Everyone is worried about how the Coronavirus pandemic is affecting children.
And it IS affecting them.
But so much worry is being wasted on the wrong things.
Instead of agonizing about kids being put in danger of infection at in-person schools where the virus is out of control, we’re told to worry about academic regression.
Instead of feeling anxiety about abandoning kids at home as outbreaks close their schools and parents still have to go in to work, we’re told to agonize over failing test scores.
In nearly every case, the reality is papered over by concern trolls clutching their pearls and demanding we point our attention away from the real dangers in favor of papier-mâché boogeymen.
It’s almost as if the rich and powerful don’t want us to solve the real problems because that would cost them money.
Stimulus checks, rent moratoriums, universal healthcare, aide to small businesses – none of that is in the interest of the one percent.
Better to persuade the rest of us it’s better to suck up our pain and that doing so is really for our own good.
And one of the ways they do it is by crying crocodile tears over our children’s academics.
Kids are falling behind, they say.
Hurry up, Kids. Get going.
You have to catch up to where you would be if there hadn’t been a global pandemic!
Hurry up! We’ve got this time table and you’re falling behind! FALLING BEHIND!
I’m not saying that kids are learning today what they would have learned had COVID-19 not spread like wildfire across our shores.
But the idea that kids are not intellectually where they SHOULD be and that if we don’t do something about it now, they will be irreparably harmed – that is pure fantasy.
Let’s get something straight: there is no ultimate timetable for learning.
At least none that authentically can be set by educators or society.
People – and kids ARE people – learn when they’re ready to learn.
And when they’re ready is different for every person out there.
You can’t stomp around with a stopwatch and tell people they’re late. Your expectations are meaningless. It’s a matter of cognitive development plus environment and a whole mess of other factors that don’t easily line up on your Abacus.
For example, many kids are ready to learn simple math concepts like addition and subtraction in Kindergarten. Yet some are ready in preschool.
That doesn’t mean one child is smarter than another. It just means their brains develop at different rates. And it’s perfectly normal.
Moreover, kids who live in stable, loving households who don’t have to worry about where their next meal is coming from, overcoming neglect or abuse, etc. have a greater chance of being ready more quickly than those trying to manage under a heavier load of problems.
And if a child isn’t ready today, that doesn’t mean she’ll never be ready.
The mind does not take ultimatums. You don’t have to fill up every shelf as soon as space becomes available. In fact, you could never fill it all up if you tried. There’s always more room – just maybe not right now.
If a child doesn’t learn a certain concept or skill as soon as he or she is ready for it, that doesn’t mean he or she will lose out on that opportunity.
Brains are flexible. They’re almost always ready to grasp SOMETHING. It’s just not up to society what those somethings are or when they’re achievable.
That’s why Common Core Academic Standards were such a failure. They tried to map what schools teach like a train schedule, and then blamed educators when children’s brains didn’t match up with corporate expectations.
The key is providing people with the opportunities and the circumstances that maximize the likelihood of learning. Not pedantically checking off skills and benchmarks.
None of this is new.
I am not putting forward a radical theory of cognitive development.
Every teacher with an education degree is taught this in their developmental psychology courses. That’s why so many educational leaders don’t know anything about it.
Policymakers rarely have actual education degrees. In fact, many of them have never taught a day in their lives – especially at the K-12 level.
For example, Teach for America takes graduates from other fields of study (often business), gives them a couple weeks crash course in basic schoolology before throwing them in the classroom for a few years. Then they leave pretending to know everything there is about education, ready to advise lawmakers, work at think tanks, or otherwise set policy.
Imagine how things would change if we expected our educational leaders to actually comprehend the field of study they’re pretending to steer.
Meanwhile, people with 4-5 year degrees in education, like myself, have internalized things like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
We know that learning is best achieved when a person’s foundational necessities are met. At base are physiological prerequisites like food, clothing and shelter as well as the need for safety and security. Then comes psychological requirements like relationships and self-worth. Once all these primary needs have been met, we can most effectively achieve academic goals.
But for most kids the pandemic has been particularly hard on these primary needs. Food, shelter and safety are not nearly as certain today as they were just a year ago.
