Categorized | Opinion/Editorial

Pros and Cons of making homework optional

Pro

Catherine Gagulashvili calendar manager

Not doing anything is so much easier than doing something. By nature, students would rather avoid doing strenuous amounts of homework, simply because it’s less taxing. When given the option to not do homework on a daily basis, the average student may leap at the opportunity to slack off. They would do that without taking into account the fact that being assigned optional homework is one of the most academically potent opportunities a high school student can be offered. Homework should be made optional because it teaches students to be held accountable for their actions.

The daily, mandatory assignment of homework is something that should be enforced and practiced throughout elementary and middle school, but should slowly be phased out once a student graduates to high school. Once a student enters high school, he or she should be prepared to let go of the culture that comforted and guided them through elementary and middle school; it’s time to grow up. Simply put, making homework optional further prepares students on the path of expectations in college and in life. Optional homework should be viewed as an opportunity to pace oneself and to practice what needs to be practiced. If a student excels in a subject without needing extra practice, why force him or her to do that extra homework for the sake of simply going through the motions? If a student has clearly mastered an academic skill or an ability, it is pointless and counterproductive to force him or her to overpractice. By making homework a mandatory assignment, teachers force their students to waste their time on something that might be redundant.

Assigning optional homework allows the student to better his or her time management skills. Considering that the average high school student receives 3.5 hours of homework per day, the opportunity to receive optional homework allows students to properly prioritize their work and maximize their time. It allows for flexibility in a student’s life. For students who balance six to seven academic classes and have a sport, having optional homework allows them to spread out their assignments over a longer period of time. If taken advantage of properly, optional homework forces the student to budget his or her time, allocating the right amount of study time for each assignment. In addition, it allows the student to work at his or her own pace.

The assignment of optional homework has been used on Beverly’s campus. Geometry and IAT teacher Dustin Mathias assigns optional homework, or as he calls them, “suggested problems” in his classroom. He has found that suggested problems give students more options, teach them how to be responsible and force them to “be honest with themselves and what they need to do.”

By no means is one to assume that every student will do his or her homework if it isn’t mandatory. The goal is to have students realize that they have to do the work even if no one is watching. College professors don’t check to see if each student did the reading: they give a final. High school has a more hands-on approach to learning, but as students transition to being upperclassmen, they need to realize that they are required to dedicate a certain amount of time and energy to a class, regardless if it’s in the form of doing their homework, studying, taking notes or paying attention in class.

The average student may view optional homework as an opportunity to slack off, completely disregarding the fact that by doing so, they are setting themselves up for failure. After graduating high school, the student will likely fail to realize that tasks need to be completed not because they need someone else’s approval, but because otherwise failure will await them at every turn. Not doing any homework and failing a test is the equivalent of not doing work at the job and getting fired. No one should have to consistently tell one to do his or her job; one should know one’s responsibility to accomplish goals independently in a satisfactory and timely manner.

While both mandatory and optional homework assignments have their pros and cons, some find that mandatory homework does more harm than good. Child education, parenting and human behavior expert Alfie Kohn finds that “There [is] simply no compelling data to justify the practice of making kids work what amounts to a second shift when they get home from a full day of school.” While Kohn takes it to the extreme opinion by stating “no homework should be the norm,” he brings up the valid point that the assignment of  mandatory homework forces a student to spend his or her entire day focused on academics.

Some students will not thrive in an atmosphere that forces them to be held accountable for their actions. But hopefully, if they are forced to deal with the real world consequences for long enough, they will come to realize what their voluntary obligations are. If every class continues to assign homework that is checked on a daily basis, students will not be prepared for college and for life. Assigning optional homework is the stepping-stone through which students learn to be held accountable for their decisions, work and actions.

Con

Sam Bernstein staff writer

Homework needs to be mandatory. It is a fact that students do better after completing homework at home. It’s a fact that students do better when homework is mandatory. There is no reason at all to make homework optional.

Not giving credit to those that complete homework nightly is also unfair. With admission into college getting more and more competitive, students need every point they can get. Completing assignments and not getting points for them is absurd and only hurts students chances of getting into the college. Homework points can be the difference between a B and an A for some students, and it hurts students  It’s simply wasting students’ time that they could be spending completing assignments that count for points in other classes. If a kid is willing to put in the work to get an A, teachers should reward them.

“The school needs to think about everybody, and if homework was not mandatory, some students who are doing below average would do worse if they had an option to do even less,” sophomore Colin Newberry said.

This is school. In real life you’ll lose credibility for not completing tasks. School should be a model of what real life is and what real life will be, as it is a developmental place. Teens need to know responsibility, and having a responsibility to complete homework teaches young minds how to have jobs in the future. Homework is the most basic form of this responsibility.

Homework is graded for a reason. Students work hard to complete daily assignments and deserve credit for doing so. Not getting credit for homework is like waiting a table and not getting a tip. If a student is willing to put work into your class, they deserve credit. It’s also a way to give credit for efforts in a class. Students that don’t happen to be good test takers should have another way to make up points lost.

“I wouldn’t do the homework without an incentive such as a grade,” freshman Eva Levin said.

Other students could attest to that.

“If there’s no mandatory studying or homework to be done, then most won’t care about it because is doesn’t affect their grade whether or not they do it,” freshman Nathan Naghi said.

Cutting corners is human nature. “I choose a lazy person to do a hard job. Because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it,” Bill Gates said.  If optional homework has to be cut for students to spend an extra hour on other studying, they’ll do it.

By not doing homework, there’s no way to assess how your knowledge of the subject is growing. Sitting in a class for 53 minutes cannot possibly give you enough understanding of a subject to take anything away from it. Homework fundamentally exists to remind students what they learned in class by providing practice problems similar to those on future assessments. By not helping students out in this regard, teachers are setting students up for failure. By encouraging students with points, both students and teachers can spend less time on review and on more time exploring new concepts.

“Homework is designed specifically to complement the lessons taught by teachers during class. Sometimes the lessons lack in class, forcing students to essentially teach themselves at home, further reiterating the cruciality of homework,” junior Ethan Manaster said.

Not every student has the diligence to sit at a desk and study at their own will. Students do, however, have the diligence to complete homework for points. And by encouraging students through rewards, they’ll learn from the homework they’re forced to do. By teaching students the rewards of being dedicated at getting better  with challenges in life, they’re better prepared to go off into the job force and make a true impact.

Students could absolutely be hard working and do their own studying at their own pace. Nobody is getting anywhere by blindly distrusting students. But by giving students guidance in their studying, you’re doing them a solid. Teachers have been to college and are professionally trained to work with young minds. They know what to assign you and how to assign it. They know what’s on their tests and they know how much practice needs to happen outside of class to reach your highest potential on those said tests. Teachers aren’t just there to provide Kahoot codes and to yell at you for sliding into Sarahahs in class. Their purpose is to guide you. By not enabling teachers to guide students, you’re taking away from the purpose of a teacher’s’ job; to teach. By restricting the work teachers can get their students to do, you’re diminishing from the amount of content teachers can teach in a semester. Teachers can go faster when nearly everyone in the class is completing homework. By making homework optional, teachers can not reach their maximum potential with classes.

Students, teachers and everyone in between cannot function at their highest potential without assigning mandatory homework.

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