I Can't, I Have to Do Homework
October 21st, 2018
I am in class for around 30 hours a week. That is a perfectly reasonable amount of time to spend in school, around 6 hours a day. Less reasonable, on the other hand, is the fact that once I get home, I face another 4-6 hours of homework, essay writing, and studying. This expectation is completely unreasonable. While I have a fairly short commute, assuming I start my homework right when I get home, with no breaks, I would finish my work around 8 or 9 o’clock. Of course, many of my peers have longer commutes, arriving home nearly 2 hours after I do. And that’s not even counting extracurriculars. In a survey recently conducted at my school to determine student issues, the overwhelming majority of students responded that they were being assigned too much homework and it was negatively impacting their lives. Students reported that they were stressed, sleep-deprived, and frequently skipping meals to finish their work. Is this culture of constant stress and mental exhaustion what we want to encourage in our schools?
The research overwhelmingly states that the answer to that question is no. The National Education Association recommends 10 minutes times the grade level per night, so a first grader would have 10 minutes and a senior 120 minutes. For me, a sophomore, this would mean 100 minutes (1 hour, 40 minutes) of homework each night. That number is a far cry from the actual 3-6 hours I receive.
Some research, however, seems to go against my experience being the norm. Nationally, 50% of students in grades 7-12 report receiving one or more hours of homework a night. That said, research has shown that students who attend socioeconomically advantaged schools, such as my own “elite” school, tend to spend more time on homework. To me, this seems the most likely explanation for this disparity between my experience and the national average.
In any event, these large amounts of homework have huge effects on students.
Firstly, this homework-centric culture places an emphasis on learning for completion and grades, rather than learning for learnings sake. I’ve frequently been up late to just finish an assignment or cram for a test to have it done. Even when the material I’m learning is interesting, I never get to fully explore content because I am rushing through to finish an assignment. However, often in more long term or research assignments, I am able to understand material in a more holistic and complex ways.
Taxing homework loads also affects student health and learning when they’re in school. Excessive homework (2 or more hours a night) has been linked to sleep disruption. It also limits students ability to exercise, further impeding students learning and health. Additionally, humans generally work at their most productive for four hours a day, so much of the time spent on schoolwork is being wasted.
This is not to say homework is useless -- it can be helpful to practice concepts learned in class, extend the ideas taught, or prepare for an examination or other project. We do, however, recieve far too much of it. This impacts students’ mental health, school performance, physical well-being, and understanding of material. We need to rethink how and why we are given homework to create a system of work that truly assists the learning process.