The Ups and Downs of Homework

In the midst of my Veteran’s Day weekend, I came across a TED Talk given by Harvard graduate and CEO of Ivy-Way SAT Academy Alex Chang—a certain image within his lecture ignited a fire within me. Chang displayed a figure on the power-point: a triangle that simply read “choose two” with the options of good grades, a social life, and enough sleep at each point. The college triangle—yet dolefully still applicable at the high school level—expresses the taboo of the education system. 

Ideally, a wise decision would be to balance all three of these vital elements of student life. Speaking from experience, however, it is sometimes difficult maintaining just one. A lovely night out with family? The number one priority shifts to completing all of the homework no matter how much sleep must be sacrificed. A healthy eight hours of sleep? That’s eight hours of potential study time wasted and needs to be made up. The least stressful option might be to obtain good grades and enough rest—assuming it’s alright to become a shut-in that does nothing but homework and sleep—repeating the same arduous process everyday.

The point is, the main obstacle in each of these scenarios is completing the homework. Having a social life and enough sleep is critical to the human brain; being able to find the Pythagorean theorem of a triangle is not. This ultimately begs the question of whether homework is beneficial to students in the first place. 

“[H]omework can be both lonely and exhausting, especially after six hours in school,” Janine Bempechat from the Los Angeles Times declares.

Admittedly, homework is not completely useless. Not only is it beneficial in terms of reinforcing what is taught in class, it encourages self discipline, and teaches time management skills. However, too much homework causes depression and lower test scores. 

“[Homework] causes students to feel overburdened and stressed,” Natalie Wexler, a journalist from Forbes, appends.

At times, too much homework can actually backfire—potentially causing a setback in a student’s academic progression. To illustrate, if there are twenty math problems and a student does every problem incorrectly as homework, they have essentially programmed themselves wrong. As opposed to a worksheet that would have, say, five problems, the student will easily be able to see the fault in their thinking the next day at school and swiftly correct themselves—not to mention that they will also have time to spare for family and rest. 

Balancing good grades, a social life, and enough sleep should not have to be a challenge for developing teenagers. Teachers should be more wary about the amount of work they give to their students and acknowledge the life kids have outside of school.