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Volume 13, Number 6
November/December 1997

Rethinking Homework


In 1901, the state of California voted to abolish homework for children under the age of 15. The ban wasn't repealed until 1929. In 1994—nearly a century later—a district just north of San Francisco entertained the same notion when a member of the school board proposed banning homework from the school curriculum. This time the proposal was rejected: the 3,700 students in the Cabrillo Unified State District still have to do their homework.

The controversy about whether to give kids homework will go on as long as there are teachers to assign it and students to complain about doing it. Even now, while many parents and educators today are demanding more homework, an equally vocal group worries that we are placing too much of a burden on kids, especially the youngest.

"We are [so] anxious to prepare our children for this uncertain future... [that we don't realize] we might be taking away their childhood in the process," one parent writes in "H Is for Homework Hysteria," an article in Chatelaine magazine.

This is an excerpt from the Harvard Education Letter. Subscribers can click here to continue reading this article.


For Further Information

For Further Information

H. Cooper and J. J. Lindsay. "Relationships Between Attitudes About Homework, the Amount of Homework Assigned and Completed, and Student Achievement." Journal of Education Psychology (in press).

H. Gardner. The Unschooled Mind: How Children Think and How Schools Should Teach. New York: Basic Books, 1991.

D. Perkins. "Teaching for Understanding." American Educator 17, no. 3 (Fall 1993): 8, 28-35.

D. Perkins. Smart Schools: From Training Memories to Educating Minds. New York: Free Press, 1992.

R.J. Sternberg. Successful Intelligence. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996.

R.J. Sternberg and L. Spear-Swerling. Teaching for Thinking. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 1996. [One in a series entitled Psychology in the Classroom: A Series on Applied Educational Psychology, eds. B.L. McCombs and S. McNeely.

H.W. Stevenson and J.W. Stigler. The Learning Gap: Why Our Schools Are Failing and What We Can Learn from Japanese and Chinese Education. New York: Summit Books, 1992.

H. Walberg. "Does Homework Help?" School Community Journal 1, no. 1 (Spring-Summer 1991): 13-15.

H. Walberg and R.A. Paschcal. "Homework." In H. Torsten and T.N. Postlethwaite (eds.), International Encyclopedia of Education, 2nd ed. Oxford, Eng.: Pergamon Press, 1994: 2628-2631.