Homework is eating American schoolkids and their families


Of the many terrible problems plaguing American schools, this seems like a minor one to me. The sheer ignorance and inability to learn on their own that most people seem to display even after a college education, much less high school, is not a consequence of more or less homework, anyway. I would rather spend every dollar available funding poor city and rural public school systems than worrying about this issue, if the dollars were discretionary for those two purposes.

Of course in those suburban and wealthy city schools for which too much homework is a problem, the solution is easy enough, and costs no money at all: reduce the amount of homework. Problem solved! My election to the school board is all but certain now…


Average? Me thinks someone needs to learn what average means. Unless by California you mean Korea or Japan.


Yeah, this is a pretty minor problem. Maybe I would change my tune if I were a parent, but as a college student I strongly disagree with the idea that homework does not help students to learn material. I have taken several classes where I would have failed every exam had it not been for the homework I was given to help drive concepts home… at home.

Yeah, it’s a drag. But seriously? Out of all the problems with public education, we are going to pick this one? This blog is making me wonder if “neoliberalism” is simply liberal ideas I disagree with.


3.1 hours, in highschool…I wish. I graduated in 97 and I bet I spent 5+ a night on homework, not to mention half the weekend on projects and stuff. And what the hell do parents think happens when kids go to college? Well I mean if you are taking something easier like business I guess it’s not as bad, but as an engineering undergrad I spent probably 12-16 hours a day between class and work (sleep was clocking in under 4 most days). Besides no one holds your hand in college, if anything highschool should be teaching them how to learn for themselves.

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Hey kid, life is hard.

I have a third-grader and a kindergartner in NC. My kindergartner usually has half an hour to an hour of homework a night. My third grader usually has 1-2 hours of homework, but some days he has homework from the time he gets home until bedtime.

In many cases, the work he’s doing is not adding or reinforcing anything. He spells like a champ. Writing the same spelling word 30 times in 5 different ways does not help him become better at it. He’s good at math, but that doesn’t stop the worksheets with endless math problems. Sometimes those worksheets do a great job reinforcing a concept, but sometimes they’re just repetitive torture.

And now we have a new thing where third graders can’t progress to fourth grade if they don’t pass an end-of-year reading test. I have mixed feelings about the overall concept, but in execution it just means more work for my son. And also, he could have passed the test on the first day of third grade, according to his beginning of year reading assessment. But does that save him from all these reading comprehension worksheets, or the weekly quizzes? Nope.

There are some people here saying that kids need homework so that they’ll be ready for college. I think it’s foolish to say a third-grader needs multiple hours of homework a night in order to prepare him for something he might do in nine years.


“Neoliberal”? Alrighty, lets go look that up. What do you know? From Wikipedia…

American scholar Robert W. McChesney notes that the term neoliberalism, which he defines as “capitalism with the gloves off,” is largely unknown by the general public, especially in the United States.

Yep, I’m pretty sure I’ve never run into that term before. From it’s usage I was thinking it had something to so with American Liberalism. Boy was I wrong and ready to get my knickers in a twist about saying that liberals had anything to do with the crazy testing regimes of the US educational system. Thankfully, my kids are in a more rural district and don’t have to deal with so much of that crap.

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It may be a rude awakening once they graduate from college, I’m presuming for which all of this pressure is heaped upon them, as you mentioned, and the high level jobs are non-existent. Or maybe they’ll all be studying for the career du jour, and there will be a glut of competition for the positions with the same result. I know it sounds pessimistic, but rather than a race to the top, the game is really musical chairs; not enough seating for everyone, and some already have long-standing paid-for reservations at the table. Some time ago, a high school education was pretty solid, for our grandparents and great-grandparents. What happened to the curriculum? Was there a ton of homework back then? How many should go to college if the vast majority of available jobs are service industry related?

The push for all of the ratings stem clearly from the wealthy cottage industry of charter schools, which would like it very much if public education was eliminated so they could move in and profit from its exit. Sorry for the rant here, and being somewhat off-topic.


I didn’t see any value in the homework I avoided in grade school and high school, and didn’t have problems picking up the pace in University when the coursework was interesting and challenging. And I had a lot less than 3 hours in high school - maybe 1 hour that I would almost never do. I’d do well on the exams and major assignments and that seemed to work - even got a scholarship to university.

