Informative World

Who Invented Homework The History of a School Favorite

Homework is part of everyday life for parents, students, and educators. But who was the original inventor of homework? How did this become a regular part of education? Here is a brief history about homework in the United States.
Myth vs. History: The Origins Of Homework

Who invented homework? We may never be able to know. Many people and events have had an influence on its history. Let’s take a look at two of its most influential people.
The Dubious Roberto Nevelis, Venice

Roberto Nevelis is credited with inventing homework in Venice, Italy (or 1095, depending on which source you use). However, it is clear that he is more of an Internet myth than a historical personage.
Horace Mann

Horace Mann, an 18th-century politician and educator reformer played a major role in the history homework. Mann shared the same interest as his contemporaries Henry Barnard or Calvin Ellis Stowe in the mandatory public education system of the newly united nation-state Germany.

Horace Mann is a part of the history homework, even though it isn’t his.

Volksschulen students were required to complete mandatory assignments that they could do at their own pace. In an era when nationalists like Johann Gottlieb Fichte were trying get support for a German unified state, this required assignment emphasized the state’s power over the individual. Fichte was involved with the Volksschulen before homework was invented, but his political goals can be viewed as a catalyst to make homework an educational necessity.

Horace Mann spearheaded the development of government-regulated, tax-funded public education in the United States. During a trip to Germany 1843, Mann witnessed the Volkschule in action and brought some concepts (including homework) back to America.
Homework in American Public Schools System

Although homework is an almost universal part of American education experience, it has not always been widely accepted. Even after more than a century, educators and parents still debate the pros and disadvantages of homework.
1900s: Homework Bans & Anti-Homework Sentiment

The first time homework was banned in California, it was 1901. This occurred just a few decades after the concept of homework spread across the Atlantic. The ban was effective until 1917 and affected all students below 15 years of age.

The New York Times and Ladies’ Home Journal published similar statements, including those from parents and medical professionals.

California was home to one of America’s earliest homework bans.

1930: Homework as child labor

The American Child Health Association declared in 1930 that homework was child labor. Since child labor laws had just been passed, this proclamation expressed a less-than favorable view of homework being an acceptable educational practice.
The Progressive Era of the 20th Century, from early to mid-20th century: Homework and homework

Teachers started looking for ways that they could make homework assignments more relevant and personal during the progressive education reforms of late 19th- and early 20th century. Could this have been the origin of the famous essay topic, What I Did on My Summer Vacation”?

Children who do homework might wonder who created it.

The Cold War: Homework Heats up

Cold War erupted in the 1950s as a result of World War II. Sputnik 1 was launched in 1957, sparking intense competition between Americans (including their youth).

U.S. education authorities determined that rigorous homework was the best way of ensuring that American students did not fall behind Russian counterparts, especially in increasingly competitive fields such as science and mathematics.
1980s: Homework and Nation at Risk

The 1986 U.S. Department of Education pamphlet “What Works” included homework as an effective educational strategy. Three years ago, the National Commission on Excellence in Education published their landmark report, A Nation in Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform.
Early 21st Century Homework Bans a Return

Many educators and concerned citizens have questioned the value of homework. There have been many books on the subject.

These include:

The Case Against Homework. How Homework Hurts Our Children and What We Can do About It by Sarah Bennett (2006)
The Battle Over Homework by Dr. Harris Cooper (Third Ed)
The End of Homework – How Homework Disrupts Families and Overburdens Children and Limits Learning by John Buell, journalist and education professor

The topic of homework is still controversial today. Some schools have implemented homework bans that are similar to the ones in place at the beginning of the 21st century. Parents are trying to adjust to the disruption to their routine that comes with these bans by trying to understand the perspectives of teachers.

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