Dear Future President,
I would like to address a topic that I believe needs to be discussed more broadly. There is an overwhelming amount of evidence that supports the idea that homework should be banned. Students on average are at school for about 7 hours, and many students have to complete hours of homework after that. Not only is that a major drag for students, but it is unknown whether homework actually benefits students or not. Homework should be banned because it can be very hard on those with difficult living situations, research doesn’t show that it actually improves learning, and it takes time away from doing activities that students actually enjoy that could be more beneficial to their well being.
Not all students have the same living situations. According to The National Center of Education Statistics, approximately 20% of school-age children were in families living in poverty. Students whose families have less money usually need to pull more weight and help out in their home way more. This would most likely include working hours after school then going home to even more duties. If a student has to go home and cook, take care of others, and deal with a pile of other responsibilities, hours of homework on top of all that can be extremely grueling. Sometimes this leads to not being able to complete homework, which overall leads to lacking grades. Homework shouldn’t determine whether someone passes a class or not, especially when students may be dealing with much more demanding responsibilities at home.
Although homework has academic and non-academic advantages and disadvantages, it is unclear whether homework increases student knowledge or success. According to research by Alfie Kohn, an American author and lecturer in the areas of education, parenting, and human behavior, the majority of studies conducted reveal inconclusive evidence that assigning homework increases student achievement. Most studies show positive effects for certain students, others suggest no effects, and some even suggest negative effects. Negative effects included greater stress and reductions in health. Homework is a huge burden for students to deal with when we aren’t even sure if it’s helpful or not.
One known negative effect of homework is that it takes time away from students that could be spent doing activities they actually enjoy. Not enough time to do enjoyable activities can result in depression and a loss of sense of self. Senior lecturer at the Stanford Graduate School of Education and co-author of a study published in the Journal of Experimental Education, Denise Pope, found that spending too much time on homework meant that students were “not meeting their developmental needs or cultivating other critical life skills” after surveying 4,317 students from 10 different high schools. Students were more likely to drop activities, not see friends or family, and not pursue hobbies they enjoy. This is extremely unhealthy to young, developing brains and it can put a lot of strain on the relationships in their lives.
Although I’m glad I am getting a chance to speak my voice about this issue, I wish I was outside doing something I love rather than writing a paper that was assigned to me for homework. Homework should be banned because it can be very hard on many students depending on their living situation, it may not even be helping students, and students could be able to spend more time doing activities they actually enjoy. This could result in a better well being and sense of self, which is very important for adolescents. If data hasn't shown homework actually improves learning, why make students have to do it?
A TIMSS (Trends in Math and Science Study) survey, conducted in 2007, revealed that fourth grader students in countries that set below average levels of homework were more academically successful in math and science than those in countries that set above average levels. In Japan – ranked second in the results table – only three percent of students reported a particularly heavy workload of over three hours a night while a staggering 20 percent of Dutch students – whose scores were in the international top 10 – claimed to do no homework whatsoever. This is in stark contrast to countries like Greece and Thailand, where higher workloads have done nothing to rectify lower scores.
These results are not alone in debunking the myth that homework in any way benefits the academic performance of elementary students. So why, we should ask, are policymakers and educators so hell-bent on enforcing it? In his 2006 publication The Homework Myth, prolific author and outspoken critic of the current educational system Alfie Kohn set out a well argued and evidentially attested thesis saying that the purpose of homework is twofold. Firstly it’s meant to instill an air of competitiveness in children, not only within the physical classroom, but, because of the quantitatively driven approach of policy experts, within the global classroom – against China, Singapore and Finland, for example. Secondly, homework is used as a weapon to combat adults’ inherent mistrust of children, keeping them busy so they don’t run riot. This latter suggestion may baffle belief, but a concerned parent’s response to the suggestion that homework be banned (‘we have to have homework… otherwise the kids won’t have structure and they will just come home and fool around’) attests to its current orthodoxy.
The thing about homework is that is doesn’t work. As shown by numerous studies, it brings no educational benefits, acts as a root cause of conflict between children, parents and teachers and has detrimental mental and physical effects on children that, by the fact that they’re avoidable, are absolutely inexcusable. Children are not the only ones to fear the evils of homework though. Teachers, under increasing amounts of pressure to meet targets, cover curricula and achieve grades, are incentivized to set more and more of it and grade more and more of it; something that wouldn’t be so bad if we weren’t so aware of its utter pointlessness.
The most important problem, however, is that homework is more closely associated with punishment than with pleasure. Made to be completed during time that should be spent engaging in creative, playful and recreational pursuits, homework doesn’t even have the courtesy to be enjoyable by nature – as is completely apparent from my students’ faces when I fulfill my duties to the school in setting it for them. And such truth is not surprising when you consider that for homework to be enjoyable, it would have to be everything it’s not: optional instead of mandatory, creative rather than prescribed and objectively appreciated instead of subjectively assessed. Improvement to our children’s education, until we redefine what our definition of education really is, can only be achieved through one thing, its removal.