Forcing kids to do 3 hours of bullshit every night just seems like a good way to increase dropouts, especially since I’ve also heard teachers can’t fail kids, so you don’t even have to leave school to dropout these days.



I suspect Cory stuck “neoliberal” in there because it vaguely fits the “school is a business” narrative.

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The problem with assigning massive amounts of homework in a U.S. public school is that it requires the parents to be very active (albeit unpaid) members of the teaching staff. Works fine in a household with two well-educated parents, one of whom makes enough salary that the other one is home after school every day to support the child’s work – with advice, re-framing, additional explication, healthy snacks, maybe even a private tutor for some subjects – but not so well in households where the parents work multiple jobs, and/or are not well-educated themselves, and/or are not fluent in English.


Thank you for the succinct summary of everything wrong with homework. I have a son in 6th grade and this is my experience as well.

It is not that I think homework is a bad idea. I think 30-45 minutes of homework each night would be very helpful to my son’s learning.

The problem is that 50-60 percent of the homework is essentially irrelevant. I have the opposite problem as you – my son excels at English but has trouble with some higher level math concepts. Invariably, the homework that gets sent home is page after page of English homework that he finishes in 10 minutes because it is busy work to him when it would be better to have Math homework that I could sit with him and work through his difficulties.

It’s really strangegiven how we have systems that collect large amounts of data about student performance that homework is still a one size fits all affair, when it is probably the component most amenable to customizing for a given student’s strengths and weaknesses.


Based on the amount of snow it doesn´t appear to be in California though …


On the bright side, this will prepare then for the grim economic future where they will have to work three jobs to stay out of poverty.


The problem with assigning that much homework is that it assumes a great deal of extracurricular homogeneity among students. Even if we assume that a classroom environment is controlled enough to provide the same baseline experience for all students (and I contend we cannot), there is nothing in a teacher’s abilities to control for the home environment. By treating their own coarsework in isolation and assuming that students are empty vessels just sitting around doing nothing important when they aren’t in the classroom, students are disabused of very human experiences, chiefly compassion and understanding.

Tl;dr Students have lives out of the classroom, and trivializing that has never done educators any good.


I remember little to no home work in grade school in general and yeah maybe an hour or two for high school which I sorta maybe did. This did cause me issues in college (study skills? what are those?) but not for long and later on I found out more it was the long gap between classes than anything else. When I finally took a summer semester and we had class 4 days a week and it alternated quiz/test on fridays I made B’s and A’s. For the rest of it, well I think the GPA is pretty good considering the work put into it.

The amount my kid had to do for Kindergarten amazed me. He has more homework now in 6th grade than I had in senior year of high school.


Well college where you spend typically 3 to 4 hours a day in class/lab then have the rest of the day to dedicate to learning/reinforcing what was gone over in lecture and on monday wednesday friday for the most part is a lot different than the full day of grade school and high school where the kids are there all day and at least when I was there we had time during the day to actually do the assignments in class.


I think the massive amounts of homework also have an unintended effect: Maybe, maybe it teaches some kind of stick-to-it-ness, but I think as often as not, it teaches “work harder, not smarter.” Or just plain stress. My nephew recently had to miss two days of school for some medical tests, and his mother told me the teacher sent home a stack of homework as tall as he is. He’s in first grade. What does that achieve? To prepare him to be a beaten down drone in some corporate hellhole, thinking that working well beyond the hours he’s actually paid to work makes sense or has some kind of reward? In my experience, it doesn’t.

I can’t help but think of a complex analysis course I took in college. The weekly problem sets were notorious for being MASSIVE. We’re talking four days of solid work. I was chided by the TA for only doing a third or, at most, half of them, because then he couldn’t give me “full credit.” Full credit for homework made up 5% of my grade, or 0% of my grade, if my test score average was higher without it, per the professor’s grading scheme. I did enough to get the concepts down cold. Would 18-24 more hours of work have added anything, other than the bleary sleeplessness and agitation that my more “dutiful” classmates demonstrated? Given that I got an A, I doubt it.


my daughter is in a montessori school. they don’t believe in homework because it closes down opportunities to learn from “real life”. that’s great for me. we work on maker projects (ok lego), exploring the park, kitchen experiments, actual home-work (as opposed to academic work). i try to be an involved, enthusiastic parent. but i know lots of families don’t have that luxury. so if they had this time, would their kids just be watching television for 5 hours a day?

on the other hand, if they weren’t so crushed by homework, maybe they could work on being more involved.