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My Dog Ate My USB Stick: Homework Excuses For Today’s Generation

Your dog ate your USB stick? That’s a sign of the times if ever I saw one. I might just be showing my age here, but when I was at school, there were pretty much no legitimate excuses for not doing your homework unless you had a signed letter from a parent that confirmed you were at death’s door.

That didn’t stop the opportunists among my classmates though, and there were some distinctive and memorable excuses that would get peddled intermittently. “I started to do the homework sir, but then I got some really bad news. I can’t remember what it was now”, or the less vague “I wrote down the wrong date”, and my personal favourite “I couldn’t find a pencil sharpener and we’re not allowed pens in the house”.

None of us had smartphones; we were the very earliest of the millennials, still trying to get to grips with using a computer. At this point, the most elaborate thing we could create was a wavy blue heading in Microsoft Word Art, so concocting an elaborate ruse to explain absent homework wasn’t viable without instant access to the World Wide Web at our fingertips.

In a survey conducted by Topline Jargon PR for The School Planner Company, a range of homework excuses cropped up with one striking similarity between them all: modern technology can be used to lend credence to the fib.

My computer crashed
Can you imagine trying to get away with this one using Windows ‘95? It took the best part of an evening to save a two-page word document to a floppy disk, and every single teacher knew it. Today’s computers are indisputably more advanced and it is a lot less likely that the same two people will have the exact same tech set-up at home (seriously, I think everyone I knew had a Tiny PC in the 90s), so it’s not surprising the excuse has some traction.

I don’t remember getting homework
Far from being a generation gifted with a world that hands them success, today’s youth are arguably more likely to be confused than any other generation of young people before them. Why? Technology and its relation to media consumption, of course. New pressures and distractions emerge almost daily, and, with the age of social media carving itself a permanent residence in the life of every teenager, it’s not a huge stretch to imagine that actually, they don’t remember getting homework.

My dog ate my memory stick
I’m still coming to terms with the fact that 4% of students have used this excuse. If there are any teachers out there who’ve heard this one and kept a straight face, I would love to hear from you. I can see how it’d be possible, sure. Canine companions using homework as a meal replacement has long been a stereotypical excuse, and this is just bringing it into the new millennium, right? If indeed it does happen, I would imagine the excuse to be more centered around the subsequent visit to the vets and attending to the traumatised animal afterwards.

Someone stole my tablet
Again, this is completely viable and is equally sad. I’d very much like to go off on a tangent about how I wish we could all be friends and respect each other’s property, but that’s a completely different door not to be opened today. Mind you, how do you go about proving a tablet was stolen, and surely homework isn’t already tablet-dependent, is it? Is it?

The printer broke
Inkjet printers in the home in the 1990s; what a time to be alive! Until you came face to face with a paper jam or ink shortage that is – then home printing became a living nightmare that the whole family would get involved in. Apparently, some things never change, because nearly 10% of students surveyed admitted to using this excuse. I can’t see it being all that successful in a world where nearly everyone with an Internet connection has access to cloud storage and can neatly organise every single document they’ve ever created.

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None; I always tell the truth
This is either a case of young people genuinely going against the perception of their generation to prove that they are decent and moral, or their form tutor/head of year was in the room while they were being surveyed. Either way, I have to admit that this was always my approach to explaining missing homework.

For more stats on homework in the UK, click on the image to see the full-size infographic, and I’d love to hear some more post-millennial homework excuses from teachers out there.