Today I thought I would try to formulate an answer to that question. This is my thesis on the origin of homework. Get a cup of tea and enjoy my short story on the possible story of how homework was invented.
So here we go. My thought is that the origin of homework went something like this:
Disclaimer: This is a fictional story. The names of the characters are not related to any person, dead or alive. Any similarities are mere coincidence.
2nd May 468 B.C.E
Pythagoras was sitting in his olive garden reading his scroll in the warm summer breeze. He was making some finishing touches to his work: The Revised edition, The Rules of Algebra. He looked up at the clear blue sky and smiled in wonder, acknowledging that there was so much about the universe that he would never know or understand.
In the near distance, he could hear the sound of children laughing and playing. The noise was not distracting. For him it was refreshing and calming. However, the noise of the children became fainter and fainter until there was absolute silence.
'Boo!!', Gallius yelled excitedly as he jumped from behind the fountain. Laeodia and Marcia slowly crawled, following Gallius.
'Aha you children startled me!' Pythagoras said as the three children began to giggle.
'What are you doing Pythagoras?' Laeodia asked, glancing at his scroll.
'I'm just doing some mathematics', Pythagoras replied. The three children stared at the scrolls dumbfounded. The strange signs looked like a different language. They had heard about 'mathematics' but never really understood what it was about.
'Pythagoras, we want to learn about all of this,' Gallius explained. 'We have so much time to spare!'.
Pythagoras though about it. What a great idea! He would not be there forever, so what a wise idea it would be to teach the children and impart knowledge to those eager, thirsty minds.
He would set up an institution where children would come in and learn. At the same time everyday. He sent notices to all the parents.
He would call it school.
Pythagoras' first class was a success. The children were full of bright ideas and they bubbled forth with intelligent questions. Day after day they would come in and every afternoon they would leave enriched and smarter. But there was a problem- it seemed there were not enough hours in the day to cover all the work.
'So students ' Pythagoras began, 'I am so impressed with your work for the past week. I think we are learning so much but there are so many more concepts to discover.'
And then Pythagoras said the words that would change mankind forever. 'I think it would be useful if I gave you a subject to research when you get home, and then when you return to school we can share and discuss your work.'
From that day on, the children would go home and study, writing down their findings and completing assignments that Pythagoras would check. It was thrilling at first, yes even exciting to do research and watch Pythagoras break into a smile as he read the work.
But eventually it became tedious. As more subjects were incorporated into the classes, the students would find themselves doing hours and hours of schoolwork. The pile never ended; new material found its way there as one assignment was taken off.
The children liked learning- but this was just torture. They planned to do something about it. The next day, they would go to their teacher and request the end of homework.
At the beginning of the next class, Pythagoras had an announcement to make. 'I have discussed with the group of intellectuals and they have decided to set up schools across the district to enable other children to share your experience. They will also be implementing the homework system.
The students looked at each other. They felt defeated already. They were liked batteries that had been drained out of energy. The other day Gallius had missed the annual market game day because of urgent homework. The children no longer had time to explore the village after school as they did before. Those days were gone.
The world was becoming fixed. Things had to be done a certain way. All hope for a reversal had been extinguished.
And so homework and school spread to the rest of the world. That was the dawn of non-negotiable assignments and deadlines.
The students of Pythagoras' class never saw this coming. To this day children have to do homework. Their week is dominated by homework tasks and even their school breaks often feature preparing for exams. Some try to have the best attitude towards homework as that is the only way to surviving school days.
Every now and then for the organized student there comes an evening that is completely homework-free. Those short-lived moments mean the world and are enjoyed with relief and joy.
If you have ever had to do homework or you have a pile lying on your desk right now, think about it this way: Be thankful that there is no school on weekends…
I hope you enjoyed reading my ideas on the origin of homework. Maybe sparked your thoughts on questions such as who invented homework and why?
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