So, we're removing the homework tag now. This is being done to cut down on the number of comments about homework tagging questions, comments about answering homework questions too completely, and the removal of an obvious meta-tag that is rather poorly-defined. Fair enough.
However, everything has a price. What is that price? For me, the important one is this:
Stack Overflow is now actively suborning academic dishonesty.
Before the tag's removal, if you saw an obvious homework question, you could stick a big sign on it that say, "Hey, don't tell him the answer, or you're helping him cheat." That's no longer possible anymore. We are now relying on the OP to state that it's homework in the question. If they don't, the most you can do now is downvote the question, any answers that are too detailed, and maybe find a reason to close it if it isn't a good question.
To put it another way, there is a reason that all of those spurious comments exist. Because members of the community don't want people to cheat, and they don't want people to help people cheat.
But from now on, every time you answer a question fully and completely (as expected), it is possible that you are helping someone cheat. That you are doing someone's homework for them.
Some have asked if it is Stack Overflow's place to police its members. Many say that it isn't. Well, I have to ask: if not us, then who? We're a community, and it's been said that it takes a community to raise a child.
How are we doing with that?
This is a problem, and it needs to be acknowledged as such. It should not be dismissed. Even if we ultimately decide that all of the possible solutions leave us worse-off than the problem, it is still a problem.
We all agree that cheating is bad, right? That it should be prevented where possible. But if we can't prevent or at least discourage cheating, who's going to do it? How is it going to get done? How do we prevent Stack Overflow from becoming a place for the less scrupulous programming students to go to get their work done for them?
Yes, some people are going to say that simply copying-and-pasting a homework assignment should be closed as NARQ. But that doesn't change one simple fact: it still takes 5 votes to close a question. That's plenty of time for someone to come along and answer the thing. Take this question for example, an obvious copy-and-paste-from-assignment, yet the question has remained open for 6 hours (at the time of posting. Obvious bringing it up on Meta means it'll be closed in short order). During which time someone trolling for rep could have come along and dropped an answer on him.
Yes, the purpose of Stack Overflow is to build a knowledge base. And that means that anyone can come in and potentially search for and find the answer to their homework. But that's very different from that person asking a direct question and receiving a direct answer. One is passively reading of a publicly available resource; the other is one person asking someone else to do their homework for them.
We no longer have the homework tag. So how do we deal with cheating? Is this just an intractable problem and we shouldn't bother trying to solve it? Or is there something we can actually do about it to make the site less able to be used for cheating?
I don't believe we should bring the homework tag back. But I also think it was irresponsible to remove it without at least investigating a solution to this problem.