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Pro and Con: Homework
To access extended pro and con arguments, sources, and discussion questions about whether homework is beneficial, go to ProCon.org .
From dioramas to book reports, from algebraic word problems to research projects, whether students should be given homework, as well as the type and amount of homework, has been debated for over a century.
While we are unsure who invented homework , we do know that the word “homework” dates back to ancient Rome. Pliny the Younger asked his followers to practice their speeches at home. Memorization exercises as homework continued through the Middle Ages and Enlightenment by monks and other scholars.
In the 19th century, German students of the Volksschulen or “People’s Schools” were given assignments to complete outside of the school day. This concept of homework quickly spread across Europe and was brought to the United States by Horace Mann, who encountered the idea in Prussia.
In the early 1900s, progressive education theorists, championed by the magazine Ladies’ Home Journal, decried homework’s negative impact on children’s physical and mental health, leading California to ban homework for students under 15 from 1901 until 1917. In the 1930s, homework was portrayed as child labor, which was newly illegal, but the prevailing argument was that kids needed time to do household chores.
Public opinion swayed again in favor of homework in the 1950s due to concerns about keeping up with the Soviet Union’s technological advances during the Cold War. And, in 1986, the US government included homework as an educational quality boosting tool.
A 2014 study found kindergarteners to fifth graders averaged 2.9 hours of homework per week, sixth to eighth graders 3.2 hours per teacher, and ninth to twelfth graders 3.5 hours per teacher. A 2014-2019 study found that teens spent about an hour a day on homework.
Beginning in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic complicated the very idea of homework as students were schooling remotely and many were doing all school work from home . Washington Post journalist Valerie Strauss asked, “Does homework work when kids are learning all day at home?” While students were mostly back in school buildings in fall 2021, the question remains of how effective homework is as an educational tool.
- Homework improves student achievement.
- Homework helps to reinforce learning and develop good study habits and life skills.
- Homework allows parents to be involved with their child's learning.
- Too much homework can be harmful.
- Homework disadvantages low-income students.
- There is a lack of evidence that homework helps younger children.
This article was published on February 25, 2022, at Britannica’s ProCon.org , a nonpartisan issue-information source.
Pros and Cons of Homework
“Not until you finish your homework.”
“I want you to finish your dinner and get right to work on your homework.”
“Is your homework done? Then, no, you get up those stairs and finish first.”
We’ve all heard something similar from our mom, dad, or caretaker. Homework is a big staple of the American school scene, just like lockers, the school bell, and big yellow buses. Portrayed in media from the Brady Bunch to Cocomelon, homework has been an academic given for decades.
Despite its popularity, this after-school activity has been under scrutiny for over a century. Britannica explains , “In the early 1900s, progressive education theorists, championed by the magazine Ladies’ Home Journal , decried homework’s negative impact on children’s physical and mental health, leading California to ban homework for students under 15 from 1901 until 1917. In the 1930s, homework was portrayed as child labor, which was newly illegal, but the prevailing argument was that kids needed time to do household chores.”
Regardless of opposition, homework persevered, and millions of American students still spend long hours completing bookwork in their bedrooms after school.
What are the modern objections to homework? What if the opposition is right? Is there merit to the concerns, or is homework a helpful tool for a well-rounded and comprehensive education? If you’d like to find out, now’s the time to keep reading!
How Much Time?
When analysts crunch the numbers, children spend far more time doing homework than many believe necessary. According to One Class, elementary school students spend an average of 42 minutes a day on homework. Some parents and educators argue that five additional hours of schoolwork per week is too much for elementary students.
High schoolers spend even more time on after-school assignments. Pew Research published a 2019 article in which they explained , “Overall, teens (ages 15 to 17) spend an hour a day, on average, doing homework during the school year, up from 44 minutes a day about a decade ago and 30 minutes in the mid-1990s.”
Globally, the U.S. ranks 15th for the average amount of time spent on homework by high school students. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development conducted a worldwide study on 15-year-old students to evaluate the homework load for high schoolers worldwide.
Among the countries included in the study, China ranked first, with students spending an average of 13.8 hours a week on homework. The Netherlands ranked the lowest, with their students studying after school for an average of 5.8 hours a week. American students spent an average of 6.1 hours per week completing their homework.
What Students Think
Homework has become a point of significant stress for American students.
One Stanford study found that 56% of students who participated in the survey stated that homework was a primary source of stress. Another study found that the decline in adequate teenage sleep may be partly due to homework. In yet another study, 82% of students interviewed admitted that they were “often or always stressed by schoolwork.”
It’s not just the students who object to frequent homework. Parents have begun to voice their displeasure as well. One mother in Canada went viral on social media when she announced that she and her husband were done watching their ten-year-old daughter stress over her homework every night. They decided that homework wasn’t a useful educational tool for their child.
