. This made Toronto feel like a really big deal because Toronto has an inferiority complex when it comes to being recognized as a major international place to visit. So, when a little feature on Toronto ended with a night view of the Toronto skyline, Howard Cosell, in his famous arrhythmic, counter-pointed speech, made the following comment: “There you have it, the cosmopolitan metropolis that is Toronto.” Thereafter, my best friend and I referred to Toronto as a cosmopolis.

Anyway, I think that all the other non-Indiana states should adopt this eminently simple idea for their state capitals. I have even come up with a sing-along-song to make it even easier by adapting the lyrics from “The Name Game” by Shirley Ellis.

Come on everybody!

I say now let’s play a game

I betcha you can take a state, and the capital you’ll name

First you take the state, and add an a or an “o”

Then an “ap” or an “op”

Will make its presence known

Make it “apol” or “opol,” and add a little “is”

Then you’ve got the name

Of any state there is

Maine, maine, maineo



Go ahead! Try it! It’s fun! Try Minnesota. Of course, there are some exceptions to the song for the sake of making it rhyme and sound good and everything, but I think you’ll get the knack.

PHY saved: indeterminate.

So, by cutting back on math, writing, and memorizing state capital homework, we can cut the 18 hours per day per child spent on homework by parents in half to…18 times number of children, divided by 2, carry the 3…say, 12 hours.

Now that’s progress!

Nick Burn is a freelance writer, husband, father of three, engineer, teacher, and is the principal behind the services of Statistics Courses. In his spare time (hah!), he enjoys camping, skiing and reading.

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