As students progress through different levels of the school system, they find that they are receiving more and more homework. While it is understandable to believe that harder classes would require more homework, many students, parents and teachers alike believe that the average student is weighed down by homework. They also believe that this causes unhealthy habits among high school and college students. Such habits include inconsistent sleeping hours and a reliance on study drugs like Adderall or Vyvanse. For some teachers,
As students progress through different levels of the school system, they find that they are receiving more and more homework. While it is understandable to believe that harder classes would require more homework, many students, parents and teachers alike believe that the average student is weighed down by homework. They also believe that this causes unhealthy habits among high school and college students. Such habits include inconsistent sleeping hours and a reliance on study drugs like Adderall or Vyvanse. For some teachers, workload is a matter of not wanting to be considered easy, but instead a matter of separating themselves from other teachers by developing a unique curriculum that stands alone.
Other teachers believe that higher-level students should receive more homework as they progress through the ranks. To an extent this is true, but a study done by Brown University and Rhode Island College says elementary school students are getting more homework than what is recommended. Stephanie Donaldson-Pressman of the New England Center for Pediatric Psychology, and an expert on the topic, explains; “According to the National Education Association, kindergarteners are not supposed to have any homework at all. And then first and second graders also had homework in excess of what we call the 10 minute rule, that’s 10 minutes of homework per grade, per child, per night.” Currently, students of all ages are over-worked according to Donaldson-Pressman. High school and College students receive the worst treatment, often reporting anywhere from 5-7 hours of homework on a given night. Add in extracurricular activities and family time and this becomes an immense burden on these young adults.
As far as unhealthy habits go, it is widely known that many high school and college aged students abuse study drugs. Full-time college students were twice as likely to have used Adderall non-medically as their counterparts who were not full-time students, according to a National Survey on Drug Use and Health report released in 2009.
The numbers vary significantly by school, with the greatest proportion of users at private and “elite” universities. Some researchers estimate about 30% of students use stimulants non-medically. In my experience, students who are prescribed Adderall or Vyvanse will often sell their prescriptions to friends during exam weeks. Not only is this highly illegal, but it also leads to abuse of the drug. Students who are prescribed 30 milligrams of Vyvanse will sell two or three of their pills to a peer, and their peer will then proceed to take all of the pills throughout the night while studying. These habits can lead to heart problems and many more complications not normally experienced by young adults. While the risk for heart problems at a young age are very small, as students progress through college and into the workforce, their dependence on the drug to focus will rise, and ultimately cause a higher risk for heart problems later in life.
Another factor that plays into the “too much homework” dilemma is the wealth disparity between families in many schools. Cathy Vatterott of ASCD, a publication focused solely on education and learning, says “many teachers continue to assign the same homework to all students in the class and continue to disproportionately fail students from lower-income households for not doing homework”. Some children are set up to succeed and helped by their surroundings while their peers from lower income families may be working to make money or simply don’t have the resources to preform at the same level. A widely discussed theory in relation to income disparity is the “digital divide”. In 2009, the FCC’s Broadband Task Force determined that 70% of teachers assign homework requiring broadband access. Unfortunately, over 5 million school-aged children live in homes that did not have access to the internet. For many students this means getting your work done by spending extra time at school, or heading to the local library to finish your homework. Both are very workable options, but it ultimately creates an uneven playing field and allows more well off students a higher chance at success.
For many students, young and old, the war against homework is an unwinnable one. Appropriate workload is a very subjective concept, especially when you consider that high school and college-aged students often have more than four classes and four teachers assigning work. It is unreasonable to expect all four teachers to collaborate and develop a different plan when this one has worked relatively well for so many years. One thing that has not been discussed yet is personal responsibility and time management. Something I have seen in my own life, as well as many others, is procrastination. Especially among college students, the lack of structure at home leads to poor working habits. This is where I believe the problem ultimately lies; instead of assigning less homework, students should be urged to learn time management and actually work more independently from their parents at a young age. I believe that if these habits are learned when workload is light, it will be much easier to adapt to more intense conditions as the child grows.