For parents and students, homework is an everyday part of their lives. But who invents homework? How did it become a normal part of education? Here’s a brief history on homework in the United States.
Myth and History: The origins of Homework
Who was the one who invented homework whoinvented.info? We may never know. Many people and events have played a role in its history. Let’s begin with two of its key influencers.
The Dubious Roberto Nevelis Venice
Roberto Nevelis, from Venice, Italy, is frequently credited as having invented homework in 1095 or 1905, depending on the source. On closer examination, however, he appears to be more of an online myth than a historical individualage.
Horace Mann (18th century politician and educational reformer) was a key figure in the history of homework. Mann, like his contemporaries Henry Barnard (and Calvin Ellis Stowe) had a strong interest the compulsory public school education system in Germany’s new unified nation.
Horace Mann is part in the history and legacy of homework.
Volksschulen pupils were required to complete assignments at their home. This required that students complete mandatory assignments at home, highlighting the state’s control over individuals during a time of nationalists like Johann Gottlieb Fichte trying to raise support for a German unity state. Fichte’s involvement with Volksschulen was before homework was created, but his political goals could be seen as a catalyst in the institution of homework.
Horace Mann spearheaded the development of government-regulated, tax-funded public education in the United States. During a 1843 visit to Germany, Mann saw the Volkschule method in action. He brought back some of its concepts including homework.
Homework in American Public School System
Homework is an integral part American education. However, not everyone has accepted it. Education professionals and parents continue to debate their pros and cons, as they have for the past century.
1900s: Homework Bans & Anti-Homework Sentiment
A homework ban was instituted in California in 1901, just a few generations after the original idea of homework first made its way across Atlantic. It applied to all students under the age of 15 and was in effect until 1917.
The New York Times and Ladies Home Journal also used statements from parents or medical professionals to portray homework’s negative effects on children’s health.
California was the home of one of the first American homework bans.
1930: Homework as Child Labour
In 1930, the American Child Health Association declared that child labor was homework. This proclamation came after recent child labor laws were passed. It was a negative view of homework as an acceptable educational activity.
The Progressive Era, Early-to Mid-20th Century: Homework
During the progressive education reforms, in the late 19th or early 20th centuries teachers looked for ways to make homework assignments more personal to the students. Could this be the way that the famous essay topic, What I Did On My Summer Vacation?” was born.
Children may wonder who came up with it while doing homework.
The Cold War – Homework Heats Up
Cold War erupted in 1950s America-Russian rivalries after World War II. Sputnik 1’s 2005 launch ignited rivalry between Americans and Russians–including their youth.
U.S. education leaders decided that rigorous homework was a way to ensure American students weren’t behind Russian counterparts. This is especially true in the increasingly competitive fields science and math.
1980s: A Nation at Risk – Homework
The 1986 U.S. Department of Education pamphlet What Works included homework as one of the effective educational strategies. This pamphlet came three years after The National Commission on Excellence in Education released its landmark report A Nation at Risk:The Imperative for Education Reform.
Early 21st Century: Homework bans return
Teachers and other concerned citizens are starting to question the importance of homework. There are many books available on the subject.
The Case Against Homework: Why Homework Is Harming Our Children and How We Can Stop It by Sarah Bennett, Nancy Kalish (2006)
Dr. Harris Cooper from Duke University, Third Edition: The Battle Over Homework. Common Ground for Administrators Teachers and Parents
The End Homework: How Homework Distorts Families, Overburdens children, and Limits Learning (2000) by John Buell, journalist, and Dr. Etta Karlovec, educator.
Homework is still controversial today. Some schools have introduced homework bans that are very similar to those of the last century. Teachers have a variety of opinions on these bans. Parents must deal with the disruptions in their home lives that such bans cause.