It's pretty much already been said here, but I think the key to whether it is really beneficial or not is finding a good balance on what amout to give, and what difficulty level it should be at.
Homework can teach us responsibility and discipline, and gradually ease us into having the greater discipline we will need to have as an adult (as lethe_naiad pointed out). It also reinforces the material learned in school, which ordinarily would probably be forgotten as soon as the student left class. When you get into college especially and have reading homework, that reading I've found helps me really engage with a subject more as I am spending more time thinking about it than I normally would.
However, I have a problem with the mentality of 'children will just watch TV and not manage their time properly, so we should force them to make better use of it by giving them more homework.' Not that anyone here has been arguing this, but it's one I've heard thrown out there before, so I just want to comment on it.
The thing is, many children will already have interests of their own and be eager to learn - schooling on subjects they don't care about is there to make them well-rounded, but many will naturally seek out new information in other areas in the activities they do for fun in their free time. Science experiments, reading, writing their own stories, drawing, even playing video games - those could all be preparing them for the career path they will eventually follow.
So basically, I think homework is a very effective form of learning, but I believe the most effective form is when a child willingly pursues a subject he/she is interested in for fun. (but obviously that can't be duplicated in school as a sure thing for all students for every subject). I think homework may be the most effective form of learning for school, but if homework is trumped up as the only kind of learning that matters and the child is given too much, its effectiveness goes down as it limits the child's opportunity to pursue what they are really interested in. For instance, I strongly disagree with the heavy homeowork burden placed on students in certain countries, such as Korea (or at least, that's what I've heard).
For example, I am an art (drawing/painting) major and the time I've spent drawing as a child and trying to get better at it has really helped me get beneficial experience to prepare me for that. The hours upon hours I spent writing fanfiction for fun I believe also helped make writing much easier for me, and so that later helped me make better/more clear essays for school.
But when I had a lot of homework (especially in eleventh and twelfth grade), I basically shut down working on my own projects, and my free time was spent watching TV and trying to relax. So for me, a reasonable amount of homework fires me up (especially when it does not involve long term papers or projects), but too much, even a little too much, and I lose my motivation to do anything outside that.
*edit: augh, why do my stupid posts always come out too long? >:F
Last edited by Rocket Axxonu
on Thu Apr 21, 2011 3:45 pm, edited 2 times in total.