Homework is like chores—it’s a traditional activity that most children hate to do. Since the 1950s, when pressure from the Cold War prompted legislators and school officials to make homework a mainstay in the education system, children have been returning home everyday with stacks of books and papers. Though homework is tedious, time consuming, and at times even demoralizing, it better prepares students for tests, particularly standardized tests, by forcing them to practice their lessons over and over again.
The primary purpose of homework is to help children retain the information they learn. In "Homework Research and Policy: A Review of Literature," Harris Cooper argues that students who perform rote tasks like reading, writing, and solving equations acquire a better grasp of the information they're learning. In addition, children improve their abilities and skills by using the knowledge they’ve learned to solve even more complex problems. These benefits add up and eventually become clear when students are tested, in that students who complete homework everyday perform 69 percent better on standardized tests.
Sara Bennett and Nancy Kalish, the authors of "The Case Against Homework," claim that many children find homework to be tedious and boring, so they don’t try as hard, which in turn affects their in-class performance. Teachers have tried combating this trend by making homework more appealing and challenging, but it hasn’t always fared well. Whereas some students performed better, others fell behind due to the increased complexity of the assignments. As such, Bennett and Kalish argue that best solution is to mix rote work with a few more complex assignments.
Work completed in a classroom is easy for a child because it’s a forced action. Children are in school, so they might as well perform the work. Homework, on the other hand, forces a child to take responsibility and manage his time better. Children who fail at this task ultimately garner poor homework grades and fall behind in class, whereas children who do take full responsibility excel. Parents play a pivotal role in this process, because they are partially responsible. That said, parents should work with their child to develop a feasible schedule that takes into consideration homework as well as extracurricular activities and leisure time.
According to the authors of "National Differences, Global Similarities: World Culture and the Future of Schooling," too much homework can demoralize students and lead to lower test scores. In particular, David Baker and Gerald LeTendre noted that students from countries where less homework is assigned, such as Japan and Denmark, score better on tests than students from countries that assign a lot of homework. They also pointed out that though American students do more homework than many of their international competitors, their overall test scores are average.
The debate over homework continues. Those opposed to it cite how children are bored of it, and how too much of it demoralizes them. Likewise, proponents of homework point to improved test scores and a greater sense of responsibility and accomplishment. There may never be a definite answer, but homework will likely keep being used in the classroom for many years to come.
- Alfie Kohn: Rethinking Homework
- Scholastic: Down With Homework
- Confidence Bound: Why Kids Need Homework
- "National Differences, Global Similarities: World Culture and the Future of Schooling"; David Baker and Gerald LeTendre; 2005
- "Research/Practice"; Homework Research and Policy: A Review of the Literature; Harris Cooper; July 1994
- "The Case Against Homework: How Homework Is Hurting Our Children And What We Can Do About It"; Sara Bennett and Nancy Kalish; August 2006