Another mother in Kansas expressed how frustrating it is when her daughter has homework that she as a mother is unsure how to help with. “I feel bad for emailing a teacher in the evenings. I’m slightly annoyed at homework in general because I don’t know what the teacher taught.”
What Teachers Think
Educators debate whether or not homework is a positive educational tool. One Duke University professor recommends homework, believing there is a correlation between homework and academic success for older students. He recommends implementing the “10 Minute Rule.” Essentially, students receive 10 minutes of homework per day for each grade. (For instance, 1st graders would receive 10 minutes of homework, 5th graders 50 minutes, 12th graders 120 minutes.)
A Texas teacher informed the parents of her 2nd-grade students that she would not be assigning homework anymore. Instead, she asked that the children participate in real-life activities that encourage growth and success. These activities included outdoor play, family meals, and reading with parents. As her plan evolved, she acknowledged that some students actually enjoyed homework and missed the challenge. Other students received extra work here and there on an as-needed basis.
Defining the Need
One question that desperately needs to be asked is, “What’s the purpose of homework?”
The answer to this question can provide parameters, determine whether or not homework achieves the goal(s), and establish if it should continue to be a staple in the American education system.
Psychology Today wonders the same thing , without any clear-cut resolution. “I started the blog with a question ‘What’s the purpose of homework?’ I’ll end with the same question. If a teacher who is assigning the homework can’t provide a clear rationale behind this question, then maybe the homework shouldn’t be assigned.”
However, Honest Pros and Cons makes a case for homework in more detail. Their reasoning for homework includes :
- Practicing what they learn in the classroom
- Improving study habits
- Developing self-discipline
- Enhancing independent problem-solving skills
McRel International notes that many factors play into whether or not homework is an effective strategy for students. They acknowledge that after-school assignments have pros and cons and state that the research is by no means definitive.
Proponents of homework present several positives:
- It improves student achievement – “Students in classes that were assigned homework outperformed 69% of students who didn’t have homework on both standardized tests and grades.” – Britannica ProCon
While the data is not conclusive, numerous studies have shown a correlation between academic success and the use of homework.
- It involves parents – “Homework is also the place where schools and families most frequently intersect.” – US News
Homework encourages parents and children to spend time together problem-solving and working toward a goal. It also gives parents a window into what their child is learning and the progress they are making.
- It encourages time management – “Homework is an effective tool when teaching your child about time management. This means that time management should extend beyond the classroom and into your home. ” – Edugage
American students spend roughly six hours a day at school. This schedule doesn’t leave much flexibility for sports, a social life, and a healthy amount of free time on top of homework. Kids have to learn time management if they want a life outside of their education.
- It tracks progress – “Homework allows teachers to track students’ progress, meaning that homework helps to find out the academic strengths and weaknesses of children.” – Honest Pros and Cons
Homework gives teachers a chance to see what the student can achieve independently. Students must put into practice what they learned in the schoolroom in a different environment and without their teacher present.
- It develops working memory – “Revising the key skills learned in the classroom during homework increases the likelihood of a student remembering and being able to use those skills in a variety of situations in the future, contributing to their overall education.” – The Guardian
Environment can play an active part in memory. Biologically, our brains more easily recall memories and facts when we’re immersed in the same surroundings in which we created that memory or learned those facts. Homework removes the environmental factor, forcing students to strengthen their working memory.
Concerned about the effects of homework on students, opponents note these objections:
- The science isn’t settled – “There is no conclusive evidence that homework increases student achievement across the board.” – Reading Rockets
As we’ve noted before, the data isn’t conclusive despite the numerous studies conducted. To many, the negatives suggested by various studies outweigh the proposed positives.
- It adds stress – “Researchers have found that students who spend too much time on homework experience more levels of stress and physical health problems.” – Psychology Today
Studies have concluded that too much homework creates undue stress on developing minds and bodies. This translates into mental, emotional, and physical issues for many students. This stress also affects their sleep , both the amount of sleep and the quality of that sleep.
- It impacts other interests/pursuits – “Homework prevents self-discovery and having the time to learn new skills outside of the school system.” – University of the People
Critics of homework fear that, in addition to time spent on school grounds, after-school assignments stunt students’ abilities to experience life outside academia. Students who struggle with completing work at home are even more susceptible to a lifestyle void of other interests.
- It expands the gap – “One study concluded that homework increases social inequality because it ‘potentially serves as a mechanism to further advantage those students who already experience some privilege in the school system while further disadvantaging those who may already be in a marginalized position.’” – Britannica ProCon
Homework often involves a computer and/or an internet connection. During the Covid-19 pandemic, 30% of students didn’t have the necessary technology at home to effectively participate in distance learning, raising questions about inequality affecting homework that relies on at-home technology.
