Monday, April 25, 2011

Why So Much Homework?

Recently I have been attacked by projects and essays. Lots of bigger projects that take up an excessive amount of time even when they aren't generously peppered with the little busy work questionnaires teachers like to send home. It's really, really paying a toll on my mental state in a lot of different ways.

Homework is nothing new to the students in the United States, and neither is complaining about it. Unfortunately, every time someone makes any kind of statement against the practice, they are bombarded with a heavy dose of accusations about being lazy individuals, or ungrateful for the "wonderful" academic opportunities offered by our nation.

Many teachers, parents, and even students try to rationalize the amount of homework they receive each night as reasonable, or at the least, tolerable. However, this is very far from the truth. The average school day lasts seven hours, and the average student is doing homework for anywhere between three and five hours per night. The numbers shown indicate anywhere between ten and twelve hours per day dedicated to schoolwork. If the student sleeps the adult nightly required eight hours, that leaves them with anywhere from six to four hours left in the day. Two of which will be taken for dinner and preparations for the next day, and one of which may actually be occupied with the bus ride home from school. This leaves only one or two hours of leisure time to students.

At first glance, that doesn't look too bad. An hour to chill out each night doesn't seem like such a bad gig for somebody unemployed. This is the part where you remember that a lot of students also have part-time jobs. There's no room in that schedule for work of any kind, unless it starts eating into the sleep schedule. Which it will. Now consider students who go home and have to act as makeshift parents for their younger siblings, or whom have numerous other home responsibilities, and suddenly the average student is getting at most six hours of sleep.

Six hours of sleep is not enough to refuel the adult human body, let alone the tired, overworked, and incomplete body of a teenager, which needs an average nightly sleep of ten to twelve hours to function even remotely properly. Teenagers not only need this long rest to properly sustain their physical bodies, but this longer recovery time is also used to help them drain all of the stress and mental pressures plaguing their minds. At only six hours of sleep per night, this isn't happening, and they're going back to school over tired and over stressed.

Most teachers, I'm sorry, academic instructors will tell you that students should have about an hour of homework each night. What these instructors seem to forget is that their class is not the only class that a student is taking. Students do not show up to English class at seven-thirty and then disappear into a black hole for the next twenty-four hours. They attend other classes. Other classes that are also assigning an hour of their own homework each night.

This self-entitled idea that a student's only obligation is only to any particular teacher's class is largely flawed. Teachers seem to have this misconception that their lesson is more important than anything else a student could possibly have to do, whether those other obligations be for graduating, or adequately sustaining their bodies, minds, and social lives.

All of this homework, and the lack of time in the day (oh no, not the lack of time management. A student can't possibly manage what is expected of them in the amount of hours it takes the Earth to spin.) start to take a heavy toll on the student's mental ability to function. Homework overload is responsible for an enormous drop in student morale, and some of the more burned-out ones might start failing in other aspects of their lives because their mind has begun to short out. This, of course, results in a lot of stress being generated from a lot of different angles, all of which are expecting the student to perform better. And only help to feed their weariness.

The lack of proper sleep coupled with the student's increasing slump and excessive stress levels will actually decrease their willingness to attend school, and will also hamper their ability to retain any information at all. I have long believed that English class was the sole perpetrator of a disinterest in leisurely reading. By assigning a gratuitous amount of reading and work, school has done little more than make any form of reading feel like work. Opening a book feels more and more like a chore, and less people are willing to do so. This effect can be seen even in older individuals who have never been able to let go of the association between reading and sleepless nights.

Homework brings up more to mind than just the overworked youth, however. It makes me question exactly what we're paying educators for. They claim that homework is so the students can continue learning at home, but should they need to? If the instructor can cover so little material during their class time that students need to bring work home with them, what exactly is the instructor doing? This is an even more challenging questions for district which make use of the block schedule, a schedule that designates over an hour of learning to each individual class.

Most nightly assignments are little more than busy work, the kind of worksheets a teacher hands out on a day they're feeling lazy, or agitated, or their class is simply behaving unmanageably. These assignments do not have any kind of academic merit beyond establishing that a student can regurgitate information. They rarely show any significant comprehension of the material.

As a student, I've noticed that more learning is done in classes that are more engaging than in classes filled with busy work and heavy homework assignments. Some teachers manage to grasp this concept. They understand that engaging discussions (which does not mean lectures) are the most efficient way to have students receive, retain, and analyze information. By actually getting the students involved in discussion, allowing them to express their thoughts, questions, and theories the instructor is also allowing the student to interpret the information. This is far more important than most people seem to understand. Students who are engaged in lengthy class discussions are actually considering the information they're being taught, not just scribbling out the night's assignments in their workbooks and promptly forgetting the rest.

Homework has a far more negative impact on students, their mental health, their morale, their physical health, and their social life, than it has any positive impact. Teachers need to get away from the idea that assigning truckloads of homework is the proper way to teach, or our country will never steer away from the academic collapse that so prominently looms over us.


  1. I couldn't agree more.

    This is why I stopped doing all of my homework Junior and Senior year. The sad part? I made better grades because I paid more attention in class than to do the homework at home and regret it.

  2. I have never really thought of homework this way before. I suppose my lack of free time has lead to stress in the past. Impending projects or events are the worst.

    It took me a while before I could sit down and read a book. I've never fully been interested in reading because back in my head there is always that elementary school teacher violently pushing the idea to read books. I never wanted to read her 'books' quite simply because I found them easy to read, ridiculous and completely uninteresting.

    Imagine all the kids who are pressured to obtain perfect marks in school by there parents, who lose their free time because of it. Not to mention those pushed to preform as an athlete or a musician.

    Great pionts