Homework ban may seem like something brought up only recently by overprotective parents of oversensitive teens. However, I'm afraid I must disappoint the kids-these-days brigade – this debate is at least a century old. Why haven't we reached an agreement yet?
Both sides have valid points, but one thing is certain – we cannot just let it be. If not an outright ban, we at least need to change the ways homework is assigned. Ideally, students should be enthusiastic about the challenges it presents. At the very least, they should understand the necessity of doing the after-class assignments.
Why Homework Should Be Banned: Pros and Cons
Among people who are against homework assignments are parents and teachers alike. Some of them go as far as calling homework unpaid forced labor. Indeed, the cumulative time children spend studying in school and at home isn't only comparable to the time parents spend working. Often enough, it exceeds 40-hours a week. Among the most popular reasons why we should stop giving students homework are these:
- The amount of homework school children get has doubled since the 90s (partly at the expense of time spent on socializing).
- Children are stressed and overwhelmed. They have no break from studying, and it adversely affects their well-being.
- This also sends a wrong message about life-work balance – with far-reaching consequences for the future.
- Homework means more sedentary hours and contributes to childhood obesity.
- It's an intrusion of school into family life. Children do homework at the expense of time they could spend learning life skills, doing chores, running errands, or just having fun.
Over the last couple of decades, many schools have hazarded into the uncharted no-homework territory and documented their journey. Even whole counties and states have experimented with homework ban. Here are three main facts that crystalize from the statistics galore:
- Homework's influence on academic progress in primary school children is non-existent.
- Homework for middle and high-school students is somewhat beneficial – but only under the condition that it's relevant, purposeful, and not overwhelming.
- In US counties where homework was banned, test scores remained the same, whereas stress levels dropped by 50%.
Why Homework Should Not Be Banned: Arguments and Refutations
On the other hand, some parents are appalled by the idea of no homework at all. They don't want their children to fool around all day. They insist that those assignments provide the necessary structure to afterschool time and keeps children out of trouble in the afternoon.
The most-often cited reasons why we need homework are the following:
- It promotes parental involvement in a child's education. However, evidently, not all parents see it as beneficial – after all, parents are the most vocal proponents of homework ban.
- It prepares teens for college by instilling habits of independent studying. Still, some students start getting online writing help to cope with high-school homework and continue the practice into the college years.
- It reinforces the material that was learned in the classroom. However, homework is usually done in the evening after a 6-hour school day and (insert extracurriculars), when children are already tired, and their focus is low. The efficiency of such studying sessions is questionable.
The Middle Ground?
There are also homework proponents who understand that children are dealing with a heavy load. However, they believe that children are equal to the challenge. In their opinion, that's the whole point. Young minds are pliable. Whenever else should one learn three foreign languages, science, math, and music, if not when you are most perceptive?
This line of reasoning has some grounds, of course. Parents want their children to be successful and well off. To achieve that, kids will have to go to college. To get there, they will have to impress the admission officers. The only way to do that is to start building your portfolio early on. School is the time to get as many skills as possible and get ahead of the competition. To get anything, you have to earn it.
However, competitive parents tread the fine line between encouraging ambition and tiger parenting. After all, intrinsic motivation is the best catalyst for success. If your child loves to be busy with something in particular – that's great. However, if their only wish is to have a break from all this, they probably will not benefit from the homework and extracurricular activities you are encouraging them to take.
Yes, students will learn self-management and discipline. You know what else they will learn? How to work their tails off without ever stopping to check for burnout signs because no one taught them how to balance their work with life.
And that's where we are getting to the heart of our argument. Moderation is key. Homework as such is not a 100% rotten idea, but the amount of it kids have been having is overwhelming to the point of bringing more harm than benefits. Homework should be reduced in volume. At the very least, there must be no homework on holidays and weekends.
Moreover, often the afterschool assignments don't give any value in return for the time and effort. They are just busywork assigned to create more grades or flat out to keep students doing something on the topic at all times – and that practice should be banned. Homework should always be relevant and meaningful.
Even in the countries that are famous for their total homework ban, like Finland, for example, children do get to work on research papers and big projects independently. Everyday routine busywork is banned – whereas self-directed learning outside the classroom is encouraged. This makes time spent on learning more meaningful and efficient.
Homework needs reimagining. If schools could do it right, that would:
- Teach students to compartmentalize work and leisure.
- Give teens space to identify and explore their intellectual curiosity.
- Leave more time for physical activity and a healthy lifestyle.
- Leave time for socializing and learning life skills.