Yes, we should.
"Homework" isn't the issue
I think we all agree that whether or not a post comes from a homework assignment is irrelevant, as illustrated by this example question:
Consider a transmon qubit with capacitance C and Josephson junction critical current I_c. What is the matrix element <1|Q|0> for this system?
I might be motivated to ask this question in my research job.
It's not homework, but it is also not a question we would like to support.
We prefer if I would try the calculation myself, and then ask a specific conceptual question about whatever part has me stuck.
The help center's entry on homework-like questions gets that part right when it says
If you have a [homework-like question], narrow it down to the specific concept that is giving you trouble and ask about that.
Unfortunately, while the help center correctly tells the user what to do, it does not correctly tell the user when to do it.
In the help center, what I transcribed as [homework-like question] in the previous quote is actually written as
question about a homework problem, or any problem of an educational nature
This, incorrectly, tells the user that only questions which come from homework assignments or other educational origins are subject to the requirement that they ask something specific and conceptual.
This is obviously not what we intend.
The accepted and much up-voted answer to the canonical meta post on this subject also defines homework-like in a (different!) confusing way
A "homework question" is any question whose value lies in helping you understand the method by which the question can be solved, rather than getting the answer itself. This includes not just questions from actual homework assignments, but also self-study problems, puzzles, etc.
This classification fails to reject the example question posed earlier in this post.
It also omits the idea that posts should have a conceptual core.
The notion that questions should be conceptual is mentioned later in the answer, but readers only get to that after they've already been mislead once by the help center and then again by the first few paragraphs of the answer.
Also, the emphasis on the question's "value" as a pedagogical tool is subjective, thus offering further confusion.
Of all the resources related to the homework policy, the close reason is the only one which unambiguously gets at the part that matters.
It is nice that it refers to "homework-like" questions to emphasize the fact that pedagogical settings have nothing to do with the appropriateness of a post.
Get rid of the word "homework" (mostly)
We should just clear state that we only support questions with a conceptual core.
If a post just asks how to solve any specific problem, it's off topic.
Problem solving questions should, as the close reason says, ask about a specific physics concept and show some effort.
Surely, questions derived from homework will tend to fail this criterion more than other questions [a], and that should be noted in the help center and associated close reason, but it should not be the fundamental criterion itself.
Here is a list of the specific (small!) changes I think we should make
(I write "calculation request" as a stand-in label for what we currently call the "homework" policy, but I'm sure we can think of a better name):
Modify the help center to say
Calculation requests, e.g. "A 4kg ball is traveling at 8m/s in the x direction, how do I find...", or requests to have your work checked, e.g. "Here's my calculation, but the answer is wrong, where did I mess up?"
Physics - Stack Exchange is not a calculation service or a work checking service. If you need help with a particular calculation, narrow it down to the specific concept that is giving you trouble and ask about that. Make sure your question cannot be answered with a small amount of research and show that you've made effort to resolve the issue yourself.
Modify the close reason to say
Questions about particular calculation, whether a request for the calculation itself or a request to have your work checked, must ask about a specific physics concept and show some effort to work through the problem. We want our questions to be useful to the broader community, and to future users. See our meta site for more guidance on how to edit your question to make it better
We can probably leave the tag as it is, since it says "homework-like". Changing it to "problem solving" would be better but may not be necessary. I do not know how hard it is to change a tag.
(Harder) Stop referring to this whole thing as the "homework policy" and call it the "problem solving policy".
Some objections and rebuttals
- "We have to call it the homework policy, otherwise new users won't understand."
Saying that problem-solving questions must center on a specific concept is no less clear than referring to homework.
In fact, as argued above, I think "problem-solving" is considerably less vague and subjective.
- "We'll be flooded with homework questions from users who don't know the rules."
If folks are really afraid we can do a few week trial period.
Stack Exchange gives us awesome SQL tools so that we can measure the effects objectively.
- "This isn't worth the change."
Judging by discussions in comments and the chat room, it seems the homework policy is confusing to lots of users largely because people don't understand what qualifies as "homework".
The fact that "homework" has an obvious and established meaning which conflicts with how we use it is a clear problem.
As I've shown, a result of this is that the official documentation disagrees with itself on the definition.
[a] This is probably more because people who have finished school have learned how to ask good questions and use online communities, rather than anything having to do with whether or not the physics problem at hand came from homework.