How One Hour Turned into Many: The Problem with Homework


Enzo Goebel, Staff Writer

Five…Four…the inaudible countdown of the clock…Three…Two…students excitedly chatter…One…The faint sound of a bell stirs you from your haze. Then comes the struggle, pushing, shoving, all gasping for a breath of fresh air, all straining their eyes to catch a glimpse of sunlight. Everything around you is overwrought with mass hysteria fueled by freedom, then comes the dread. Call it childish, but it dawns on you that you have homework.

As innocent as this sounds, students face such a struggle every day. Without time to socialize, participate in extracurricular activities, or even sleep, the purpose of homework is not only overwhelming, but genuinely misunderstood. Typically, it does not challenge a student, but forces them to repeat exercises done in class. A study at Stanford University suggests that students receive so much homework that it hinders their performance in school and impacts their health by causing stress and sleep deprivation. A strong way to put a simple statement, nonetheless strikingly true.

As a scholar-athlete, I can attest to this statement. Not only that, but I believe that students are receiving too much homework (more than 17 hours a week for high schoolers, according to the LA Times) and that homework is being given with the wrong aim. A common misconception among people in any profession is that practice makes perfect. Rules such as the 10,000-hour rule are purely numerical and therefore do not take into account “deep practice” which in simple terms is correct, focused practice (for further reference, check out The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle).  Teachers are assigning homework that requires students to complete work that they should have already done in class, something that is not beneficial in the least for high achieving students. 

Although studies have shown that homework can be useful in implementing techniques proven to teach students, “Even if teachers do manage to assign effective homework, it may not show up on the measures of achievement used by researchers,” says Forbes. This is because while a student may study literature through concepts of ancient Egypt, if the test is conceptualized around arctic explorers, the student is less likely to succeed. Homework for the sake of homework is just not right, nor is it proven to work.

A popular rule of thumb among researchers called the “ten-minute rule” implies that homework should take ten minutes a night, per grade level. Up to 12th grade that would be 120 minutes, approximately two hours. It’s fair to say students in 12th grade and below spend much more time on homework on average. Despite some differences in international comparisons, The Atlantic reports that “Some countries whose students regularly outperform American kids on standardized tests, such as Japan and Denmark, send their students home with less schoolwork, while students from some countries with higher homework loads than the U.S., such as Thailand and Greece, fare worse on tests.”

As a result, some schools have been lessening the workload of students or banning homework altogether. In reaction to this, students were surprisingly more motivated to do extra work and to use their time wisely. Believe it or not, the amount of homework given in schools can be traced back to events around the world. When the U.S was in a Cold War with Russia, for fear of losing the race, schools in America started giving more homework. Homework is more than meets the eye, therefore we must invest more in the next generation. 

In short, the methods teachers are using are wrong. The line between work and busywork is delicate and thinning every day. We need to look at what is wrong with homework in schools in search of a solution. The aim of school is to prepare students for real life, even more so, to help them pursue their passions, something vital to standing out in college applications if I might add. How can one pursue their passion when they fall victim to busywork all for the sake of good grades. Society today measures success in grades and that there should indicate an issue with the school system today.