- It creates family tension – “Assigning homework forces a person to take on added disciplinary responsibilities.” – Front Range Christian School
While homework can bring children and parents together, it can also drive a wedge between them. Students who feel overwhelmed or who need a break from focusing on academics often buck their homework requirements, leaving parents to enforce education standards that the teachers created. Parents and students alike can end up frustrated, with little progress made.
A World of Unknowns
While the homework debate rages on, researchers continue to work toward a conclusive answer. In the meantime, teachers, parents, schools, and communities can work together to find a solution that meets the needs of their students.
Without a doubt, homework has positive aspects that encourage students to advance through personal and academic growth. The trick is to nurture this positivity without stunting progress with adverse side effects.
It’s a double-edged sword that’s well worth considering to ensure the best for our kids.
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- Opposing Viewpoints in Context: What is it? How do you cite it? Tutorial
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- How to cite articles for your Persuasive Essay Tutorial
- Again, how to cite your own web page! (A URL on its own is wrong!!!)
- Is Homework Beneficial? - Website . Question from Pro/Con - lots of statistics ProCon.org, "Homework – Top 3 Pros and Cons." ProCon.org . 25 Feb. 2022, www.procon.org/headlines/homework-pros-cons-procon-org
- Homework - Database article from Middle School in Context - Overview including main points for and against homework
- Homework - effect on kids' health - Washington Post article from Opposing Viewpoints in Context
- Research Trends: Is Homework effective? - Website Article from the George Lucas Educational Foundation Terada, Youki. "Research Trends: Why Homework Should Be Balanced." Edutopia , 31 July 2015, www.edutopia.org/blog/ research-trends-is-homework-effective-youki-terada. Accessed 4 April 2021.
- Students and Homework - Topic in Opposing Viewpoints - This page has many articles. You can choose an article to read. Do NOT cite this topic page; it is not a resource.
- Recess - An article from the CDC advocating recess Website "Recess." CDC Healthy Schools , CDC, 29 May 2019, www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/ physicalactivity/recess.htm. Accessed 24 Mar. 2022.
- Massachusetts Middle School Brings Back Recess - An article from the Today show Website Tate, Alison Slater. "Massachusetts middle school brings back recess so even older kids can play." Today , 13 Sept. 2018, www.today.com/parents/ medway-massachusetts-middle-school-brings-back-recess-t137344. Accessed 24 Mar. 2022.
- Why Recess Should Be a Staple in Your Child's Middle School - Website Blog article from an independent middle school "Why Recess should be a staple in your child's middle school." Fessy-Den Blog, 26 Sept. 2018, https://fessyblog.org/why-recess-should-be-a-staple-in-your-childs-middle-school/ . Accessed 27 Mar 2021.
- Crucial Role of Recess in Schools - Website Article from a medical journal Murray, Robert, and Catherine Ramstetter. "The Crucial Role of Recess in School." Pediatrics , Jan. 2013, pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/131/ 1/183.full. Accessed 4 April 2021.
- "Turns Out Monkey Bars And Kickball Might Be Good For The Brain." NPR Article from Opposing Viewpoints in Context
- Survey on Recess voiceofplay.org/2018-survey-recess/#:~:text=Teachers%20also%20said%20they%20benefit,play%20and%20exercise%20as%20well. - Website article sponsored by makers of playground equipment "New Survey from IPEMA and the Voice of Play Finds U.S. Teachers Place High Value on Recess." Voice of Play , IPEMA, voiceofplay.org/2018-survey-recess/ #:~:text=Teachers%20also%20said%20they%20benefit,play%20and%20exercise%20as%20wel l. Accessed 13 Apr. 2022.
- How Would Later Start Times Affect Sleep? - Website Article from the Sleep Foundation Foley, Logan. "How Would Later Start Times Affect Sleep?." Sleep Foundation , 5 February 2021. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/school-and-sleep/later-school-start-times . Accessed 4 April 2021.
- Wake Up Calls: Fast Facts - Website Summary of research from a group called Start School Later Start School Later. "Wake up Calls: Fast Facts." Start School Later , www.startschoollater.net/wake-up-calls-fast-facts.html. Accessed 4 April 2021.
- School Start Times - Database article that gives in overview of the topic. Look at the Pros and Cons box!
- School Start Times: Topic in Opposing Viewpoints Database - Choose an article that you want to rea
- Should Kids Have Cellphones at School? - Website Article from a National Magazine Baig, Edward C. "Should you let your kids have a cellphone in school?" USA Today , 5 Feb. 2020, www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2020/02/05/ should-kids-have-cellphones-at-school/4669488002/. Accessed 4 April 2021.
