Who invented Homework? The History of a School Staple

Homework is an integral part of daily life for students, parents, teachers, and other educators. Who is the inventor of homework? How did homework become a standard in whoinvented.info education? Here’s a quick history of homework in America.
Myth vs. History: Origins of Homework

Who is the inventor of homework? We will never know the truth. Its history has been influenced by many people and events. Let’s start by looking at just two of its major influencers.
The Dubious Roberto Nevelis from Venice

Roberto Nevelis, a Venetian inventor of homework, is often mentioned. He may have invented it in 1095 or 1905 depending on where you look. On closer inspection, however, it seems that he is more of an internet legend than a historical personage.
Horace Mann

Horace Mann, a 19th-century politician who was also an educational reformer, played a significant role in the history and development of homework. Like his contemporaries Henry Barnard, Calvin Ellis Stowe, Mann was keen to learn more about the new compulsory public education system in Germany.

Horace Mann is part the history of homework even though he’s not.

The Volksschulen were a school that taught children how to complete assignments at home. In a time where nationalists such as Johann Gottlieb Fichte were trying rally support for a united Germany, this requirement highlighted the power of the state over individuals. Although homework was not invented prior to Fichte’s involvement in the Volksschulen. His political goals can be seen as a catalyst that led to the establishment of homework as an essential educational component.

Horace Mann spearheaded the development of government-regulated, tax-funded public education in the United States. During a visit to Germany in 1843, Mann saw the Volkschule system in action and brought back some of its concepts, including homework.
The American Public School System: Homework

Although homework is an integral part of American education, it has not always been accepted by all. Parents and educators continue to debate the pros and cons of homework, just as they have done for over a century.
1900s: Homework Bans & Anti-Homework Sentiment

It was just a few decades later that the idea of homework had made its way across the Atlantic. In 1901, a homework ban was implemented in California. All students under 15 years old were affected by the ban, which remained in force until 1917.

Several prominent publications, such as The Ladies’ Home Journal or The New York Times, used statements from parents and doctors to depict homework as a threat to children’s health.

California was the first state to ban homework.

1930: Child labor as homework

The American Child Health Association, a 1930 organization, declared that homework was child labor. This proclamation was issued in response to recent laws that prohibited child labor. It reflected a less favorable view of homework as an acceptable educational method.
The Progressive Era and Homework in the Early to Mid 20th Century

Teachers began to look for ways to personalize homework assignments to students during the progressive education reforms in the late 19th century and early 20th centuries. This could have been the birth of the legendary essay topic “What I Did on My Summer Vacation.”

It is possible for children to wonder who invents homework.

The Cold War: Homework heats up

The Cold War, which began in the 1950s, heated up U.S. and Russian rivalries. The launch of Sputnik 1 in 1957 sparked intense competition between Americans and Russians, even among their youth.

U.S. education officials decided that hard work was the best way for American students to keep up with their Russian counterparts in science and mathematics, particularly in the increasingly competitive field.
1980s: A Nation at Risk: Homework in the 1980s

In 1986, the U.S. Department of Education published What Works. It included homework as one of its effective educational strategies. Three years after the landmark report of the National Commission on Excellence in Education, “A Nation at Risk: The Imperative For Educational Reform”, this pamphlet was published by U.S. Department of Education.
The 21st Century is Early: Homework Bans Return

Education professionals and concerned citizens are questioning the value of homework. Numerous books have been written on the topic.

These include:

The Case against Homework: How Homework is Hurting Our Children, and What We Can Do about It by Sarah Bennett and Nancy Kalish (2006)
The Battle Over Homework: Common Ground For Administrators, Teachers and Parents (Third edition) by Dr. Harris Cooper, Duke University psychologist (2007)
The End of Homework: How Homework Destroys Families, Overburdens Kids, and Limits Learning by Dr. Etta Kralovec, education professor, and John Buell, journalist (2000)

It is still controversial to do homework today. Many schools have imposed homework bans similar to those in the past century. While teachers have different opinions about these bans and parents struggle to deal with disruptions to their home life due to such bans,

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