Children’s physiological needs aren’t being met because their parents livelihoods are in jeopardy. And the very idea that children should be sheltered or kept safe is mocked by the economy first concern trolls demanding parents choose between their children or their jobs.
They pretend to care about our kids so they can get us to do the very things that undermine our children’s safety. And it’s all somehow for our own good.
In-person school, hybrid or distance learning? They don’t really care.
The economy is what they’re really worried about. They want to keep it chugging along so they can continue siphoning profit off of the working class and into their pockets.
And if they have any genuine concern for our children at all, it is merely that our kids get through the academic system and enter the workforce on time so that our kiddos can inject more money (more value) into the gross domestic product.
We don’t need their disingenuous advice.
Our children are suffering, but they’re doing as fine as can be expected under the circumstances.
Yes, their educations have been disrupted by the virus. But a global pandemic will do that.
You want to fix the problem, nothing short of ending the crisis ultimately will work.
We can mitigate the damage, but marching kids into the classroom – sending them into a dangerous situation where they may get sick and (even more likely) bring the virus home to friends and family – will not help anyone.
Schools are not daycare centers. In fact, we shouldn’t have to resort to daycare centers, either, when faced with a deadly airborne virus.
Parents should be allowed (and encouraged!) to stay home and take care of their own kids. We should literally pay them to do so!
These appeals to keep the economy running full steam ahead no matter the cost are nothing less than class warfare. And many of us have been brainwashed that we’re on one side when we’re really on the other.
Let’s get one thing straight: none of this means learning will stop.
Kids are learning quite a lot, thank you.
They see us, adults, fighting over pandemic precautions like wearing face masks when in public. They see us denying science, calling the virus a fake as millions of people get sick and die. They see our President refusing to accept the results of the election. And sometimes they see the same people who should be keeping them safe sending them to school as if nothing is happening.
The media mogul marketeers would be wise to fear the lessons this generation is learning about the gullibility of adults and the willingness of the ruling class to sacrifice the common folk.
But even though much of the curriculum in 2020 has been unscripted, our schools still function.
In fact, teachers are working harder than ever to provide some continuity.
Where classrooms are closed, distance learning is taking up the slack.
No, it will never be comparable to the quality of instruction you can provide in-person. But even the quality of in-person instruction is not the same during a pandemic. Hybrid models with necessary precautions of social distancing and mask wearing are, themselves, substandard.
The best that we can do in most cases is learning at a distance.
Will all kids respond?
They’ll do the best they can. And this will largely depend on the environmental factors in their homes.
When you have children left to their own devices forced to navigate a virtual learning platform, they will inevitably hit roadblocks. They need their parents to help navigate the rough spots.
Kids are just that – kids. They need adults to put them on a schedule, make sure they wake up on time, have breakfast, and hold them accountable for attending their classes – even if those classes are held on-line.
There’s a reason the kids with the best grades often have the most involved parents – parents with the economic freedom to invest more time into their children.
That’s something else the marketeers don’t understand. Most of the problems of Covid America aren’t that different from Pre-Covid America. It’s a matter of degree.
Schools have always struggled to overcome the socioeconomic problems of their students. The only difference is that now we can’t just point to standardized test scores and blame it all on teachers.
The problem is systemic. You can only solve it by changing the system, itself.
A system that places dollars and cents over life and health will never be acceptable. And that’s what we’ve got. Still.
So don’t buy the latest version of corporate school baloney.
Our children aren’t falling behind.
They’re surviving a pandemic.
Fix the problem and they’ll be fine.
Fix the system and they’ll THRIVE.
But beware of know nothing policymakers who don’t have our best interests at heart.
Pay them no mind and the only thing left behind will be them.
Like this post? You might want to consider becoming a Patreon subscriber. This helps me continue to keep the blog going and get on with this difficult and challenging work.
Plus you get subscriber only extras!
Just CLICK HERE.
I’ve also written a book, “Gadfly on the Wall: A Public School Teacher Speaks Out on Racism and Reform,” now available from Garn Press. Ten percent of the proceeds go to the Badass Teachers Association. Check it out!