I had had some talks with Dilaton on this before, never got the time to formulate a proposal. It was also brought up here multiple times.
Basically, most high level posts that have been asked to the student by a professor are not homework by the policy. The tag/policy name "homework" is a misnomer, the origin of the question has no part in the policy.
It's meant to cover basically simple questions where the OP can't be bothered to go off and do some work for themselves.
isn't entirely correct either, mainly the "basically simple" part. Not-so-simple questions can be homeworky too.
For example, this one or this one or this one or this one.
Admittedly, these are the minority. But I have seen a lot of questions that ask for a proof to be filled in or effectively need help with the mathematics of the question. Most haven't been closed, but they are on shaky ground at best.
The issue is, how many others will be helped by these posts? If you've ever compared the votes on a good high level question with the views, you'll notice that the views far outnumber the votes. This indicates that most of the visitors were not from the site. Even if we assume that a fraction of these actually understand the post1, the number of visitors who are helped by the post usually outnumbers the number of SE members. This is one rather important bit of the SE model; questions and answers are of the sort that should help the most people, and that means focusing on making posts useful for visitors. Most "homework" posts are of the form that only the OP is benefited -- the question is localized so it won't turn up in anyone's search, and only a couple other site members will get helped by the post.This can happen with grad-level questions too -- I doubt that there will be many people stuck on the same step of a proof in a textbook. Contrast this with questions like these which probably will be searched for by others, helping them.
Of course, just going by localized-ness might be a bit extreme and we would end up closing a lot of good questions if we had that strict a localized-ness requirement. We do want to help the OP too, and there are many good questions that would be rarely searched for but are very informative nevertheless.
So some compromise is needed. I did have a look at many high level homework questions before, and I came to the conclusion that most did not need closing (most were not closed in the first place). Most grad students would not willingly post a low-effort question, so that eliminates one kind of HW question. As for localized HW questions -- these were still found in my searches. Not that many, but there were some that were on the borderline of closeability (example).
I think that we should not be so aggressive for high level questions, but we shouldn't give them all a free pass either. The current and proposed policies both seem to be allowing most of the currently existing high level questions that are tagged homework, so I doubt this is a problem we need to worry about. If someone can find enough examples of high level posts that were closed as homework, then we might need to investigate further.
Note that I'm talking about the policy in this post. The tag is applied haphazardly — it always has been. The tag seems to be about the type of question (it was in the past policy too), but it seemingly implies something about the origin, so this haphazardness is understandable as each person tags with their own interpretation. We probably should get more objective guidelines for the tag and figure out a way to make the community use it consistently. But since this is a different issue and will probably cause a four-sided argument2, it's best if we don't investigate this on this particular meta post.
I just realized this, one of the other reasons the HW policy was put up in the start was that users did not want this site to be seen as a place where you can get your homework done for you" (which accounts for the tag confusion as well).
- Are people still concerned about this?
- Will allowing low effort grad level hw affect this?
1. It won't be a small fraction, most of the higher level questions are of the form that a novice won't accidentally turn it up via Google.
2. Some folks want the tag burninated, some want it phased out, some want it only for low level questions, some want it for all types of questions, etc, etc. Best not to muddy the waters here with this discussion