Excessive Homework ~ An Educational Problem?

Who is the stereotypical American teenager?

The glorious stereotype of the average high school student was born countless times ago from various audiences: a picture of care free bliss worked with paint brushes such as amounts of unique social swagger mixed with remnants of TV dinners. The teenager in America has a bubble of his own, at least, as seen by people of other aged classes, in almost every aspect of life, including entertainment of all kinds and the culture thereof. Seemingly, that same stereotype played a large, yet subtle role in crafting the modern educational system of America. Activities and character builders such as standardized tests and homework, in their modern forms, were birthed out of the interest of America’s future. As the world got smarter and information became more abundant with the birth of technology, the new abundance of teachable material exceeded the sheer time available. As this time progressed, homework, especially, took on a different form and purpose, being more weighing on time and grades than ever before in an effort to reinforce material that could not be accurately reinforced in class. Though, adding more homework to a student’s workload may not be the right answer to America’s education problem. As studies and experiences have shown, modern American students receive too much homework on a nightly basis, hindering social and all around, fruitful development.

While some argue that homework, even in substantial amounts, makes a student’s brain stronger and more apt to learning, the evidence on the matter points, more so, to excessive homework promoting mental tiredness and a near-sighted learning experience. Denise Pope, a senior lecturer at the Stanford Graduate School of Education, co-authored a study focused on the post-school effects of homework on students, a study which was published in the Journal of Experimental Education. “Our findings on the effects of homework challenge the traditional assumption that homework is inherently good,” expressed Pope concerning the study (Pope para. 2). Of 4,317 students out of 10 well-achieving high schools in various “upper-middle-class” California communities, 56% considered homework a “primary source of stress” while less than 1% considered homework a non-stressor. For these students, the combined time required to complete homework was 3.1 hours per night and many of the same students reported sleep-deprivation being the most impactful result of an oversized homework load. Lack of sleep, naturally, sets students up for a constant cycle of back-peddling in school, seeing that the brain, school’s daily target for struggle, really only gets a break during sleep. Even more so, long term disadvantages can result from too many short term stressors such as an obscene workload. Near-sighted learning often results from hindering amounts of homework, an effect that has students “playing the game” of school rather than taking away lessons that will aid them in the workforce, a process that leaves students always grasping, but never reaching, their full potential. Though, in the short term, this mindset, paired with the frustration coming from sleep deprivation, diverts kids from actually learning in school to, instead, do what they can to pass and focus on things that can benefit themselves, like their social lives.

While some would say that teenagers naturally do well to maintain their heavy school and social lives, studies show that too much homework, especially, limits social development. Harris Cooper, Ph.D., who is a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University, argues that, especially with younger teenagers, learning may not be fully accomplished with homework that exceeds a few hours per night, as seen on Lauren Miller’s article “High School Homework: Are American Students Overworked?” on “[Students] will miss out on active playtime, essential for learning social skills, proper brain development, and warding off childhood obesity” (Miller para. 5). With the previously mentioned mindset so often developed by teenagers to simply “play the game” of school, mounting plans of college and employment often divert students away from healthy development socially. With the combined time constraint and worry-filled mental extravaganza associated with homework exceeding 2-4 hours each night, students neither have the hindsight nor the correct mental state to correctly/subconsciously develop their social lives, commodities which have proven to serve employees just as well as sufficient head knowledge in the workforce.

As well, too much homework creates a worry-filled state of mind for a student, sapping from the student the main reason for school: learning and the love of learning. All around America, all curiosity, glory, interest, color, and strength is constantly zapped from schoolwork because, suddenly, homework becomes a threatening force at a student’s well-being when added at obscene amounts. As previously mentioned, 56% of the students in the California study expressed homework as their primary source of stress. Being something so feared and worried about, an adolescent cannot be expected to face it head on and take it at face value, picturing it as something he can control. That attitude and something feared mix like oil and water. If a student does not love learning, he will not learn as well as they could, and that will decidedly hinder his impact in college and beyond.

Finally, too much homework promotes lower overall grades for a high school student. With the cocktail of all the factors previously mentioned in play, American students are receiving lower grades than students from other countries with less homework, across the board. Finland, a country that uniformly gives out substantially less amounts of homework than the United States, ranked at the top of the world in the PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) standardized test in 2006, scoring more than 20 (mean) points higher than the second-place country. The United States was not in the top ten achieving countries. Additionally, while the average United States’ fifth grader has 50 minutes of homework per day, Finnish students rarely do homework until their teen years when more life-applicable subjects and assignments require it, according to a graphic presented by Finland, though, is not the only country that has taken a step back on the role that homework plays. In fact, the United States is, subjectively, the only socially powerful country to place a heavy emphasis on homework. Voices from other countries like Finland show a new direction the world may be taking in the realm of education and the United States is definitively falling on the wrong side of the coin. Per the 2012 PISA, the United States ranks 31st in mathematics, 24th in science, and 21st in reading, all below international averages and falling substantially even from their own scores in the 2009 PISA, dropping 6 ranks in math, 4 ranks in science, and 10 ranks in reading. Finland ranked above average in all three categories and currently looks down on the United States in the realm of education. A country which prides itself on being a step ahead, the United States is definitively falling behind in education mainly because of an abundance of homework.

In conclusion, the uniform, oversized homework load placed daily on the modern American student hinders his perspective on school and promotes mental fatigue. To even more of a detriment, too much homework on students has been revealed as a limitation to social development, a catalyst to a worry-filled mind, and, cumulatively, a hindering force to a students’ full potential, a potential that is reflected in the grade book. While a high school student may put on the façade of happy-go-lucky, he, more than likely, faces more grown up problems than he ever thought he would face in high school, learning to juggle a demanding workload. While the stereotypical American is characterized by his patriotic attitude, known by the fact that he can get the work done when no one else can, the future of America is being hindered by a harsh educational system and cannot meet world class standards. For the first time, a new stereotype can be placed on the United States of America: underachieving.