The concept of homework is a bit absurd. We throw an extra shift on society’s youth in hopes to “reinforce” the information that they learned in school. The problem with this should be clear. When students go home to the one place where they should feel comfortable to live their separate lives, they are forced into more work. This then leads to loss of family time, loss of personal time, increased stress, anxiety, loss of motivation, and creates a negative view of learning for the students. Then once we have finished all of our extra work, we get a sliver of time for ourselves, family, friends, and activities before were exhausted and have to start the same process over again.
Homework “should be responsible for building long term memory, providing additional stimulation for high performers, helping struggling kids learn the material covered in class, and enhances life skills such as organization and time management”(Australian Financial Review, p1). The problem here is that homework is no longer fulfilling its former role.
Todays homework is just a shell of its former self. Homework used to be a task that was a brief review of the material learned while enforcing more hands on learning. Now we see homework becoming longer, less hands on, and more of just busy work. The problem is that homework has the potential to be extremely beneficial, but homework has changed. With the current homework being given, we are seeing more and more of a negative effect on students all around. When a group of students were surveyed, they reported feeling “emotionally stressed, having breakdowns, anxiety, depression, and in some cases even reported developing chronic insomnia all from homework” (Conner, p1). In the same study, they asked students what caused them the most stress, and what they found was that “seventy percent of students reported homework being their primary source of stress” (Conner, p1). Even though the idea of homework started off as a great learning enhancement, the homework of today is actually hurting students physically and mentally.
One of the problems with today’s homework is that it creates a lot of stress on the student. This is mainly because of the length that homework has grown overtime, and the type of homework being given has changed. A current study done on students shows that “homework benefits plateaued after the 2 hour mark”(Galloway p491-492). This means that after 2 hours, the benefits of homework no longer become relevant and result in more negative effects. Now the problem with today’s homework is that it’s at the point where students get so much that it loses its positive attributes and instead causes negative effects. With today’s homework, “students reported having an average of 3.07 hours a night”(Galloway p491-492). This is over an hour longer than the maximum amount that students should be given. Once a student goes over the two hour mark for homework, there brains get unmotivated, tired, and very stressed. This then creates a domino effect on the student causing a array of problems. Because of stress and the mass amounts of homework, the same study reported seeing that ninety five percent of students admitted to cheating or copying just to cope with all of the extra work. Kids reported that “even if the work is meaningful, excessive workload, combined with a busy schedule of outside activities, becomes too much for many of these kids to handle.
Another problem with today’s homework is that it doesn’t work mentally. It wasn’t until recent studies that we found out just how flawed homework is. After looking at how stress directly affects the brain and learning, Kelleher Ian, author of (Stress and the Learning Brain), found that:
The amygdala, a critical part of the brain’s limbic system, is the brain’s emotional switching station and the gateway to learning. This is true of all students, no matter how emotionally strong, no matter what age. When students are under too much stress, the amygdala sends incoming information from their senses to the primordially hardwired reactive “fight/flight/freeze” part of the brain. This reactive response and the chemistry fueling it may be good for running away fast, but they are not good for the sort of learning we aim to instill in school. (1)
This is saying that the second a student gets stressed, its brain switches from using complex thinking, to a panicking haze. Once your brain stops using its amygdala, your brain stops retaining the information completely. Homework is flawed since it causes seventy percent of students the most stress in their lives when the human brain doesn’t learn efficiently with stress. This pattern of everyday homework for hours one end can even create patterns in a student’s brain where it becomes harder and harder to use the amygdala. After a student’s brain gets in the pattern on getting overstressed, it more easily switches from intellectual thinking to the fight, flight, and freeze side. The effects of this shows just how inefficient the current homework is. it was found that “the time spent on homework now has almost no correlation with academics and had a negative effect on some student’s performance”(Fernández–Alonso, Multilevel Study, p1). But the effects of today’s homework don’t stop internally within a student.
When a student is required to go to school for seven to eight hours, only to be expected to complete hours of homework, it takes a huge toll on that student’s personal life. That student has to be able to spend time with their friends and family, complete their at home responsibilities, engage in their hobbies and extracurricular activities, and have personal time in the fraction of the day that is left. This often isn’t enough time for students to squeeze their lives into reality, which often leaves them with a choice of what is most important. Because of this we see students getting more and more disconnected from family life. Some parents are getting so fed up that they are putting a ban on homework. Parents like Dr Justin Coulson (a psychologist and parenting expert) has personally banned his kids from doing homework because he says that it “creates stress, family conflict, a burden on parents, and was uninspiring to kids”(“Benefits of homework queried.” Australian Financial Review, p13). Students have less than half of the day to themselves and family, so when homework comes into the equation parents can feel a disconnection from there kids. This then leads to families trying to squeeze together family time. The problem here is that this usually excludes kids from chores and responsibilities that they will need to learn for later in life.
