The Many Problems with Mandatory Homework

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Jacob Holmes, Writer

A 2013 survey conducted by the University of Phoenix revealed that the average high school teacher assigns 3.5 hours of homework per week. Assuming most students take 5 classes, this would mean that the average high school student is assigned a whopping 17.5 hours of homework per week. Furthermore, students’ free time can also be taken up by sports and clubs, and young people have been forced to get jobs due to the steadily increasing college tuition, which has been doubling every nine years. With all of this in mind, parents and students alike have once again been asking the age-old question: is homework really necessary?  While homework certainly aids students in learning comprehension, not every student requires this aid, and for many, the extreme amount of required work causes too much stress. Homework should be made optional because it causes stress, because more efficient alternatives are available, and because it unfairly impacts financially-disadvantaged students.

A study conducted by Harris Cooper, Jorgianne Civey Robinson and Erika A. Patall revealed that homework does, in fact, improve academic achievement, and the effect increases with grade level. However, it is also true that the stress brought on by homework could have the opposite effect. For example, according  to a 2017 survey, 82 percent of students said they were “often or always” stressed by schoolwork, and 76 percent said schoolwork often or always kept them from getting enough sleep. Lack of sleep can result in serious mental and physical harm, and that should be reason enough to reduce the time constraints through optional homework.

As if that isn’t bad enough, according to the 2010 American College Health Association National College Health Assessment, more than 25 percent of students say that stress lowered their grades or ability to finish a course.  In other words, there is a direct correlation between the amount of homework and students’ grades, and it may actually end up having a negative effect. While it is true that homework can increase students’ academic performance, it is also true that an excessive amount can lower said performance due to the stress it causes. As such, it should be left up to the student to decide just how much is too much.

Some may claim that homework should be mandatory due to the fact that it reinforces self-direction, time management and developing good study habits.

While this may be true, it is also the case that many of these skills can be developed through other means. First, good study habits are already encouraged through schools’ test systems where students often perform better if they study. As such, simply emphasizing this factor should be enough to convince most students to study. The students who refuse despite this probably would not have completed their homework anyways.  Secondly, I can tell you first hand that my one year of employment at Domino’s has improved my self-direction and time management more than my 13 years of schooling ever has, and it is much less time consuming.

Essentially, the benefits derived from homework can be attained more efficiently elsewhere and without the extreme amount of stress which homework causes. For those who lack the ability to get a job or develop proper study habits on their own, homework is still a viable option. It is just more efficient to handle it on a case-by-case basis.

Additionally, a recent study conducted by the American Psychological Association stated:  “Kids from wealthier homes are more likely to have resources such as computers, internet connections, dedicated areas to do schoolwork and parents who tend to be more educated and more available to help them with tricky assignments. Kids from disadvantaged homes are more likely to work at after school jobs, or to be home without supervision in the evenings while their parents work multiple jobs.”  In other words, the mandatory aspect of homework and the universality with which it is handed out means financially-disadvantaged students are negatively impacted. They are receiving the same amount of work with the same time restrictions, but do not have access to the same resources, making the entire process more difficult for them.

A man who is particularly concerned about this inequality is Dr. Joseph Lathan, an Academic Director and Master of Education at the University of San Diego.  “Adding homework into the mix is one more thing to deal with — and if the student is struggling, the task of completing homework can be too much to consider at the end of an already long school day,” Lathain saidAlthough it helps some students, the universal way in which it is handed out not only ignores, but exacerbates the plights of poor students. As such, the bare minimum that should be done is the shifting of homework from mandatory to optional, giving those in need more time to work on their most difficult subjects.

Multiple studies have shown the benefits that homework can provide, and many more have shown the detrimental effects it can have on mental health and the marginalized. The easiest and most efficient way to remedy these problems is by making homework optional. This would reduce the impacts of stress and low resources, and prop up the true advantages of homework.

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