In a Stress-Heavy Era, a Balance in Homework Has Yet to be Found

Aidan O’Sullivan, 2022

In a time where environmental regulations, vaping, and embarrassing presidents take the meat of national news, the issues of stress, sleep-deprivation, and cheating can be overlooked, and they are mainly the effect of one thing: homework. The age-old battle between pro- and anti-homework has raged for years, although it is much more recent than the institution of schools. As homework levels have increased since many parents were in school, they begin to question the meaning of assignments that keep their children up at night. Somerville unveiled a new homework policy in February of 2019 that gives limits on the time as well as the number of days homework can be assigned. Homework for grades K-2 cannot exceed 20 minutes a night and is limited to two days a week. As children work their way to the sixth, seventh, and eighth grades their homework cannot take longer than an hour, and homework cannot be assigned over weekends, holidays, or vacation weeks.

With high schoolers taking seven different classes with different teachers, a homework policy if difficult to implement; students have different teachers, so it is hard for teachers to communicate to keep the total homework under a time limit for a given student. Students take a range of college prep, honors, and advanced placement classes, and higher level classes are given more homework to supplement the information learned in class.

Many teachers have taken the approach that homework helps parents’ involvement in their student’s learning as well as reinforces study habits and independence for students to learn on their own. However, it may just do the opposite. Some students decide to eliminate stress entirely from their lives and avoid all homework, building bad working habits that translate to the rest of their lives. Additionally, even if it may help some parents get involved with their student’s homework, high schoolers are typically less likely to do their homework with a parent as they become more independent and mature. The parent-child relationship can also be hurt. Yes, time spent doing homework could be used for playing video games or watching Netflix. But it could also be spent with family and friends, building relationships that otherwise never develop because of every late night spent or family dinner missed due to homework.

In the same way that stricter parents can result in more elusive and cunning children, homework sometimes results in cheating. In many cases it doesn’t teach lessons or reinforce learning habits, but instead teaches students how to copy a homework assignment without getting caught or where to find answers online. It rewards those who can copy their homework and finish in minutes and have their afternoons free while punishing the student who works until midnight doing honest and sincere work.

Parents are starting to take notice as well. In an Atlantic article titled “My Daughter’s Homework is Killing Me,” a father tries to do his daughter’s homework load for a week, only to realize the true workload his daughter goes through every night. His daughter, Esmee, teaches him yet another negative philosophy used by students overloaded with homework: memorization, not rationalization. Instead of taking meaningful notes, students absentmindedly write terms and definitions to satisfy their homework assignments. They study for tests, not for life; once their knowledge is shown on their tests, is leaves their brains to make room for more information that will eventually pass by as unit after unit passes on and eventually becomes useless.

An increase in the percentage of high schoolers who vape, drink, and do drugs can, in some cases, also be drawn back to homework. To combat stress, students find relief in unhealthy habits that carry into their later years and damage their developing brains, doing the opposite of what homework is intended to do: build good working habits and reenforce what is learned in school.

Homework may build discipline and work habits, but is it worth it?


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