One of the most important problems of homework is actually what is being taught. A big reason that homework is no longer working is that it’s a practice that is outdated and hasn’t been refreshed since it was first introduced. The homework content of our generation hasn’t changed much from our parents, while the world has. When kids went to school in the 60’s and 70’s, there were few problems to face. Now the generation who has to deal with the world’s problems aren’t even being taught about them, but instead the same stuff from before. We are the generation who will have to deal with global warming, nuclear warfare, outstanding amounts of debt and so many other issues and what is the school curriculum? Soh Cah Toa? The powerhouse of a cell is the mitochondria? So when a student realizes all of these problems and then realizes that the place that is supposed to prepare you for life isn’t doing that at all but just preparing you for college, what happens? Well they lose their motivation.
Now you’re probably thinking “if it’s so flawed why hasn’t it changed?” Homework is an outdated process and almost all of the research done on it isn’t recent. Since the previous studies, homework has gotten longer, less family oriented, and further away from the world’s problems. Since there hasn’t been many new studies on the effects of homework, people are still going off of the idea that homework is beneficial. I think Whyte, Kenneth,( author of The Homework Myth), puts it best when he says:
We are too polite, or too fearful to question the conventional wisdom. We allow folks up on Mount Olympus, far from the real world of classrooms and kitchen tables, to pontificate about tougher standards and raising the bar, compelling us to do what really doesn’t make sense at all to our children. So really this is not just a question of learning what the research says about homework, but of being willing to speak out, to take a stand against what is nonsensical at best and damaging to our children at worst.
The reason that there hasn’t been a change is that no one has wanted to question the problem at hand since they have always perceived it to be just a way of life. Just the idea of students doing work all day just to come home and do more work seems like insanity.
So why do we have homework still? Well because, the problem isn’t with homework, it’s how today’s homework is structured that is causing these negative effects. Homework has the potential to be a great learning tool for students and teachers all around, however there needs to be a change. With time comes change, and when you don’t change that’s when things get corrupt. Even our country’s Constitution will someday need to be changed, so why not homework. Out of the two interviews given (one to special ed teacher Mr Johanson, and the other to psychiatrist Peter Baker), both agreed that there needs to be a change in the type of homework given. We are now in the time where there needs to be a change in homework to ensure efficiency. We need to adopt a program that resembles the “goldilocks program” (Kelleher Ian, p1), which states that schools need to monitor student stress much more and make sure that they aren’t being overwhelmed, while also not having too little stress. Since a minimal amount of stress can be beneficial for the brain, you need just the right amount to maximize learning. We then have to incorporate the amount of homework into this equation. Any amount over two hours a night is counterproductive to the learning process so there needs to be regulations on the amount given. This will also help with the issues of family, friends, extracurricular activity time, and loss of motivation in students. One of the last major changes that we need to see in homework is making it more applicable to life. Homework should at the very least be more hands on instead of just busy work but should also have an impact on a student’s life. It should teach a student about real world problems instead of the parts of a glacier, and how to overcome those problems. Students should have homework that involves paying taxes, filling out a police reports, contemplating how to create world peace. Things that they will use hands on in life and will benefit them in the future. This would not only solve the motivation problem, but also get students from an early age to think about the real problems that this world faces.
The main issue at stake is that the system at hand is no longer nearly as efficient as it could be and is hurting our students. Because of this outdated system, our students are suffering from chronic stress, anxiety, depression, insomnia, loss of family time, loss of motivation, a increased suicide rate, a increased self harm rate, and some who are cheating just to handle the workload. This is no way to bring our youth into this world and is creating negative attributes all around (the domino effect). We need to restructure the type of homework and how it is being given to ensure student success. If we want our youth to come into this world successfully, there needs to be a change in the school system that ensures more for the student and the mind. By changing homework to be less time consuming, more hands on, and more applicable, students will be able to learn much more efficiently while maintaining a lower level of stress.