- Banning mobile phones in schools: beneficial or risky? Here's what the evidence says - Database article, overview of topic
- Debating the Use of Digital Devices in the Classroom - Website Article from a magazine for teachers "Debating the Use of Digital Devices in the Classroom." Resilient Educator , July 2018, resilienteducator.com/classroom-resources/ pros-and-cons-of-allowing-digital-devices-in-the-classroom/?source=seo-cup-blog. Accessed 4 April 2021.
- Cell Phones in Schools : Topic in Opposing Viewpoints in Context - You must choose an article
- Should Parents Be Afraid to Let Their Kids Play Football? Website by an award winning news site Shaffer, Leah. "Should Parents Be Afraid To Let Their Kids Play Football?" FiveThirtyEight , 13 Jan. 2020, fivethirtyeight.com/features/ should-parents-be-afraid-to-let-their-kids-play-football/. Accessed 4 April 2021.
- Top Reasons Why Kids Should Play Tackle Football Website by National Sports ID, an organization that works with youth sports "Top Reasons Why Kids Should Play Tackle Football." National Sports ID , https://www.nationalsportsid.com/top-reasons-why-kids-should-player-tackle-football/#:~:text=Early%20foundational%20learning%20is%20critical,than%20perhaps%20any%20other%20sport. . Accessed 24 Mar. 2022.
- It's Time to Ban Tackle Football For Children - Database Article from Opposing Viewpoints
- Is Football Safe for Kids? Website Article from Harvard Medical Proctor, Mark. "Is Football Safe for Kids." Harvard Health Blog , Harvard Health Publishing, 5 Feb. 2016, www.health.harvard.edu/blog/ is-football-safe-for-kids-201602059148. Accessed 4 April 2021.
- Five Reasons in Support of Playing Tackle Football Website Article from TackleSmart, an organization started by parents to make tackling in football safer Wilson, Roger. "Five Reasons in Favor of Playing Tackle Football." Tackle Smart , 31 May 2019, www.tacklesmartsports.com/tackle-football/. Accessed 4 April 2021.
- Are School Dress Codes Fair? - Website Article from Scholastic Choices, a magazine for students "Are School Dress Codes Fair?" Scholastic Choices , Feb. 2019, choices.scholastic.com/issues/2018-19/020119/are-school-dress-codes-fair.html. Accessed 4 April 2021.
- School Dress Codes - An overview from Opposing Viewpoints in Context
- Should schools have dress codes? Database article from Opposing Viewpoints in Context
- School Dress Codes Topic in Opposing Viewpoints Database - you must choose an article
- 5 Reasons Video Games Should Be More Widely Used in Schools Database article by a professor of Video Game Design, Texas A&M
- Pro/Con on Video Games - Do they contribute to violence? Website ProCon.org. "Do Violent Video Games Contribute to Youth Violence?" Pro/Con.org , 9 July 2018, videogames.procon.org/. Accessed 4 April 2021.
- Video Games Are Good for You - Website Article from a company that teaches online Vince. "Video Games Are Good for You." ID Tech , 9 May 2018, www.idtech.com/blog/ video-games-are-good-for-you. Accessed 4 April 2021.
- It's no wonder the military likes violent video games – they can help train civilians to become warriors - Database Article
- Video Games - Topic in Opposing Viewpoints Database - You must choose an article
- If you have permission from your teacher, start here for advice and sources
Studies have shown that homework improved student achievement in terms of improved grades, test results, and the likelihood to attend college.
The layout helps students easily see and compare pros and cons in order to formulate ... They also find the background history helpful during assignments.
Explore both sides of debated issues. Presented in a non-partisan format with supporting background information, statistics, and resources.
Some say homework improves student achievement, reinforces learning a life skills, and involves parents, while others say homework can be
It improves student achievement · standardized tests and grades.” – Britannica ProCon ; It involves parents · US News ; It encourages time
Pros: Free educational resource provides non-biased information on controversial issues; promotes critical thinking and civic engagement. · Cons: Some of the
Is Homework Beneficial? - Website. Question from Pro/Con - lots of statistics ProCon.org, "Homework – Top 3 Pros and Cons." ProCon.org. 25 Feb.
I really like this site pro con.org because it presents timely ... facts" I feel confidant that they have done their homework and I am getting a real strong
Kneeling during the National Anthem: Top 3 Pros and Cons | ProCon.org ... Memorization exercises as homework continued through the Middle Ages and
... enterprise that further advantages students from wealthier families. ProCon.org. (2018, September 27). Is Homework Beneficial? - Top 3 Pros and Cons.