To most high school students, the thought of homework is not welcome. This reaction is not new. For centuries, students have challenged the fact that they must independently continue their studies outside of the classroom. Parents and even some educators have joined the debate. The question asked repeatedly throughout our history, does homework help or harm students? In early American history, school days were short and homework was minimal. This was due to the fact that children’s time was filled with farm chores. In the late 1800s, the industrial revolution saw many families moving into cities and adopting an urban lifestyle. During this period, educational philosophers began to “perceived the mind as a passive, blank slate upon which learning would be imprinted” (Duquès 158). Both classroom and homework became drill, memorization, and recitation. However, many were unhappy with this trend expressing concern “that homework could cause physical, emotional, or mental illness, since it kept children from fresh air and physical exercise” (Duquès 158).
In the early 1900s, these concerns were supported by educator Edward Bok, whose writings suggested that homework should be limited to students age 15 and above, and only for one hour per night. Views shifted to embrace the idea of active learning and problem solving, rather than memorization of past years. In 1930 the Society of the Abolition of Homework was organized. They stressed concerns about the risks they felt homework presented such as, eye strain, lack of sleep, limited development from free play, and even deformities. Public opinion greatly shifted once again in favor of homework in the 1950s. This was in response to the Soviet Union’s technological advancements. The 1960s saw a shift to pull back from homework as concerns surfaced about the stress it was having on children. Then, in the 1970s and 1980s, citizens were worried about keeping up with the Japanese economy so the pendulum swung back in favor of more homework. This shows a trend of homework increasing and decreasing depending on social and economic factors. These concerns have led to a great deal of debate and research on the topic. What does homework look like today? According to Harris Cooper (2007), homework can differ depending on the subject, content, and what the goal or purpose of the assignment is.
Some assignments are to review material taught to aid with retention. Homework can be assigned to practice skills and improve mastery. An assignment can be given to expand knowledge from the classroom to real-world application. At times the assignment introduces new topics to help as teachers will be teaching new material. Homework can also vary in difficulty and the amount of time required. Proponents of homework state it improves student performance, increases student GPA’s, and improves their chances of attending college. Higher education is good for our society and economy. It is also argued that homework teaches valuable independent study habits and life skills They point out that homework allows parents to be involved in their student’s education. Opponents of homework argue that it is harmful to student’s overall health by increasing stress, reducing quality sleep time, and taking time from creative, social, and physical activity. They also claim it leads to negative behavior such as cheating. It is believed homework puts low-income families at a disadvantage. This essay will look closely at both the positive and negative effects homework has on high school-aged students. Looking at the research performed will help us understand the benefits. Exploring what experts have to say in regards to the concerns surrounding homework. This information should bring some clarity to the subject and help us find a solution to the question, is homework helping or harming our high school student?