Ask any high school student what they think of school. I can almost guarantee that they will say they hate it. Ask them why, and one of the most common reasons will no doubt be homework. I can easily recall from my own high school experience not that long ago the terrible, crushing feeling of getting home from an exhausting day at school with not enough sleep, and rather than being able to relax, having to start on the enormous piles of homework my AP classes commonly assigned. Indeed, many promising students were scared away from the more advanced classes by the huge amounts of work they represented, especially when they had after school activities that simply didn’t leave enough time for homework.
“But wait,” you might say. “Homework is important! How can we expect students to learn material if they don’t repeatedly practice it?” Certainly, some students must repeatedly go over material to remember it. But many other students, myself included, need only cover it once in class to learn it. By making every student repeat material over and over again, are we not catering to the lowest common denominator? Is this not the very definition of the word busywork? For many students, homework offers no educational benefit, only stress and loss of sleep.
“But without homework, what will we grade?” you say. Grade? The point of school, which many people seem to have forgotten, is not to get high grades. The point of school is learning. All grades are supposed to be is a measure of how well you have learned the material. Instead, they have taken on a life of their own, and like a strangler fig growing around a tree, choked the life out of the original purpose of school. Homework is considered important not because it helps to learn the material, but because your grade depends on it. To see the impact of the obsession with grades, one need only look at the phenomena of cheating. Cheating undermines the very purpose of school, because it allows you to look as though you’ve learned the material without actually learning it. Clearly, actual education has been cast by the wayside in favor of higher grades. And of course, the main cause of cheating is too much stress or not enough time to learn the material yourself, once again brought on largely by the immense amount of homework students are given.
So here is what I propose. Make every single homework assignment given an optional, extra credit assignment. Then, students who don’t need repetition to learn material will get high grades on the test without the need for homework, and students who don’t test well will have a way to easily bring their grades up. If a student needed to do the homework to learn them material and chose not to, it will show on the test. Now, before you begin lambasting my idea, consider the source of your outrage. In this system, it would be a simple matter to pass classes, not requiring a large amount of work at all. School with no work? How ridiculous! But of course, as I have said, the point of school is not work. It’s education, and without the huge pressure to maintain grades and the huge stress caused by homework, I can guarantee that students would be happier in school, and more importantly, learn more. So what’s really important here?