Homework is the bane of all students’ existence, and something they’ve tried to get out of more than once. Almost no one likes doing it, so who invented homework in the first place, and why?
It’s almost universally acknowledged that Roberto Nevilis was the first to issue homework to his students. He was teaching in Venice around 1095. However, he may not have been the actual first teacher to use it.
As long as there’s been education, there’s probably been homework. Experts agree that teachers in Ancient Rome almost certainly handed out homework to their students. There’s even evidence that it was given out in Ancient Rome. Quintilian, the teacher of Pliny the Younger, mentions homework in his works on education. There’s even been stone tablets uncovered that show assignments from teachers.
Today’s students will be surprised that homework used to be frowned upon, especially in the United States. This was because before the Second World War, children were needed to help out with chores around the home. Being given homework meant they weren’t available to complete essential tasks for their parents. It was so frowned upon, in fact, that a law passed in California in 1901 banned all homework for kindergartners all the way up to eighth graders.
The reason this changed was because of the Cold War in the 1950’s. There was a need for more highly educated students, especially those in the sciences. Homework was again assigned to help bring them up to speed on the essential subjects. Of course, the 1950’s saw a lot of societal upheaval after the World Wars. Children were no longer expected to work, and the family unit again became close knit as the fathers came back home. Ever since then, homework has been a staple of the education system.
So, did Nevilis know what he was doing when he started the tradition of homework, all those years ago? He probably didn’t expect today’s students to be carrying such a heavy workload home with them. Today’s children are doing two hours of homework a week, compared to the 44 minutes they would do in 1981.
Do children need to be doing homework at all? Opinion is divided, depending on which country you live in. People who want to abolish homework point to Finland, where homework never happens. They have a high school graduation rate of 93%, as opposed to 73% in the US. Two out of three students go on to college, too.
Whether homework is helpful or not, for now at least it’s here to stay. It’s a concept that has survived centuries in the educational world, and is known to help learning in some cases. It’s no consolation to students though, who need to finish their math problems before they can go play.
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There is little doubt that homework is perceived by many young students as the bane of their existence. Yet for millions of children around the world, homework is part of their daily lives during the school year. Homework is considered an essential part of education, especially for older children who do assignments at home to ensure that they fully understand the subjects that are being taught.
But who invented homework and why is it so prevalent today?
The history of homework actually goes back to the year 1095 in the city of Venice where Roberto Nevilis is credited with being the first teach to use homework. However, it must be noted that there might have been instructors who gave out homework before Nevilis, but there is no evidence that has been discovered as of yet to prove a predecessor.
In fact, homework was invented at roughly the same time as the formal school system. During that time, formal education was only available to the well-to-do and Nevilis wanted to help his students fully understand and embrace the full meaning of the lessons. Arguably because the formal educational system was being developed at the same time, homework in European countries became well established as part of the educational system.
The History of Homework in America
In the United States homework was rarely practiced in most places until the turn of the 20th century. In fact, homework was frowned upon by many people because at that time there was little interest in higher education as most children were needed at home to support the family. In fact, parents and most school districts did not approve of homework for their students. In fact, in 1901 the legislature in California passed an act that basically abolished homework for all students from kindergarten up to the eighth grade.
However, attitudes began changing after World War II when the Cold War was settling in and the need for more scientists in particular was encouraged. In fact, children in general were being pushed to keep up with their Soviet counterparts who were also studying hard and using homework as part of their curriculum.
By the 1990s, the attitudes of most Americans favored homework to a considerable degree and now it is found in most parts of the country for students from grade school all the way up to college. There have been numerous studies performed about the extent and effectiveness of homework has revealed mixed results. For example, while the amount of homework for children ages six through nine has more than doubled since 1981, the effectiveness of the homework in terms of progressing students has been questioned.
In fact, there have been studies which show that a considerable amount of homework ranging from 90 minutes to over two hours a week may actually be detrimental to learning. So, the real question may not be who invented homework. But whether homework is as effective a tool for education as it needs to be for the time spent.