Who Invented Homework and Why?

Who invented homework?

Who invented homework?

Thinking about playing outside, going to the movies, hanging out with friends, or just plain sitting on the couch doing absolutely nothing after a school day? Hell yes! We have all experienced these unfulfilled thoughts and sometimes wished the world was this way all the time. You are not totally alone. Strangely, some wise guys thought, “Why should students have that kind of free time? Why have free time when you can work on what you learned at school? Why not?” Enter homework. Then, who invented homework?

Homework has existed for a very long time. All the way from the past, through the present, and probably, toward the future. It also consists of different education systems in different countries on different continents with different dialects. There are different homework types, including oral and written exercises, experiments, and mastering information from a textbook. The latter like listening to your favorite song over and over until you know all the lyrics but just a little less enjoyable. Unless homework is your thing? For some, it really is. Think of the classmate that reminded the teacher about forgetting to give the class homework. Yes! He still does homework to this day! 

Like any inquisitive and sometimes frustrated student, we have all wondered where homework came from. Some because it was such s delight, others because it was such a hindrance to the fun. Who invented homework? What was the purpose? Why did they have to do this to us? How do we make it disappear?

Where did homework come from?

Many origins surround the mystery behind how homework became a major component of the education system today. One of the most popular figures mentioned in many corners is a man named Roberto Nevile, an Italian from Venice. It seemed Italy was exhausted with their popularity for pasta and needed something new? Roberto was a teacher who is claimed to have chosen homework as a form of punishment for his students. Quite innovative that punishing the students could learn more about the work they probably missed out on while being mischievous in class. Smart teacher! Homework was then spread from Venice into the rest of Europe.

While this is one of the most popular origins, it is also plagued with the most gaps. Some claim Roberto never even existed. Others claim it was impossible when it is claimed Roberto invented homework, 1905 and some, 1095. 1905 is disputed because homework already existed in California in 1901 and was banned for eighth-graders. How do you ban something that was meant to be introduced four years later? 

1095 was disputed because there was no formal education by that time. This was also the time of the crusades that had informal education as their backbone. Imagine preparing for war while making sure homework was complete? It does not add up. Unfortunately, several searches on Roberto Nevilis lead you down a never-ending rabbit hole of no evidence. Despite the gaps, the origins do not end there. More people in history have been associated with the invention of homework.

Zeus, Hercules, Olympus, and other ancient Greek mythology are fond childhood memories for some. Rome, the home of all these plus magnificent ancient architecture and philosophers of old, happens to be one of the claimed homework homes. Pliny the Younger, an orator, assisted his Quintilian students by giving them home activities to practice their speaking skills. He was a man passionate about his craft that desired the same among his students.

Germany rarely lags in invention or innovation, whether it is automotive or education. An educator, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, identified a gap, a lack of nationalism amongst its citizens after the war, that needed filling in Prussia. The citizens lacked a sense of pride in their nation after the war. Johann, being a problem solver, created a two-pronged education system, Volkschule, and Realschule. Volkschule lasted nine years and resembled the primary and secondary school system we have today. Realschule was a little more exclusive and was meant for aristocrats. In the spirit of Roberto Nevilis, homework continued as a show of power only in the Volkschule system. Homework showed the common man how far the state’s power went, and their personal time, just like Nevilis, the myth used it as punishment for his students.

This system’s popularity grew across Europe though some countries were not so enthusiastic about homework, such as Finland. They were not too welcoming of an approach that seemed to be based on oppressing the common man. It also took the USA some time to adopt the homework system. The private tutor and informal lessons system were still popularly practiced as the mode of education. This did not last long because of Horace Mann, the man who invented shool. On his travels to Prussia, he stumbled upon the homework system and eventually pioneered it in the USA. From then, it spread like the plague across the nation. 

When all the origin stories are compared, it seems homework has existed almost as long as the education systems have existed. Considering several Roman times practiced meditation of different texts in the confines of their home, homework has been around longer than history has been able to pinpoint accurately. The most verifiable claims lead us to Pliny the Younger and Johann Fichte as the father of modern-day homework. Nevilis seems only to be a mythical person invented by imagination. Considering all these origins is great, but what lies at the heart of homework? What purpose did it serve? How should it be applied? How did it help, if it did at all? Is it just another pass time used to oppress the common man like in the days of old?

What are the benefits of homework?

Despite the unpopular origins of homework in Germany, it has become an essential part of education in the modern world. While the original intent of homework was to memorize since there were fewer ways to test, there are several benefits today. Some of the benefits are: helping students practice what they learned during lessons, creating opportunities for independent work without teachers and other classmates, providing opportunities to conduct research and discover, and boosting creativity in finding solutions to problems. For the teacher, it is a show of their effectiveness in passing down information to students. It allows teachers to look at areas to improve in delivering their lessons to their students. Homework serves both students and teachers. 

What criteria make homework effective?

Like we saw in the US, in California, and Finland, homework is not always a hit wherever it goes. One of the reasons is that it has specific criteria that are important for its effectiveness. Otherwise, it becomes another burdensome task that frustrates learners and teachers. One important criterion is the age of learners; In California, in 1901, homework was banned for eighth-graders. The younger the learner, the less effective homework will be because kids need more time to be… kids; playing and doing simple tasks. Older learners seem to fare better with homework. 

Another criterion is the right amount of homework. In many primary schools in developing countries, learners are overloaded with bag loads of homework for several subjects. This homework does not allow primary school kids to participate in enjoyable activities such as games that build comradery and emotional intelligence. Many kids suffer a long day of school from waking up early in the morning, traveling through traffic, attending classes until 4 pm, back into traffic, and finally, more homework. By the end of the day, learners are exhausted and given no room for creativity and imagination often honed on the playground. 

The scope of abilities of each learner is important in creating homework. Standardized homework does not consider individual capability and forces learners to learn at the fastest learners’ pace. That often leads to some learners repeating a class and wasting precious financial resources to redo a class. Additionally, this demotivates repeating students and may create unnecessary resentment from their teachers. Homework assessments should consider each learners’ individual scope of abilities to be more effective. Attending to these criteria fairly will create a better homework system. 

Where do we go from here?

Safe to say that the question who invented homework has some mysterious and some vivid trails. While there is disagreement on the origins, especially regarding Roberto Nevilis, there is agreement on some other names such as Pliny the Younger, Johann Fichte, and Horace Mann. These men are responsible for the widespread of homework across the globe irrespective of some countries that have remained unenthused by the idea, such as Finland and Japan. 

Homework definitely has some benefits but can sometimes be a hindrance to people’s personal lives that helps them develop social skills important for living among others in society. While homework may help learners get qualifications to enter the job market, surviving in the real world requires more than being able to get an A on your homework and more of an A in interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence that homework cannot teach. 

As with all things, balance is essential considering the different criteria to make homework effective while allowing sufficient time to develop social skills that are more valuable for survival in the world. It is also important to create homework suited to individual needs rather than a size fits all, which judges “a monkey by its ability to swim.” 

Also read How I Went from High School Straight to a Full-Time Career

Who Invented Homework and Why?

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