Homework Was Once Understood to Be Child Abuse

Homework was once controversial. More than a hundred years ago, social commentators and doctors crusaded against it, pleading with parents and teachers to stop, convinced it was hurting children.

In an article from 1900 “A National Crime at the Feet of American Parents” in the Ladies’ Home Journal, the author wrote, “When are parents going to open their eyes to this fearful evil? Are they as blind as bats, that they do not see what is being wrought by this crowning folly of night study?”

The next year, the California Legislature banned it for students under 15 and ordered high schools to limit it for older students. The law lasted for more than a decade.

Homework has fallen in and out of favor in the US, viewed as a force for good when nationalism picks up. Homework surged when the country felt threatened after the Soviets launched Sputnik and in the 1980s when everyone was convinced Japan would surpass the US. When people are not afraid, homework is again seen as cruel and oppressive to children.



Photo: “Homework.” by anthony kelly is licensed under CC BY 2.0