Sunday, July 19, 2020

There are no good choices when it comes to opening schools in the fall. I'm still hoping for something better.

TOTAL U.S. CASES3,630,58774,710 New Cases*
TOTAL DEATHS138,782918 New Deaths*
To be sure, there are decent people, mainly at the local level, trying to come up with humane plans for the fall—plans that keep our kids safe, teach them, and don’t kill thousands of teachers while doing so. The problem is, a national crisis has a way of exacerbating everything that is weak with the underlying society, and our child care and school systems were hobbled and broken well before Covid-19 reared its viral head. -- Elie Mystal in The Nation
The current national and local debates about a "safe" opening of school buildings in the midst of the worst, deadliest pandemic in a century is perplexing, often bordering on the absurd.

Here's the conundrum: There are no safe havens from COVID-19 any place where groups gather indoors without adequate spacing, ventilation, and protection. And there's no authentic learning that can take place without, physical and social interaction, especially in early childhood grades.

On the local level, as summer draws to a close, the school-opening issue is becoming charged with emotion, frustration, and angry contention between school boards and teacher unions. Teachers have always taken the necessary risks involved when it comes to supporting and protecting their students.

But going back into the classroom under current conditions, without the resources and protections necessary for themselves, their students and families would be reckless and senseless.

Parents are especially torn between desperately wanting their children back in school to keep them from losing learning opportunities and because they need to get back to work, on the one hand, and fearing for their safety on the other. The latter, of course, should be all of our number-one concern.

No one has come up with a safe plan for opening in the fall, despite whatever Trump/DeVos may mandate. Nothing we do now can undo the bad decisions they made early on. If not for this failure of leadership, we might have contained the pandemic and enabled a reasonably safe school opening, the way it was accomplished in many other countries.

As for online learning, it appears we're stuck with it this year and probably well beyond. Taken by itself, it's a mode of education that encourages privatization and superprofits for giant tech corporations, but little in the way of meaningful teaching/learning experiences. It's a mode that continues to reproduce the current system's inequities

Right now, I'm thinking of the single mom I heard from last week in an online conversation. She's the sole provider for three children, now forced to stay at home and somehow supply her kids with computers and headphones while monitoring their participation (engagement?) in separate parts of their apartment for 5 hours/day. This would be difficult under any circumstances. But without some type of guaranteed income during the pandemic, schooling for her children becomes a near-impossible mountain for her to climb.

I won't even get into the thousands of homeless children, part of our Chicago Public School system, for whom homeschooling is an oxymoron.

What all this means for the future of schools and teaching as a profession is hard to say right now. How will the transition away from traditional schooling be organized and paid for, especially when you have a Trump/DeVos regime that is racist, hateful, and punitive towards the cities and their public schools?

My hope is that something new and better than what we had before will emerge from all this. But it will take careful and creative planning with lots of money behind it.

Until we get control of the pandemic and remove Trump from power there are few good choices available. But that just emphasizes the need for a national conversation, especially among educators, about schooling and de-schooling in the Corona Era and beyond.

1 comment:

  1. Yup. Schools districts have no choice but to come up with a plan because unlike the federal government, they take their responsibilities seriously. Of course, short of doing what is necessary to control the pandemic, there are only bad and worse solutions. Pretty much everywhere in the world where restrictions were lifted prematurely, spread and with it death, had been the result. Science on kids being infected and spreading is inconclusive. State-to-state borders are porous. Even with all of the inherent inequities, short-term my inclination is stay-at-home. Certainly, free internet and computer for every kids are the minimum conditions for that.


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