Skip to content

Who Invented Homework And School

Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by paul from AL. paul Wonders, “who made school” Thanks for WONDERing with us, paul!

Listen

Why was school created? We're sure that's a question that every student asks from time to time. Especially on tough test days, many students WONDER exactly why they're being subjected to such cruel and unusual punishment!

If you're honest with yourself, though, you know what a great place school is. You have fun, learn all sorts of interesting things, and get to spend quality time with your friends. Sure, tests can be stressful, but think of how boring life would be if you didn't get to learn new things and see other people so often!

Schools are not a new invention. You may have seen some old one-room schoolhouses that have been around for a couple hundred years or more. The earliest schools, though, date back thousands of years!

In fact, education dates back to the very first humans ever to inhabit Earth. Why? To survive, every generation has found it necessary to pass on its accumulated knowledge, skills, values, and traditions to the next generation. How can they do this? Education! Each subsequentgeneration must be taught these things.

The earliest human beings didn't need schools to pass along information. They educated youngsters on an individual basis within the family unit. Over time, however, populations grew and societies formed.

Rather than every family being individually responsible for education, people soon figured out that it would be easier and more efficient to have a small group of adults teach a larger group of children. In this way, the concept of the school was born.

Ancient schools weren't like the schools we know today, though. The earliest schools often focused more on teaching skills and passing along religious values, rather than teaching specific subject areas like is common today.

In the United States, the first schools began in the 13 original colonies in the 17th century. For example, Boston Latin School, which was founded in 1635, was the first public school and the oldest existing school in the country.

The earliest schools focused on reading, writing, and mathematics. The New England colonies led the way in requiring towns to set up schools. The Massachusetts Bay Colony made basiceducation a requirement in 1642. However, many of the earliest schools were only for boys, and there were usually few, if any, options for girls.

After the American Revolution, education became a higher priority. States quickly began to establish public schools. School systems were not uniform, however, and would often vary greatly from state to state.

Credit for our modern version of the school system usually goes to Horace Mann. When he became Secretary of Education in Massachusetts in 1837, he set forth his vision for a system of professional teachers who would teach students an organized curriculum of basiccontent. For this reason, Mann is often called the “Father of the Common School Movement."

Many other states quickly followed Mann's system he instituted in Massachusetts. More and more states began to require schoolattendance. By 1918, every state required students to complete elementaryschool. Educational improvements grew by leaps and bounds during the 20th century, leading to the advanced systems we enjoy today.

So if everyone hates homework, why do we make kids do it? And whose idea was it to have homework in the first place?

That dubious honor is likely held by an Italian educator named Roberto Nevilis, who is said to have assigned homework to his students in 1095 as a punishment for unruly behavior. (It should be noted that while this story is repeated in many places on the internet, there really is no definitive proof that Nevilis invented homework.)

But what is true, according to the Brookings Institute, is that in 1900, Edwark Bok, the editor of the widely popular Ladies Homes Journal, published an impassioned article entitled "A National Crime at the Feet of Parents," an editorial accused homework of destroying American children. Bok argued that homework took away from the time kids should be playing and moving, that it threatened children’s physical and mental health, and that it challenged a parent's rights to decide how kids should spend their time. Sound familiar?

The article was so influential that it prompted an anti-homework movement that resulted in many school districts banning the practice. California even passed a state law in 1901 making it unlawful to assign homework to any child under the age of 15.

But when the Russians launched Sputnik in 1957, there was a general fear that American students were falling behind. Homework made a resurgence. That surge has continued to this day, with federally mandated core curriculum standards that place greater emphasis on test scores.

So is homework an effective way for students to learn?

Proponents of the practice argue that it helps students in three ways: It gives them the opportunity to review material learned in the classroom, allows them to take responsibility for their education, and it gives parents a heads-up about what their kids are learning in school (provided they review their child's homework).

But the negatives of homework that Bok pointed out in 1900 still ring true today. And as Young points out in her note, there have never been any studies that prove that homework is beneficial.

What does help students learn? A good night's sleep, a healthy diet and plenty of opportunities to exercise. Sounds like a good homework assignment to me.