Read on to find out about the purpose and origins of the most hated kind of schoolwork

Homework is a practice that has been around for as long as we can remember. It’s the only word that makes a whole classroom of students groan collectively, and can we blame them? Scholars, teachers, students, and even parents constantly debate its value and purpose. Even so, homework has become an inevitable part of students’ daily lives.

How exactly did this practice originate?

Homework History

Homework History

Roberto Nevelis from Venice, Italy, is the man credited with having invented homework. He created it to punish lazy students and get them back on track. But, we currently don’t have enough information to prove whether he or his contributions are accurate. Besides, according to history, the practice has existed far before Nevelis’ time—in the ancient Roman and Greek empires.

The very first use of the term “homework” itself can be traced back to the I century AD in ancient Rome. An oratory teacher of the time, called Pliny the Younger, is the one who supposedly invented homework when he asked his followers to practice public speaking at home to improve faster.

Another man who influenced homework history was Horace Mann, an American politician and educational reformer interested in promoting public education. He was inspired by German educational trends, in which students attending the “People’s Schools” were made to complete obligatory assignments at home during their own time. Essentially, it had begun as a part of a political plan to emphasize the state’s power over people.

Although it had political origins, the practice of taking assignments home spread across Europe, and the news soon reached Mann’s ears—who was in Prussia at the time. He immediately applied the practice in American schools, where it gradually became a part of their daily school lives.

Delving into the history of homework in America, we see that many people frowned upon this practice. Assigning children to memorize a given text at home took up the time they had to spend doing chores or farm work. Most students were also simply unable to learn these passages on their own time. Because of these issues, children, parents, and even some schools heavily disliked homework.

In the late 1800s:

American journalist and educator Francis Amasa Walker convinced the Boston school board to stop teachers from regularly assigning math homework.

In 1900:

Dutch-American journalist Edward Bok rallied against schools assigning homework to children under the age of fifteen.

In 1901:

Due to the many campaigns and complaints, the California legislature passed an act that abolished homework for anyone under fifteen.

In the 1950s:

Homework made a successful comeback due to increasing pressure on the US to stay in the lead during the Cold War. Students were expected to be on par with their Russian counterparts, so taking assignments home was encouraged again.

Till the mid-1990s, when the Cold War ended, the subject was a constant tug-of-war. Despite all this initial uncertainty, students are still assigned homework every day.

Countries Who Spend The Most Time Doing Homework, World Atlas.

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Homework and its Purpose

Homework and its Purpose

The purpose of homework back then was to make lazy students work hard. Although its current intention is slightly different, it still serves the same general idea. The primary objectives of assigning homework are:

  • to reinforce topics taught in class;
  • to help students engage in active learning;
  • to develop time-management skills;
  • to prepare for upcoming lessons;
  • or to punish a student or class.

An after-school routine to help kids and parents beat homework stress, NBC News – Getty Images

Pros and Cons

Since it’s such a debated topic, we’ve compiled a list of benefits and disadvantages to help you decide for yourself whether homework is a blessing or a curse. First up, we have the various benefits it offers according to teachers:

It teaches students to manage their time.

Homework goes beyond simply completing given tasks. It helps students plan and manage their time wisely to make the most of their free time. They learn to divide and prioritize tasks accordingly—a valuable skill carried over into their adult lives.

It helps them understand concepts better.

Revising and completing assignments at home help them understand what was taught in class better. They can retain learned concepts and develop good study habits through homework. Practice does make perfect, after all.

It encourages them to work independently.

It encourages students to work independently without help from their teachers or parents and improves their problem-solving skills with subjects like maths. It also allows parents to be more hands-on with their child’s education since they’ll know what is being taught.

It generates doubts in students’ minds.

Going through the lessons again on their own makes them think about it more and develop questions. Students can then ask these questions and clear their doubts with teachers at school the next day. Since homework acts as a memory rehearsal tool, it helps make teaching a two-way process, yielding better results.

It allows teachers to grasp student understanding.

Teachers can gauge how much students have understood the topic taught in class by assigning homework. With this form of feedback, they can review themselves and see if any changes should be made to their teaching methods. And if needed, they can also give students individual attention to help them comprehend better.

From a student perspective, it has the following drawbacks:

It discourages creative activities.

If students spend 3-4 hours a day on homework after school, it takes away the time they can spend on their creative interests. Students might like to read, paint, or try new hobbies, but homework takes that away. Creative activities are crucial since it fosters mental growth and is a healthy way to express themselves.

It causes stress and anxiety.

Homework is almost always done when the student is tired from a long day. Due to their fatigue, they are often unable to pay attention to their assignments. As a result, their homework usually ends up being done in a hurry, producing poor quality work, defeating its purpose. Additionally, for kids who get easily overwhelmed by their emotions, it can be a trigger for anxiety.

It even causes mental and physical ailments.

Several researchers have found that it leads to additional stress, anxiety, and physical symptoms like headaches and stomachaches. Spending too much time on homework can lead to students not meeting their social and physical needs. Too much of this unhealthy lifestyle could even lead to depression and anxiety disorders.

No evidence that it improves their performance.

Homework doesn’t seem to improve or affect grades significantly. A new study reported in the Huffington Post adds weight to the statement that says that it has little to no effect on academic success. And without this incentive, students simply don’t see the need for homework. As a result, a math teacher named Scott Anderson in the American state of Wisconsin scrapped homework entirely and found that his students could learn and perform better. According to him,

“In certain circumstances, I guess homework can be good. But

I prefer to skip good and do great.”

It wastes students’ time.

The more time they spend on homework, the more time they feel they are spending on uncertainty since it’s unclear whether it’ll give them better grades. Also, teachers give assignments to take home, which are often unrelated to the topic taught that day. This makes the whole ordeal seem more confusing and pointless to students.

Homework and its effects, justification, and motive have been criticized for decades. But it’s so deeply embedded into the global educational structure because it’s an undeniably helpful ritual that is carried out without much thought. To help students genuinely grow, it’s best if the amount and type of homework given are minimal and according to their academic level. At the end of the day, it helps children retain lessons better and is simply a vital part of the school experience.

References:

“Homework,” Wikipedia

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