There has been a long-standing debate on whether our schools should have homework or not. This is not a new debate, but has recently gotten media attention due to a Texas teacher getting rid of homework in her classroom.
Parents in the US have been complaining for years that their children are assigned too much homework, leaving no time for other activities. While the US school system continues to add more and more homework, countries like Finland have a national no homework policy. There have been a few research studies looking into the benefits of homework and they really aren’t that convincing to me.
Why Homework in Elementary School is Absurd
I liken this to residency, we work ridiculous hours and see more and more patients. We also have assignments, studying for boards, and just overall studying for treating our patients. It is so ridiculous that the ACGME finally stepped in and said we can not work more than 80 hours per week and have to have a certain many of hours in between shifts, depending on your level. As if 80 hours is a reasonable work week! And that does not negate any of the other work we are still required to do. Plus, being the sneaky people they are, working from home does not count in our hours, how nice of them.
Does the increased exposure help us learn more? Yes, of course it does. Do the massive hours pay off in passing our boards exam? Absolutely. Yet physicians have the highest rate of suicide in all professions. Thats right, most of us are clinically depressed to the point that we are ending our own lives. We are unable to have a normal social life, we take time away from our family on holidays and major events, we are thought of as weak if we call in sick… It is unhealthy and it is not right.
We Are Setting Bad Goals For Our Children
While elementary school is not as dramatic as residency, the same concepts apply. Kids go to school for 8 hours a day and then have homework afterwards. There is no time for playing outside, interacting with other kids, developing social interactions, and learning a proper work-life balance. We are teaching our kids to take their work home with them when they become adults. They are taught to work as many hours as possible to get ahead. The priority for work is set at a young age, instead of prioritizing health, social interaction, and family time. Will more work make them score higher and learn more, maybe. But what are they having to give up? What habits are we teaching them?
These habits show. Americans didn’t take 658 million paid vacation days in 2015. We work longer hours, spend less time with or family, and are always trying to get ahead.
No Homework Is the First Step
Now, I don’t think this is a black-or-white topic. Getting rid of homework is not the answer to all our problems. We need to maximize the time spent in the classroom with more efficient learning. We need smaller class sizes and more individualized learning. And we need more funding for education. Parents need to limit TV and video game time so kids go outside and play. We need to encourage social interaction and physical activity. But stopping or limiting the amount of homework is a great start.