Posted by: Staff | 02.11.2008

Too Much Homework?

ERIK TOBIAS ’09

One of the most admirable aspects of the Beaver Country Day School is that it offers “progressive education” to its students. It is therefore ironic that Beaver’s biggest flaw is that its high school students are inundated with homework. Junior year is notorious for weighting down the average student to the point of academic surrender. However, Beaver is becoming progressively mainstream because, just like every other high school, Beaver is piling on the homework. Beaver’s mission is to offer its students “an academically challenging curriculum in an environment that promotes balance in students’ lives.” The balance in student’s lives is starting to deteriorate. School work, particularly academics and afternoon activities, are causing students to lose the balance that Beaver preaches. The homework load at Beaver is far too high and ultimately prevents students from performing their best in school and from pursing other activities outside of school. Beaver could truly be progressive if it were to limit homework to one hour per night, in addition to half an hour of reading. This would allow students to be well rounded and pursue other activities outside of school that kids should be able to do.

As a student, I have a very busy schedule. I wake up every morning at 6:15am and try to finish up bits of homework from the previous night. It is always a struggle getting out of the house considering I am trying to finish homework, get ready for school and leave the house all at the same time. Somehow, I manage to arrive at Beaver 15 minutes before class starts (Mr.Manning’s time cushion). I then spend the next seven or so hours in classes. I then travel from Beaver straight to golf practice for two hours. By the time I get home after golf practice, it is 6:00pm. I eat dinner with my family until 6:30. That is my only real break of the day. Then I begin the marathon. I receive at the minimum an hour of homework from each class. Considering that I take four classes, that adds up to about four hours of homework starting at 6:30pm.

The homework at Beaver is often drills information into your head. In Spanish, we might practice conjugating verbs, in math we might practice problems, in history we might work on a project, and so forth. The point is that the majority of the homework I receive does not actually teach me anything, but simply drills points made in class into my head. Hence, homework like this could be significantly reduced considering it is mostly “busy work.” I understand that some busy work is necessary in order to completely comprehend information, but the amount I receive of it is significantly too high. I also understand that students do have an extended lunch period, but many students use that to see teachers for extra help. When the clock hits 11:00pm, I can barely keep my eyes open and I decide to go to bed even if I haven’t finished my homework. On match days, I often get back to Beaver anywhere from 7:30pm-9:00pm. After a match, I am normally exhausted and have to begin my homework late at night. I have come to the conclusion that doing homework after a match is useless because there is no way I can retain anything when I am that tired. I simply scratch words on the paper just to get it done, not caring whether it is right or wrong.

With endless amounts of homework, children are missing some of the best times of their lives. As people get older, they often yearn to be young again. As my Dad says, “I am a 20 year old, trapped in a 50 year old’s body.” With that being said, I want to be able to take advantage of my youth. When my parents were kids, they didn’t have a lot of homework. They were able to pursue activities outside of school. With less homework, the possibilities are endless. I could get a job after school or volunteer part time at veterinary hospital. Maybe I could actually get involved in politics or pursue Model UN more seriously. Maybe I could practice music with my band. Maybe I could take up cooking. Maybe I could practice a sport or see my friends. All I want is to be able to be kid. While I am in school, the only time I can be a kid is from Friday night to Saturday night because Sunday is completely taken up by homework. High school should be one of the greatest times of my life; I don’t want to remember it by sitting at my desk doing homework. And yes, most of my homework simply requires a desk and computer: not very progressive.

This world is becoming overworked and over programmed. A few students and professors at Penn State actually did a study on how too much homework can be counterproductive. Statistics even prove that “many countries with the highest scoring students, such as Japan, the Czech Republic and Denmark, have teachers who give little homework. At the other end of the spectrum, countries with very low average scores — Thailand, Greece, Iran — have teachers who assign a great deal of homework.” In the 1980’s, countries started to increase homework in response to performance in comparison to Japanese students. Conversely, Japanese schools were actually lowering amounts of homework. Studies show that math teachers currently in the US assign five-six hours of homework a week (too much) while Japanese schools give two-three hours a week. It has also been proven that working non-stop all day tends to reduce the amount of knowledge you can retain. Along those lines, many case studies have been done in order to show that if a teenager doesn’t receive ten hours of sleep a night, his or her learning will be considerably less productive. On a normal day, I receive less than 7 hours of sleep because of homework; my learning is infringed upon considerably.

I realize that there isn’t much I can do to change the schedule of my day, but there is room to change my life at home. If I were to get home after school and spend one hour doing homework and a half hour of reading, I guarantee my grades, cheerfulness, mood, extracurricular activities and general knowledge of the world outside of Beaver Country Day School would flourish. I understand that by doing less homework, you are learning less information, but only to a certain extent. The human brain can only retain so much work. As the renowned columnist Thomas Friedman said, “It’s for all these reasons [that I have mentioned] that I’ve been calling them “Generation Q” — the Quiet Americans, in the best sense of that term, quietly pursuing their idealism, at home and abroad.” In other words, because we are so involved in school, homework and extracurricular activities, this generation is not able to formulate opinions and voice them; we simply don’t have time or energy to.

Every day, I notice kids that haven’t done their homework and I am secretly proud of them. I know that they have spent time outside of school pursing something they wanted to do instead of doing homework. It just so happens that many of these kids are the most brilliant kids I know. Their grades might not reflect it, but somehow I know they will be just fine in life; doing it their way.

Advertisements

Responses

  1. wow, really good article Erik!

  2. Just out of curiosity, Erik, which classes are you taking?

    You spend much of your article describing your struggles with homework as a junior.

    Do you notice freshman struggling or sophomores? How about the middle school?

  3. You know, I also wrote a homework-oriented persuasive essay last year, with many of the same points. I described how, that week alone, I had averaged 4.2 hours of sleep a night. I, like you, cited research describing homework as counterproductive. And I talked about the various ill effects of sleep deprivation and high stress, from diabetes to memory loss to obesity. (I’ve since seen material that adds cancer to the list.)

    But it’s hard to know what the best course of action is. How much is me, and how much is the system? What types of homework are most effective? Are teachers putting enough thought into making their homework worthwhile?

    You could devote your whole life to finding the answers…

  4. I was thinking about this in the context of Sam and Nate’s Wed. Forum presentation yesterday about stress. Obviously, there’s a point at which homework becomes counterproductive–the point at which “I want a cookie” stress turns into “toxic stress” or whatever it’s called.

    But it varies so much from student to student that I’m not sure a good solution is possible without a radical restructuring of the educational system. (Just ask one of the tech giants, Google/Microsoft/Amazon types, to come up with a new scheme with unlimited personalization and unprecendented stat-tracking & analysis… tie it in to some health monitors and you’re set, except now some tech giant knows your every thought and move, haha.)

  5. How can you be secretly proud of kids that do their homework when you’ve clearly expressed this “secret” opinion on a well-known newspaper?

  6. “Every day, I notice kids that HAVEN’T done their homework and I am secretly proud of them.”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: