From kindergartners to college students, they would all tell you the same thing: we need less homework. Met by the rolling eyes of teachers and parents, the call to less or no homework at all is often brushed off, believed to be silly and the mark of a bad student. But the question holds more meaning than it lets on — are the pros of no homework fact or fiction?
Though homework has long been ubiquitous in school, the national homework argument is rarely discussed, at least for students. The biggest exposure to “no-homework” school nights is often unintentional, noted by the traumatizing memory of skipping assigned work only to rush the next day before teachers check.
For one reason or another, homework is a dreaded item in students’ schedules. Yet, if done correctly, incorporating no-homework school nights (without entirely removing homework) can improve students’ school-life balance while raising the quality of in-person content, upping academic performance as a whole.
According to a survey by Baron Banner, 83.9% of Barons said homework was the leading cause behind their sleep deprivation. Many students have extracurriculars and sports, as well as other responsibilities — such as family duties and jobs — that they have to juggle.
Seeing a list of deadlines for assignments on top of this as well is not only draining, it encourages skipping urgent self-care. The result? 70% of students at Fountain Valley High School get less than the recommended 8-10 hours of sleep per night.
Now, it could be contended that students should prioritize their education and manage time to do assignments, just like any other activity. Yet, how much of homework is actually quality work? Though it varies by teacher, a major complaint about homework is its quantitative nature, focusing on length rather than content or analysis.
Though larger amounts of homework is important for repetition and covering more units, this can also lead to boredom. Even for memorization-heavy classes, homework based mainly on accumulating facts can be reduced to just that — a list of things to know without really going in depth. Used to seeing the same problems with similar contexts, students learn to recite information rather than apply it in their own words.
Instead of imposing fact-based questions that are lengthy for students at home, more emphasis should be placed on activities that elaborates on concepts and forces students to think critically.
English Department coordinator Amy Phelan is an example of a teacher who rarely assigns homework, despite teaching honors classes — and she does it well.
“I don’t feel like we’re missing out on anything if I don’t give homework. I think a lot of practice in class helps with that,” Phelan said. “A lot of it is about quality over quantity…Maybe you cut out a play or a poem that you usually do, but you spend more time practicing skills instead of covering material.”
By raising the quality of in-person classes and honing in on a student’s skill set, homework is rarely needed for Phelan to make up for students’ comprehension.
Admittedly, every department is different. While, say, English may have more flexible standards and deadlines for curriculum that needs to be taught, this may not be the same for science or math, both content-heavy subjects. Homework and classwork strong in content such as these continue to hold its relevance for extra practice, as long as this is executed well.
Yet, for English or the humanities, daily loads of strenuous assignments can be unnecessary. Especially given the more abstract nature of these subjects, their concepts may be better delved upon in person instead of alone at home, leaving students scratching their heads when there’s no help.
Moreover, homework and in-class work goes hand in hand. Homework should not be a safety net that covers for inadequate class teaching. Lectures that involve little participation and, therefore, less active learning have got to go. Upping the rigor of material taught in class yields more contributions from students, which forges their skills to think quickly and creatively — arguably much more valuable than a long list of questions as homework.
The reality of homework is this: heavy workloads encourage rushed work for the sake of a grade. Questions with noncritical responses promote scanning through the given source for keywords that tell you the answer, instead of reading the source itself.
While others copy the source word for word in their responses, eager to not only be done with the assignment but to give the answer that teachers are looking for — not the answer that makes sense to them. Given the rich complexity of the subjects students are learning about — such as nuances of history, self-expression of the humanities, or intricacies of the sciences — homework diluted in this manner transforms the heart of education to a one-dimensional mockery of its subject.
It is without a doubt that homework still has a role in school. However, at least by attempting to give no homework, teachers are pushed to raise the quality of classes, all while letting students have a life outside of school.
Furthermore, if teachers are taking the initiative to assign less homework, it is students’ responsibility to manage the extra time wisely. Instead of procrastination caused by a discouraging workload, students need to jump on taking better care of themselves. Rather than studying for a test one or two nights before, which is often the case when there’s a heavy stack of homework, Barons can instead spread out their studying time over a week or two, which in turn encourages improved long-term memory and more enjoyable learning.
Homework doesn’t equate to quality. If more no-homework nights are incorporated, the practice of assigning only then can it regain its meaning: a means of helping students learn, rather than cram all for a letter on their transcript.