The Great Homework Debate

Da’Von C. Crutchfield

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Has homework become more than just that? The ongoing debate that plagues the educational world almost daily is: Are teachers assigning too much homework? For college students, are there too many assignments given, or is the work too dense to complete within a reasonable amount of time? After sitting in a lecture hall for three or more hours, and having retained and learned new information, the task of having to come home and read up to another three hours of content about the very subject that was just presented in the lecture can be overwhelming for even the most prestigious student.

“It’s like a joke to me sometimes,” Ebony of Orange, New Jersey, a single mother of one, says about homework. “I mean, it’s like teachers don’t consider the fact that some of us have lives outside of school. I got a baby at home so I barely have time to do stuff around the house forget homework.”

The idea behind a homework assignment is to keep the student engaged in the learning process and to bring forth perhaps a new understanding to the next class. From grammar school to high school homework is enforced; but at the collegiate level, students are instilled with a certain expectation to manage and balance their own academic responsibilities. One professor may assign a reading of 50 plus pages, and require a one page analysis of the content, due in one week. While another may assign two readings and three page analysis comparing the two due in two days. Both assignments are critical for a passing grade, but for students like Ebony, who also have to care for a small child, getting to those readings can seem virtually impossible.

“I complained about the homework I used to get in high school, because it took time away from me hanging out with my friends and what not. But now, I wish I was dealing with some of the homework I had to do back then. This stuff is hard, and my baby don’t make it no easier” says Ebony.

There are no breaks for a working mother and student. Drastic measures sometimes have to be taken just to make sure assignments are complete. The bathroom sink may serve as a desk one late night.

The waiting room at the pediatrician’s office may also serve as the perfect place to get through the last chapter with good reading light. Lunch breaks at work aren’t for lunch, they are for catching up on the reading that’s due in a few days.

But what is the professor who creates the assignments’ thoughts? What goes on in their mind when organizing a syllabus for the semester? Do they factor in the demanding personal lives for some of their students?

“No” says, Dr. Deborah Sanders, Professor of African American Studies at New Jersey City University. She explains that for her courses, she gives assignments with a reasonable amount of completion time.

“I would rather have a student come to me and tell me they worked really hard and are stuck on a thought two pages into the assignment and need more time to hand it in, than to have a student hand me nothing” she says.

“I hold my students to a continuum for their work,” she continues. “You are responsible for knowing what you are doing and what you have to do.”

The great homework debate of the 21st century has yet to have come to a conclusion. The fact of the matter is that there is no real way to determine how much homework is too much. For Ebony, even the simplest assignment can be daunting to complete.